Groups Call on Chamber to Open Up

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce should disclose the corporate donors behind its electoral advertising.

U.S. PIRG, Public Citizen, Business Ethics Network, small business representatives and others want to know.

The groups gathered in Lafayette Square, between the White House and U.S. Chamber headquarters.

The groups promised to deliver over 30,000 petitions to the Chamber calling on it to shed light on the funders behind the millions of dollars worth of political ads the Chamber has purchased throughout the country.

Since the 2010 U.S. Supreme Court Citizens United vs. the Federal Election Commission decision freed up corporations to spend unlimited money in elections, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a 501(c)(6) corporation, has emerged as one of the biggest “dark money” outside spenders.

“Because direct spending on ads or gifts to newly minted ‘super PACs’ would have to be disclosed, many corporations have chosen to fund political ads through the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which does not have to disclose its donors, and in fact, forcefully opposes disclosure requirements through its powerful lobby force,” said Nathalie Graham of the Business Ethics Network. “Despite actively cultivating an image as representing mom-and-pop small businesses, the U.S. Chamber has used its corporate funding to become the second biggest outside spender in House and Senate races across the country. ”

The Chamber has pledged to spend up to $100 million in the 2012 elections.

“The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has been getting away with small business identity theft – saying it speaks for small business owners like me while really advancing a big business agenda – for too long,” said Melanie Collins, owner of Melanie’s Home Childcare in Falmouth, Maine and a leader in the Maine Small Business Coalition. “It ends today. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce doesn’t speak for small business, and it doesn’t speak for me.” The Chamber has shelled out $1.3 million in outside spending in the Maine Senate race, making it the largest non-party outside spender in that contest.

“The Chamber’s voice is not representative of the broad array of businesses across the country,” said Bryan McGannon, Deputy Policy Director of the American Sustainable Business Council. “We’re seeing a tremendous growth in main street business organizations, small business organizations, and sustainable business organizations recognizing that there is a different way of doing business that can bring greater value to the economy and to their communities.”

“If the Chamber really represents the interests of small businesses, as it erroneously claims, then it should have no problem revealing the sources of the money it has poured into ads this campaign season,” said Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen. “However, there’s every reason to believe that it is giant multinational corporations that paid for those ads, and that they did so because they expect the candidates the Chamber backs to advance their interests, not those of small firms. This highlights exactly why voters deserve to know what corporate and wealthy interests are trying to influence their votes.”

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