Top 10 Ways the U.S. Chamber Hurts Americans
The American Association for Justice (AAJ) has compiled a slide show that exposes the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s actions to close the courthouse door on American businesses and consumers, bail out Wall Street, protect polluters, and drown elections in corporate money.
1. First in Line for a Bailout
Even after the calamitous collapse of Enron, WorldCom, Tyco, Lehman Bros., Bear Stearns, and AIG, the U.S. Chamber kept fighting for weaker regulations and less accountability for its big Wall Street members. Yet when the market collapsed under the weight of Wall Street schemes gone wrong, the Chamber was the first to plead for massive, unconditional bailouts.
2. The Leading Denier of Climate Change
The U.S. Chamber has been one of the world’s leading opponents of policies to curtail climate change, even threatening to sue the Environmental Protection Agency over its reform efforts. Major companies, such as Apple, and energy companies PG&E, PNM Resources, and Exelon, have left the organization in protest of the Chamber’s climate change stance.
3. Do As I Say, Not As I Sue
The U.S. Chamber’s Institute for Legal Reform spent more than $226 million in the past decade lobbying the federal government to restrict Americans’ ability to hold corporations accountable when they are harmed by dangerous products and services. At the same time, the Chamber’s National Chamber Litigation Center engages in an average of two lawsuits a week on behalf of its multinational corporate members.
4. Big Business Only
The U.S. Chamber claims to represent small businesses, but 55 percent of its funding comes from just 16 giant corporations. Major corporations dominate the Chamber’s agenda to such an extent that many state and local chambers have abandoned the national organization.
5. Beholden to Foreign Corporations
Even being a major U.S. corporation isn’t always enough to win the U.S. Chamber’s favor. Foreign corporate members of the Chamber often get priority treatment over American companies. After multiple Middle Eastern petroleum companies began contributing to the Chamber, the organization pushed against limiting dependence on foreign oil, saying such measures were a “job-killing energy tax.” In another instance, the Chamber flew Hill representatives to France to be wined and dined with Airbus executives, when the European manufacturer was in direct competition with U.S. manufacturer Boeing.
6. Drowning Elections in Corporate Money
The U.S. Chamber threatens the nation’s democratic process by secretly pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into state elections on behalf of their own pro-corporate candidates, often to the dismay of state and local chambers of commerce that prefer not to enter into the electoral process. At least 40 local chambers of commerce have abandoned the national organization in response.
7. Tampering with Juries
Not content with closing the courthouse door to individuals while they fill it with suits on behalf of their corporate clients, the U.S. Chamber has consistently been linked with attempts to tamper with juries. The Washington Post identified the Chamber as “one of a growing number of advocacy groups that blur the distinction between legitimate media and propaganda to promote their causes.” And in one case, after disgraced accountancy firm Arthur Andersen was convicted of witness-tampering, the Chamber filed a brief in their defense claiming the corporation’s actions were acceptable because they were “part of numerous businesses’ everyday routine.”
8. Stepping Up for the World’s Worst Polluters
After causing the worst oil spill in U.S. history, UK-based BP turned to the U.S. Chamber to thwart any punishment or regulation federal and state lawmakers would try to impose on the corporation. The Chamber and BP have a long history together, so it didn’t come as too much of a surprise when shortly after the oil started gushing into the Gulf of Mexico, U.S. Chamber CEO Tom Donohue leaped to BP’s defense, saying that American taxpayers should help pay for BP’s mess. This statement came just days after Donohue chided President Obama for taking responsibility to ensure the spill was cleaned up.
9. Pushing the Corporate “Get Out of Jail Free” Card
Forced arbitration is the corporate “Get Out of Jail Free” card, and no one has pushed it harder than the U.S. Chamber. Time and again the Chamber pushed to take away Americans’ right to justice by placing pre-dispute forced arbitration clauses in the fine print of contracts. These ubiquitous clauses force Americans into a private system of “justice” that is largely controlled by the major corporations who have harmed them. And there is no way to appeal if you lose. Anyone who has a credit card, a cell phone, or a mortgage and many who have a family member living in a nursing home have probably been forced to sign away their legal rights. And most probably won’t know they have until they try to take a dispute to court. The U.S. Chamber has been a leading advocate of these contracts for consumers, but, not surprisingly considering its two-faced attitude to all things justice, the Chamber also opposes arbitration when it comes to union contracts, where workers would have the upper hand.
10. Funneling Special Interest Money into Washington
Having spent nearly a billion dollars lobbying Congress since 2000, the U.S. Chamber has succeeded in poisoning Washington with money funneled from big businesses into their own pet projects. Oil and gas companies, drug companies, asbestos companies, chemical companies, and others have all enjoyed massive political and media campaigns in support of legislation that would benefit their industries but are extremely unpopular with the public. This arrangement allows the Chamber to be the bad guy while the corporations get favorable laws and anonymity. Of course this service comes at a steep price. Undeterred by the unwelcome attention of the IRS, the Chamber even maintains separate accounts to hide the money used to dispense its multimillion dollar favors.