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November 5th, 2012

Who’s Really Behind the Chamber of Commerce’s Political Ads?

By Elizabeth Schuster stack of one hundred dollar bills

On October 19, I was honored to join dozens of concerned citizens at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce headquarters for an event organized by U.S. PIRG to “celebrate” the Chamber’s 100th birthday. Because no proper birthday celebration is complete without cake, we delivered one decorated with the phrase “Happy Birthday, Corporate Shills.” Since it is not polite to show up at a birthday party empty-handed, we were sure to deliver a gift of over 30,000 petitions demanding that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce be more transparent in disclosing its funders.   

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is one of many beneficiaries of the 2010 Supreme Court decision Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which likens political spending to protected speech under the First Amendment, and it has spent considerable sums on ads promoting its favorite congressional candidates this election cycle—over $31 million to date.

In a recent study conducted by the Wesleyan Media Project, the Chamber was ranked as a top outside spender in House and Senate races. From October 1 to 21, it dropped a whopping $8.5 million on 7,341 political ads. What is most troubling is that they are not saying where the money to fund these ads is coming from, or whose interests their messages really benefit. Yet, these ads are infiltrating our homes everyday, influencing pubic opinion without articulating the Chamber’s real agenda—to promote the interests of business over consumers.

Of course, we shouldn’t be so surprised. After all, the Chamber’s own slogan is “100 Years Standing Up for American Enterprise.” So who is standing up for you and me? That’s where the rest of us come in.

All voters deserve to know who is funding these influential political advertisements.  For this reason and more, Food & Water Watch recently joined with other progressive organizations to call for the reform of our electoral system, which auctions offices to the highest bidder while suppressing the vote of millions. It’s time we fight for the rights of all voters by taking a stand against corporate influence in our politics and laws.

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