United States Chamber of Commerce

This article is about the American lobbying group. For trade organisations globally, see Chamber of commerce.
United States Chamber of Commerce
Founded 1912
Founder Charles Nagel
Type Advocacy group
Focus Business advocacy
  • Washington, D.C.
Area served
United States industry
Method Political lobbying, Public relations
Key people
Tom J. Donohue, President
Slogan Fighting for your business
Website uschamber.com

The United States Chamber of Commerce (USCC) is a business-oriented American lobbying group. It is not an agency of the United States government.

Politically, the Chamber is generally considered to be a conservative organization. It usually supports Republican political candidates, though it has occasionally supported conservative Democrats.[1][2] The Chamber is the largest lobbying group in the U.S., spending more money than any other lobbying organization on a yearly basis.[3][4]


The U.S. Chamber of Commerce's own history of itself describes it as originating from an April 22, 1912, meeting of delegates.[5] The Chamber was created by President Taft as a counterbalance to the labor movement of the time.[2]

In 1993, the Chamber lost several members over its support for Clinton's healthcare reform efforts. The Chamber had chosen to support healthcare reform at that time due to the spiraling healthcare costs experienced by its members. However, House Republicans retaliated by urging boycotts of the organization. The Chamber operated its own cable television station, Biz-Net until 1997 in order to promote its policies. The Chamber shifted somewhat more to the right when Tom Donohue became head of the organization in 1997. By the time health care reform became a major issue again in 2010-2012, the organization opposed such efforts.[2] The Washington, D.C., headquarters of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce occupies land that was formerly the home of Daniel Webster.[6]

United States Chamber of Commerce building at 1615 H Street, NW, in Washington, D.C. The building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Although all chambers can work with all levels of government, they tend to concentrate their efforts on specific levels: Local chambers of commerce tend to focus on local issues, state chambers on state issues, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce focuses on national issues at the federal government level.[7] They also work closely with a number of other youth organizations in the country about the value and role of business in our society today. [8]

In late 2011 it was revealed that the Chamber's computer system was breached from November 2009 to May 2010 by Chinese hackers. The purpose of the breach appeared to be gain information related to the Chamber's lobbying regarding Asian trade policy.[9]

Since a 1971 internal memo by Lewis Powell advocating a more active role in cases before United States Supreme Court, the Chamber has found increasing success in litigation. Under the Burger and Rehnquist Courts the Chamber was on the prevailing side 43% and 56% of the time, respectively, but under the Roberts Court, the Chamber's success rate rose to 68% as of 21 June 2012.[10]

Positions taken


Court cases

Lobbying expenditures

The Chamber has emerged as the largest lobbying organization in America. The Chamber's lobbying expenditures in 2015 were more than two-and-a-half times higher than the next highest spender: American Medical Association, at $23.9 million.

US Chamber Lobbying 2002-2015 [23]
Year US Cham. Rank US Cham. Spending Next Highest Spender Next Highest Amount
2015 1 $64,190,000 American Medical Assn $23,910,000
2014 1 $124,080,000 National Assn of Realtors $55,057,053
2013 1 $74,470,000 National Assn of Realtors $38,584,580
2012 1 $136,300,000 National Assn of Realtors $41,464,580
2011 1 $66,370,000 General Electric $26,340,000
2010 1 $157,187,500 PG&E Corp $45,510,000
2009 1 $144,606,000 Exxon Mobil $27,430,000
2008 1 $91,955,000 Exxon Mobil $29,000,000
2007 1 $53,082,500 Pharmaceutical Rsrch & Mfrs of America $22,733,400
2006 1 $72,995,000 AT&T Inc $27,445,497
2005 1 $39,805,000 AARP $36,302,064
2004 1 $53,380,000 American Medical Assn $18,820,000
2003 1 $34,602,640 AARP $20,880,000
2002 1 $41,560,000 Philip Morris $15,200,000

International network

As of October 2010, the Chamber had a worldwide network of 115 American Chamber of Commerce affiliates located in 108 countries.[24] The US Chamber says that a relative handful of the Chamber's 300,000 members are "non-U.S.-based (foreign) companies." It claims that, "No foreign money is used to fund political activities." A US Chamber executive has said that the organization has had "foreign multinationals" (foreign companies) as members for "over a century, many for decades."[25] The US Chamber states that it receives approximately $100,000 annually in membership dues from its foreign affiliates, out of an annual budget of $200 million.[25][26]

AmCham China, with members comprise more than 2,600 individuals from over 1,200 companies,[27] is said to be the largest affiliate outside of United States.

