There were two main reasons why Move to Amend held a vigil and rally at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce during our recent trip to Washington, DC to lobby for HJR54, the We the People Amendment.
The two reasons were to highlight what the Chamber represents and what the Chamber does.
What the U.S. Chamber represents
The Chamber typifies the political power of large business corporations. Despite its claim of “representing the interests of more than 3 million businesses of all sizes, sectors, and regions,” a sizable majority of its board of directors are heads of larger corporate entities while its agenda overwhelmingly reflects the interests of large corporations, especially those of its major donors.
Only 18 donors contributed more than one-quarter of its 2021 revenue, 97% of its revenue came from just 1300 donations of at least $5000. The fact that the Chamber doesn’t legitimately represent small business interests and even local chambers of commerce led a decade ago to the "U.S. Chamber of Commerce Doesn't Speak for Me" campaign, supported by over 6,000 businesses signed on to the campaign and 32 local chambers of commerce.
Nevertheless, the Chamber is politically potent. They are the nation’s largest lobbying organization, having spent $1.85 billion between 1998 and 2023, $81 million alone in 2022. Their political campaign contributions in the 2022 election cycle totaled $3.5 million and outside spending on electioneering communication an additional 1.8 million. Their political investments have yielded significant returns, as the next section describes.
The Chamber also represents an aggressive promotion of big business as a political force to promote their legitimacy and interests over the last half-century, due to the Chamber’s role in implementing the “Powell memo.” Lewis Powell, a corporate lawyer and a board member of Phillip Morris Corporation, wrote a confidential memo for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in response to the “American economic system [being] under broad attack.” coming from, among others, “perfectly respectable elements of society,” including “college campus, the pulpit, the media, the intellectual and literary journals, the arts and sciences, and from politicians.”
Lewis called for a corporate coordinated and well-funded campaign to influence the public on behalf of the role of corporate America by assertively opposing regulations, but also by infiltrating societal institutions (i.e. publishers, TV networks, universities, event courts). “The role of the National Chamber of Commerce is therefore vital,” Powell wrote.
The Chamber remains part of a broad pro-corporate institutional movement that seeks to change the culture, law and constitution that began in the early 1970’s with the Powell memo.
FYI, Powell was appointed to the Supreme Court in 1972 by Richard Nixon and ruled in favor of both the First National Bank v. Bellotti (that permitted corporations for the first time to donate to political campaigns) and Buckley v. Valeo (that equated money as free speech) decisions.
What the U.S. Chamber does
The Chamber promotes major corporate interests. If the interests of individuals, communities, smaller businesses, larger businesses that don’t donate to the Chamber or the environment get in the way, so be it.
A selection of many examples:
- The Chamber actively supports virtually all environmental deregulation, including those of the Trump administration. They opposed the climate provisions of the more recent Build Back Better and Inflation Reduction Act. InfluenceMap, a think tank that monitors corporate climate lobbying, gave the Chamber an “E-” grade for 25 out of 39 policy positions they took since 2017 being harmful to the climate.
- The Chamber fiercely opposed the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act, a “landmark worker empowerment, civil rights and economic stimulus legislation” promoted by the AFL-CIO. A Chamber lobbyist said there would be a "political price" to pay for any lawmakers who supported the bill, which the Chamber called a "litany of almost every failed idea from the past 30 years of labor policy." The bill never passed the Senate.
- The Chamber spent millions of dollars to defeat expanding the child tax credit (CTC) for one year under the Build Back Better bill in 2022. The anti-poverty measure was responsible in 2021 for reducing childhood poverty to its lowest level since 2009. A critical buffer to food insecurity, childhood poverty more than doubled in 2022 when the payments expired.
- The Chamber has lobbied against the Forced Arbitration Injustice Repeal Act — which would end compelled arbitration outside of a company (i.e. public courts and juries) on disputes related to employment, consumers, civil rights etc. They actively oppose legislation to break up alleged monopolies, calling it “penalizing success” (watch the 60 second video). They also organized a well-funded campaign against the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, claiming that the new director is trying to “radically reshape ” financial regulation without proper jurisdiction.
- The Chamber opposed For the People Act, the most comprehensive democracy reform proposed legislation in several decades. They oppose campaign finance reform measures, even the past modest DISCLOSE Act that would have simply required any group that spends more than a certain amount on political campaigns to disclose its donors.
Move to Amend highlighted the political power of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce while in D.C. and even more now to underline the reality that organized vast economic power that has the legal and constitutional right to be converted to vast political power to influence public policies does not serve the common good. It’s unaccountable. It serves their interests, rather than those of individuals without political money to invest in the political system, of communities and of a natural world that is livable.
The only way to hold corporate entities like the Chamber accountable is constitutionally – to ensure that we have laws and regulations to protest people, communities and the natural world from private corporate decisions.
That’s why HJR54, the We the People Amendment, is so important. And that’s why we were in D.C. to lobby for it and why we protested at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
Cole, Shelly, George, Daniel, Jennie, Keyan, Michael, Katie, Margaret, Alfonso, Jessica, Jason, Tara, Ambrosia, & Greg
- Move to Amend National Team
Go HERE to find/share link