Over $10 million per month to lobby Congress, that is.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is under a lot of heat these days. Between being considered persona non grata by the Obama administration and being punk’d by a progressive activist group to losing scads of members due to their positions on climate change legislation and health care reform, they are in the news a LOT lately. And not in a good way.
But that hasn’t stopped them from spending over a $34 million last quarter to lobby Congress.
Here’s what the White House is up against as it tries to cut the legs out from underneath the powerful U.S. Chamber of Commerce: $34.7 million.
That’s the jaw-dropping amount the Chamber shelled out to influence the federal government in the third quarter of 2009, according to a report filed with the Senate on Monday.
The figure is greater than the sum of the next 18 highest filers so far, including the Chamber’s separate Institute for Legal Reform, who combined to spend $30.9 million. Many third-quarter reports will not be filed until tomorrow, when they are due.
And what are they getting for their money?
- Losing the fight to kill health insurance reform.
- Mass defections from the likes of Apple, multiple energy companies and Levi Strauss & Co.
- National ridicule for being the butt of hoax this week.
- A complete diss from the Obama administration.
- Anti-green energy campaigns are ignored and ridiculed.
- A public perception that’s starting to see them, more than ever before, as a spokesgroup for corporate greed, particularly in light of their call for a new “Scopes Monkey Trial” on global climate change.
Yesterday, they were questioned by radio talk show host Warren Olney as to why they are supporting Big Banks when this seems counter to the interests of their members:
Warren Olney: “Mr. Hirschmann, back to you. Are you serving the interests of your own members, if you resist the idea of breaking up the big banks?” David Hirschmann (leading the Chamber’s financial lobbying efforts): “I just don’t think the question is whether we need to break up the big banks. The question is how do we ensure that the kinds of practices that they engaged in — and others outside the banking system — don’t happen any more. Which is why we pointed to transparency in areas like derivatives and leverage.”
Seeking Alpha‘s Simon Johnson put it this way:
There is a long tradition in the United States of big business trampling on independent entrepreneurs, and of those entrepreneurs fighting back through the ballot box. This time around, big banks captured their regulators, badly damaged small firms, and look set to do it again. Why is the Chamber of Commerce refusing to stand up for small business?
Why indeed? And why have they been claiming to represent “more than 3 million businesses and organizations” when the actual number is about a tenth of that? It appears that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has become the exclusive club of the largest, greediest, most self-serving of the nation’s businesses. While this has probably been true for decades, Americans are starting to actually notice. Meanwhile, those companies that care about our workers, our environment and our citizens’ health care plight are defecting and heaping ridicule on them.
They may think they can spend huge sums of money to change the course of the country but, with all of this negative publicity, the handwriting appears to be on the wall. Like their
“grassroots” astro-turf minions in the Tea Party Patriots (who are still begging for money, by the way) and those shipped in to attend “Energy Citizens” rallies, they are a lot of noise with very little long-term impact. When Americans see the role they are playing in meddling in federal policy and in efforts to make our world a better place, their campaigns and ads become just a lot of noise with no impact: all Bang Flag Gun and no ammo.
And that, as someone once said, is a Good Thing.
Oh, one more thing: in an interesting bit of irony, I visited the Chamber of Commerce website today and saw this:
Notice the error message?
ChamberofCommerce.com its out of date for technical problems…
Boy, I’ll say… heh, heh
I’m just sayin’…