Electoral activities

In the 2008 election cycle, aggressive ads paid for by the USCC attacked a number of Democratic congressional candidates (such as Minnesota's DFL Senate candidate Al Franken) and supported a number of Republican candidates including John Sununu, Gordon Smith, Roger Wicker, Saxby Chambliss and Elizabeth Dole.

During the 2010 campaign cycle, the Chamber spent $32 million, 93 percent of which was to help Republican candidates.[28] The Chamber's spending out of its general funds was criticized as illegal under campaign finance laws.[29][30][31][32] In a front-page article titled "Large Donations Aid U.S. Chamber in Election Drive", The New York Times reported that the Chamber used contributions in campaigns without separating foreign and domestic contributions, which if true would appear to contravene prohibitions on lobbying by foreign nations and groups. In question was the Chamber's international branches, "AmChams", whose funds are unaccounted for and perhaps mix into the general collection.[30][33][34][35] All branches, corporations, and members of the Chamber pay dues; the question is how they divide the money for expenses in national campaigns.

The truth of these allegations is unknown, as neither the Chamber nor its detractors can provide any concrete evidence to support or refute the allegations.[36] In reference to the matter, Tom Donohue wrote his council and members on October 12, 2010. He stated, "Let me be clear. The Chamber does not use any foreign money to fund voter education activities—period. We have strict financial controls in place to ensure this. The funds we receive from American Chambers of Commerce abroad, bilateral business councils, and non-U.S. based global companies represent a small fraction of our more than $200 million annual revenues. Under our accounting system, these revenues are never used to support any political activities. We are in full compliance with all laws and regulations."[37][38][39] Organizations Moveon.org, Think Progress, and People for the American Way rallied against the Chamber at the Justice Department to start an injunction for a criminal investigation.[40][41] The Chamber is not required to produce fundraising records.[42]

President Barack Obama and other legislators asked the IRS and Federal Elections Commission to ensure that the foreign funds that the Chamber receives are not used for political activities.[43][44] Obama criticized the Chamber for not disclosing its contributors.[45] The Chamber has responded that "No foreign money is used to fund political activities." [25] After the election, the Chamber reiterated the nature of Obama's policy dictated action from the Chamber, however the conflict would not be made "personal".[46][47]

In addition to the expenditures from the Chamber's own funds, in 2010 its political action committee gave $29,000 (89 percent) to Republican candidates and $3,500 (11 percent) to Democratic candidates.[48] The Chamber's PAC received a total of 76 donations from individual donors ($200 or more donation) totaling $79,852 in 2007-2008, or an average of $1050 per donation, and three donations per month.[49]

In 2011, the Chamber hosted a "GOP Holiday Party" honoring the Republican National Committee.[50]

Despite more than $33 million spent supporting candidates in the 2012 Congressional races, Chamber-backed candidates lost 36 out of the 50 elections in which the Chamber participated.[51]

In late 2013 the Chamber announced it would distribute campaign contributions in "10s" of Republican primary elections to oppose the Tea Party movement and create a "more governable Republican party."[52] In early 2014 Tom Donohue clarified that the push would be to elect "pro-business" members of Congress "who favor trade, energy development and immigration reform".[53]

Current leadership

Info from official website.[54]


