For more than a decade, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has been known for its sizable lobbying expenditures, but now it’s embarking on what CNN is calling “the most aggressive political cycle in its 102-year history.”
The world’s largest business association reported spending $35 million on behalf of candidates in 2012, likely spending $50 million total, including unreported expenditures. So far, during the 2014 election cycle, the Chamber has spent about $17 million on U.S. Senate and U.S. House races, getting involved early, in primaries, to an extent it hasn’t done previously. It’s promising to spend at least $50 million once again in this cycle. Given that the Chamber’s membership is secret, these tens of millions come from corporate sources that are mostly unknown – though we do know that most of the Chamber’s donors are large.
Unlike its more moderate incarnations in decades past, the Chamber now strongly favors conservatives. As CNN notes, the Chamber this cycle has endorsed 258 Republican candidates and just two Democratic candidates, though it says more of the latter are on the way. Six years ago, it endorsed 38 Democrats.
The Chamber is manipulating elections with its dark money spending-on-steroids. Spending so much money of unknown origins to manipulate voters corrodes the democratic process. Recent Chamber ads like one calling a U.S. Senate candidate in Georgia a “crying baby” are a reminder that more dark money means more negative advertising.
Meanwhile, the trade association that, as Lee Fang writes, opposes “virtually any piece of legislation not designed to feather the nest of a plutocrat,” continues to lobby at record rates. Newly released disclosure forms show the Chamber spent more than $40 million on lobbying in the first six months of 2014. That includes $21.6 million in the second quarter, which represents nearly a 55 percent increase over the same period in 2013.
The Chamber, already the 800-pound gorilla of corporatizing our government, is becoming even more aggressive and refined than ever before.
Sam Jewler is the communications and research officer for Public Citizen’s Chamber Watch program.