Big Business, Big Bucks: The U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Lobby Tab


The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has more than 3 million members, annual revenue surpassing $165 million, and is an electoral and lobbying powerhouse.

In the 2014 election cycle, the Chamber spent $35,464,243 on political campaigns: $33,363,209 in support for Republican candidates, $2,101,034 in support of Democrats.

The Chamber spends as lavishly on lobbying as it does on electioneering. During the second quarter of this year (April 1, 2015-June 30, 2015), the Chamber’s $22,970,000 far surpassed lobby spending by any other business or professional association. (*The figure includes spending by the Chamber’s Institute for Legal Reform.)

Second-quarter 2015 spending is consistent with the big business association’s long-term lobby expenditures. The combined $792,420,000 spent by the Chamber and its Institute for Legal Reform since 2008 is roughly three times what was spent by second-place National Association of Realtors. (For another point of reference, AFL-CIO was ranked 182nd in lobby expenditures between 2008-2015; its $22,320,000 over eight years was slightly less than the U.S. Chamber spent in the second quarter of 2015.)

Issues on which the Chamber of Commerce spends its lobbying dollars are diverse. High on its current agenda is big tobacco, in particular limiting or eliminating tobacco company liability in lawsuits that could be filed under the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, or other international accords.

President Obama’s Clean Power Plan—the Environmental Protection Agency rules released in August targeting emissions from the nation’s coal-fired power plants—is a perennial focus of the Chamber. In 2014, when the EPA released a preliminary draft of the rules, the Chamber of Commerce responded with a report that claimed the proposed greenhouse-gas restrictions would reduce U.S. annual GDP by $50 billion.

When the final draft was released on August 3, Chamber President Thomas J. Donohue said, “The new rules will inflict significant damage to our nation’s economy and reduce our nation’s global competitiveness without any significant reduction in global greenhouse emissions.”

Lou Dubose is the editor of The Washington Spectator.

This article will appear in the September 2015 issue of The Washington Spectator.

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