In April 2009, the Chamber began an ad campaign against the proposed Employee Free Choice Act.[55] Critics such as the National Association of Manufacturers have contended that additional use of card check elections will lead to overt coercion on the part of union organizers. Opponents of the Employee Free Choice Act also claim, referring to perceived lack of access to a secret ballot, that the measure would not protect employee privacy. For this reason the Chamber argued the act would reduce workers' rights.[56]

In November 2009, the Chamber was reported to be seeking to spend $50,000 to hire a "respected economist" to produce a study that could be used to portray health-care legislation as a job killer and threat to the nation's economy.[57]

In December 2009, activist group Velvet Revolution, under the name StopTheChamber, posted a $200,000 reward for "information leading to the arrest and conviction of Chamber of Commerce CEO Tom Donahue."[58]

Some in the business community have criticized the Chamber's approach to public issues as overly aggressive. Hilary Rosen, former CEO of the Recording Industry Association of America, added that "Their aggressive ways are out of step with a new generation of business leadership who are looking for more cooperative relationship with Washington."[59]

Climate change

The climate campaign organisation 350.org estimates that 94% of US Chamber of Commerce electoral contributions went to candidates denying the scientific consensus on climate change.[60]

The Chamber threatened to sue the Environmental Protection Agency in order to have what the Chamber termed "the Scopes monkey trial of the 21st century" on climate science before any federal climate regulation is passed in October 2009.[19] In response to this position, several companies quit the Chamber, including Exelon Corp, PG&E Corp, PNM Resources, and Apple Inc.[20] Nike, Inc resigned from their board of directors position, but continued their membership. Nike stated that they believe they can better influence the policy by being part of the conversation.[61] Peter Darbee, CEO of former chamber member PG&E (a natural gas and electric utility company in California), said, "We find it dismaying that the Chamber neglects the indisputable fact that a decisive majority of experts have said the data on global warming are compelling... In our view, an intellectually honest argument over the best policy response to the challenges of climate change is one thing; disingenuous attempts to diminish or distort the reality of these challenges are quite another."[62] In response to an online campaign of Prius owners organized by Moveon.org, Toyota stated that it would not leave the Chamber.[63] The Aspen Chamber Resort Association of Aspen, Colorado left the U.S. Chamber because of its views on climate change, in light of how climate change could hurt Aspen's winter tourism industry.[64]

Immigration reform

While generally a conservative group, the Chamber of Commerce has come under attack by conservatives and others for its support of amnesty for illegal immigrants.[65][66] In 2014, Tom Donohue stated the Chamber will "pull out all stops" for the passage of immigration reform in Congress.[67] According to the Washington Post, Donohue did not offer specifics with regard to provisions or bills on the matter, speaking generally about the impact immigration would have on the U.S. economy.


Several organization have attacked the Chamber for its advocacy, including Chamber Watch (a campaign of Public Citizen). Advocates for independent business, like the American Independent Business Alliance (AMIBA) and "green businesses," like the American Sustainable Business Council, have fought the Chamber on multiple issues. Among major divisions between the Chamber and these business advocates is allowing corporations to engage in electioneering.[68] Oliver E. Diaz says one example of this was when the Chamber spent $1,000,000+ to fund negative campaign ads against him and have judicial candidate Keith Starrett elected instead.[69]

