from the but-thanks-for-your-contributions! dept
The US Chamber of Commerce is an organization that's always carried a completely undeserved air of legitimacy. For one, its name makes it sound as though it's actually an extension of the federal government, rather than what it is: a lobbying group representing a variety of trade interests.
It also gains unearned legitimacy by its name being a reflection of thousands of local chambers of commerce, which are far more representative of its members than the national version. The US Chamber of Commerce continues to push for legislation and regulation that isn't aligned with the views of its membership as a whole, but rather just its most generous contributors.
The US Chamber of Commerce has seen members walk away because of its support of climate change deniers or its support of the tobacco industry. It also shed several members thanks to its efforts on behalf of unpopular IP-related legislation like SOPA and the PROTECT-IP Act.
If there's anything the US CoC is truly representative of, it's money -- whoever has the most of it speaks the "loudest." The Chamber of Commerce is basically the worst form of entertainment: "free-to-play" that wholeheartedly embraces "pay to win." It has its own "whales," and they're what's shaping its lobbying efforts, according to Barry Ritholtz.
According to Open Secrets, a site that tracks political lobbying and spending, during the past 18 years the Chamber has spent three times more than any other organization on behalf of industry ($1.2 billion versus $351 million by the No. 2 lobbying group, the National Association of Realtors).Ritholz has taken a close look at the lobbying group and its funding, and how that "pay to win" process has resulted in the Chamber of Commerce actually being the Echo Chamber for a select few industries. First, he notes the Chamber is opposed to new rules governing employer-provided 401(k) plans.
On one side is the financial industry, which manages about $14 trillion in various retirement plans. The president’s Council of Economic Advisers estimated that more than 10 percent of the advice given is conflicted in some way. That bad advice causes a performance lag of about 1 percent, costing investors an estimated $17 billion a year. This is money that otherwise would go into retirement-saving accounts. Wall Street, of course, isn't happy about the change and the vehemence of the opposition to the new rules make me suspect the losses for investors -- and the profits for the financial industry -- are much bigger.But that 96% of its membership is easily shouted down by the large brokerage houses running the retirement funds. The Chamber is thinking about suing the government over a rule that would benefit nearly 100% of the companies it claims to represent.
On the other side are the millions of small businesses that have potential liability as 401(k)-plan sponsors. The natural outcome of this change is that once the new rules take effect, businesses will be in a position to shift that liability to the fiduciary advisers. This is something they should welcome -- especially since 96 percent of the Chamber's member businesses have fewer than 100 employees. These are precisely the companies that will benefit from the change.
That's not the only issue the CoC has decided to favor its largest contributors over the bulk of its members. Its stance on climate change is fueled by subservience to its biggest benefactors.
Ignoring those companies opposed to the Chamber's stand on climate change is easy. Why? Money, of course. A third of the Chamber's revenue comes from just 19 companies, many of them in the energy industry.The problem with this is that it's hardly representative of the group as a whole. While those of us familiar with the Chamber of Commerce's motivations won't find this surprising, it probably comes as news to many of its members, who have assumed their contributions meant they, too, would be represented. Worse, many legislators likely take the Chamber of Commerce at face value -- assuming its lobbying efforts represent the group as a whole, rather than a small minority of well-heeled industry leaders. Because it operates under such a benign name, its pay-to-play mechanizations remain obscured and it's often given a benefit of a doubt it certainly hasn't earned.