Affiliate organizations

See also


  1. Gold, Matea; Geiger, Kim (8 October 2010). "Republican-leaning U.S. Chamber of Commerce buys ads supporting Democrats". Los Angeles Times.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Verini, James (1912-04-12). "Show Him the Money by James Verini (July, 2010)". Washington Monthly. Retrieved 2010-11-05.
  3. "Top lobbyists in the US". Retrieved 2015-12-30.
  4. Allen, Jonathan (2009-10-20). "U.S. Chamber: $34.7 million in lobbying". Politico.
  5. "U.S. Chamber of Commerce website, "History"". Uschamber.com. Retrieved 2010-11-05.
  6. "U.S. Chamber of Commerce website, "History of the building"". Uschamber.com. Retrieved 2010-11-05.
  7. "Frequently Asked Questions". Retrieved 4 August 2014.
  8. American Business BSA Merit Badge Guide, 22 Jun 2015.
  9. Gorman, Siobahn (21 December 2011). "Chinese Hackers Hit U.S. Chamber - WSJ.com". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 21 December 2011.
  10. Sacks, Mike (21 June 2012). "Supreme Court: U.S. Chamber Of Commerce Undefeated This Term". Huffington Post. Retrieved 12 March 2013.
  11. "Making Tobacco's Case". The New York Times. 2015-06-30. Retrieved 2015-07-03.
  12. Hakim, Danny (2015-06-30). "U.S. Chamber of Commerce Works Globally to Fight Antismoking Measures". The New York Times. Retrieved 2015-07-03.
  13. "No Exclusions! Why Carveouts Would Weaken the Trans-Pacific Partnership". 2014-04-24. Retrieved 2015-07-03.
  14. "Multi-Industry Coalition Letter Regarding the Continuing Resolution and Debt Limit".
  15. "Cautious Optimism Follows SOPA (2011)".
  16. "Tom Donohue, U.S. Chamber of Commerce on outsourcing and offshoring (2007) Interview conducted and hosted by". Ventureoutsource.com. Retrieved 2010-11-05.
  17. Henry, David (17 January 2005). "Death, Taxes, & Sarbanes-Oxley?". Business Week.
  18. Montopoli, Brian (26 July 2010). "Obama Slams GOP For Opposing DISCLOSE Act Meant to Expose "Shadow Groups" Behind Ads". CBS News.
  19. 1 2 Tankersley, Jim (25 August 2009). "U.S. Chamber of Commerce seeks trial on global warming". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 13 December 2010.
  20. 1 2 Gardner, Timothy (5 October 2009). "Apple, citing climate, tells U.S. Chamber iQuit". Reuters. Retrieved 13 December 2010.
  21. Mears, Bill (26 May 2011). "Supreme Court backs Arizona immigration law that punishes businesses". CNN. Retrieved 26 May 2011.
  22. Independent Business Advocates Condemn U.S. Supreme Court's Decision in Citizens United.
  23. Opensecrets.org ranking page for 2015
  24. "President Barack Obama says foreign funds received by the US Chamber may be helping to fund attack ads". Politifact, St. Petersburg Times. October 11, 2010.
  25. 1 2 3 "Chamber of Commerce - The White House Wants Our Donor List". ABC News.
  26. Abdullah, Halimah (12 October 2010). "Democratic Partisans Up in Arms Against US Chamber Donations". Kansas City Star. Retrieved 26 October 2010.
  27. "AmCham Business Center".
  28. Murray, Matthew (November 12, 2010). "Chamber Watch: Business Group 'Central' to GOP Gains". Roll Call. Retrieved 2011-02-05.
  29. "Chamber of Commerce under fire for foreign cash". Politico.com.
  30. 1 2 Waters, Clay (2010-10-22). "Lead Story Goes After Fundraising of Obama Foe, the Chamber of Commerce | Media Research Center". Mrc.org. Retrieved 2012-04-05.
  31. Fang, Lee (2010-10-13). "Exclusive: Chamber Receives At Least $885,000 From Over 80 Foreign Companies In Disclosed Donations Alone". ThinkProgress. Retrieved 2012-04-05.
  32. "Vote 2010: Is Foreign Money Behind U.S. Chamber of Commerce Ads? - ABC News". Abcnews.go.com. 2010-10-11. Retrieved 2012-04-05.
  33. Eggen, Dan (8 October 2010). "Chamber and Democrats battle over the midterms and election spending". The Washington Post.
  34. "News Headlines". Cnbc.com. 2010-10-22. Retrieved 2012-04-05.
  35. Jacob Sullum (2010-10-22). "NYT Shocker: Chamber of Commerce Promotes Business Interests - Hit & Run : Reason Magazine". Reason.com. Retrieved 2012-04-05.
  36. "The Chamber and Foreign Contributors". Factcheck.org. Retrieved 13 December 2010.
  37. Shear, Michael D. (2010-10-12). "Chamber of Commerce Vows to 'Ramp Up' Political Activity". The New York Times.
  38. Lipton, Eric. "Large corporate donations fund controversial US Chamber of Commerce campaign of election attack ads". Ocala.com. Retrieved 2012-04-05.
  39. Smith, Ben (2010-10-05). "Chamber: 'We have a system' - Ben Smith". Politico.Com. Retrieved 2012-04-05.
  40. Fang, Lee (2010-10-05). "Exclusive: Foreign-Funded 'U.S.' Chamber Of Commerce Running Partisan Attack Ads". ThinkProgress. Retrieved 2012-04-05.
  41. Graves, Lucia (7 October 2010). "Watchdog Groups Rally Outside Chamber Of Commerce, As Calls For A Justice Department Investigation Mount". Huffington Post.
  42. Lipton, Eric; McIntire, Mike; NATTA Jr, DON VAN (21 October 2010). "Top Corporations Aid U.S. Chamber of Commerce Campaign". The New York Times.
  43. Shear, Michael D. (2009-10-20). "Rift between Obama and Chamber of Commerce widening". The Wall Street Journal.
  44. "Obama's Risky Fight Against the Chamber of Commerce". Time.
  45. Calmes, Jackie (2010-12-11). "Obama to Meet With Executives". New York Times.
  46. "Donohue: US Chamber won't seek Obama's defeat". Real Clear Politics.
  47. Stein, Sam (17 November 2010). "The White House, Chamber Of Commerce Attempt Rapprochement". Huffington Post.
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  49. "Center for Responsive Politics, 31Oct 2009". Opensecrets.org. Retrieved 2010-11-05.
  50. Keyes, Scott (December 8, 2011). "U.s. chamber of commerce to host rnc holiday party". ThinkProgress. Retrieved 2011-12-09.
  51. "Chamber of Commerce $33 Million Lost Most Races: BGOV Barometer". Bloomberg.
  52. Needham, Vicki (September 13, 2013). "Top business groups vow more involvement in primaries". The Hill.
  53. Wingfield, Brian; Bykowicz, Julie (8 January 2014). "Big Business Doubles Down on GOP Civil War With Tea Party". www.bloomberg.com. Bloomberg L.P. Retrieved 8 January 2014.
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  55. "chambergrassroots.com". chambergrassroots.com. Retrieved 2012-04-05.
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  58. "Activist Group Puts Bounty on Chamber of Commerce CEO". Fox News. 2009-12-07.
  59. Stier, Ken (31 October 2009). "Is the Chamber of Commerce Its Own Worst Enemy?". Time.
  60. Who's holding us back? Full report Greenpeace November 23, 2011
  61. "Nike US Chamber Statement" (PDF). September 30, 2009. Retrieved October 6, 2009.
  62. "U.S. Chamber of Commerce in climate rift". MSNBC. 2009-09-25. Retrieved 2012-04-05.
  63. Goldenberg, Suzanne (26 October 2009). "Toyota: We're staying in US chamber of commerce". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 26 October 2010.
  64. Salvail, Andre (24 April 2012). "Aspen chamber to cut ties with national organization". The Aspen Times. Retrieved 29 December 2012.
  65. Kasperowicz, Pete. "GOP lawmaker returns award to protest Chamber of Commerce's immigration policy". The Blaze.
  66. O'Connor, Patrick (2014-12-26). "U.S. Chamber of Commerce Pushes Priorities in Congress". The Wall Street Journal.
  67. Ho, Catherine (2014-01-08). "U.S. Chamber to 'pull out all stops' to pass immigration reform". Washington Post. Retrieved 7 May 2015.
  68. "Granting Corporations Bill of Rights Protections Is Not "Pro-business". AMIBA. Retrieved 2015-12-30.
  69. Saladoff, S. (Director). (2011). Hot Coffee [Motion picture]. Docurama Films

Further reading

External links

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