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The United States Chamber of Commerce (USCC) is the world's largest not-for-profit lobbying group, representing many businesses and associations across the United States of Americamarker.

The Chamber is staffed with policy specialists, lobbyists and lawyers. It is known for spending more money than any other lobbying organization on a yearly basis.

Mission statement

"To advance human progress through an economic, political and social system based on individual freedom, incentive, initiative, opportunity, and responsibility."

Board of directors

The Senior council:

The board of directors is composed of more than 100 senior executives, mostly from large companies, including Alcoa, Dow Chemical, Charles Schwab, AT&T, and Pfizer and of a few smaller firms. In contrast, the Chamber claims that 96% of its members are small businesses.

History

The idea of a national institution to represent the unified interests of U.S. businesses first took shape during the 1890s, when the United States government began actively promoting American business efforts, especially in the area of foreign trade. By the late 1890s, officials with the United States Department of Statemarker were urging state business organizations to consider forming a national council to lend their expertise to congressional matters and advise the legislature on how best to meet the needs of American commerce. When the Department of Commerce and Labormarker was established in 1903, its leaders and supporters expected that it would help usher in an era of "diligent cooperation" between business and government. Commerce and Labor Secretary Oscar Straus organized a conference of business leaders in December 1907 that led to the formation of the National Council of Commerce—a smaller, short-lived forerunner to the Chamber—the following year.

While the Council expired after less than two years, Straus' successor, Charles Nagel, continued to urge state-level business groups to create a national organization that would work closely with the federal government in the pursuit of mutual interests. Nagel urged President William Howard Taft to support the creation of such a body, arguing that such a group would contribute to the "wholesome development of commerce, domestic and foreign" and would "restore confidence" and "excite enthusiasm." In his annual message to Congress on December 7, 1911, Taft obliged, calling for a "central organization in touch with associations and chambers of commerce throughout the country and able to keep purely American interests in a closer touch with different phases of commercial affairs."

Four months later, on April 12, 1912, a group of 700 delegates from various commercial and trade organizations came together to create a unified body of business interest that would later become the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

More than 90 years later, the Chamber claims a membership of 300,000 businesses. There are 3,000 state and local chambers, some of which choose to affiliate with the U.S. chamber. There also are 830 related associations, and more than 90 American Chambers of Commerce abroad.

History of the USCC Building

In 1841, friends of Daniel Webster purchased a three-and-a-half story home on the ground now occupied by the U.S. Chamber building. Webster's home was the site of a number of historic events, including final negotiations with Great Britain over Maine's boundaries that resulted in the Webster-Ashburton Treaty of 1842.

In 1849, Webster sold his house to William Wilson Corcoran, whose art collection today remains close by. Several other dignitaries lived in Webster's former home over the years before the U.S. Chamber of Commerce ultimately purchased the land. It broke ground in 1922, having selected Cass Gilbert, who later designed the United States Supreme Court buildingmarker and the Treasury Annex in Washington, D.C., to design a building to reflect the organization's mission. The U.S. Chamber building was completed three years later at a cost of $3 million.

On the issues

The Chamber's positions include:

Funding

The US Chamber of Commerce spent $91.7 million on lobbying in 2008, and $65.2 million in 2009, and from 2005 through 2009, the Chamber spent a combined excess of $322.8 million on lobbying. It had more than 150 lobbyists from 25 different firms working on its behalf in 2009. The major issues that it advocated on were in the categories of torts, government issues, finance, banking and taxes.

Election 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's PAC gave $29,000 (89 percent) to Republican candidates and $3,500 (11 percent) to Democratic candidates. 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 three donations per month.

Controversies

In April 2009, the Chamber began an ad campaign against the proposed Employee Free Choice Act. 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. Hence they claim the act will reduce worker's rights [110085]. The act is widely supported by organized labor.

The Chamber has developed a hardline stance against action on climate change, a policy which may have breached its internal rules, as it was not passed by a board vote.In September and October 2009, several companies quit the Chamber due to the Chamber's stance on environmental impact reform, including Exelon Corp, PG&E Corp, PNM Resources, Apple Incmarker, and Mohawk Fine Papers. Nike, Incmarker has decided to resign from their board of directors position but to continue their membership. Nike stated that they believe they can better influence the policy by being part of the conversation. In response to an online campaign of Prius owners organized by Moveon.org, Toyota has stated that it is not leaving the Chamber.

On October 19, The Yes Men activist group held a fake press conference pretending to represent the Chamber and promising a complete reversal on the already sensitive climate change policy. The Chamber subsequently filed suit against that activist group.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce wants to force the E.P.A. to arrange a climate science hearing before any federal climate regulation is passed.

Some observers say that the Chamber by so fiercely opposing most of the Democrats’ agenda, it has become its own worst enemy. Peter Darbee, CEO of former chamber member PG&E (a utility company in California), said, “I'm struck by the irony that, as we try to restore public trust in business on the one hand, on the other the Chamber's behavior on the climate issue only reinforces stereotypes that erode that very same confidence." Hillary Rosen, former CEO of the Recording Industry Association of America added, "Their aggressive ways are out of step with a new generation of business leadership who are looking for more cooperative relationship with Washington.” In response, David Chavern, the Chamber’s COO said, "We are not crazy or outside the mainstream."

It has been reported that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has falsely inflated the number of members. The Chamber alleges to be the world’s largest business federation and to represent “3 million businesses”, according to its website. However, in 2009, the Chamber admitted its membership is about 90 percent smaller or closer to 300,000 businesses, as the Washington Post reported.

The U. S. Chamber of Commerce was reported in the November 16, 2009 Washington Post as seeking to spend $50,000 dollars 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. James P. Gelfand, the author of the e-mail detailing this project, assumes ahead of time that the study will reach such a conclusion.

Affiliate organizations



See also



References

  1. http://www.uschamber.com/about/board/all.htm US Chamber of Commerce website, 31 Oct 2009
  2. Mother Jones, 14 October 14, 2009, "US Chamber Shrinks Membership 90%": accessed 20 October 2009.
  3. http://www.opensecrets.org/pacs/lookup2.php?strID=C00082040 Center for Responsive Politics, US Chamber of Commerce summary
  4. http://www.opensecrets.org/pacs/lookup2.php?cycle=2008&strID=C00082040 Center for Responsive Politics, 31Oct 2009
  5. [1]
  6. [2]
  7. Mother Jones, 7 October 2009, Inside the Chamber of Carbon
  8. (Reuters) "Apple, citing climate, tells U.S. Chamber iQuit", 5 October 2009: accessed 5 October 2009.
  9. [3]: accessed 22 October 2009.
  10. (Nike) "Nike US Chamber Statement", 30 September 2009: accessed 6 October 2009.
  11. [4]: accessed 3 November 2009
  12. http://apolloalliance.org/digest/?tag=350org
  13. http://angeles.sierraclub.org/ocglobalwarming/Change.html
  14. http://thetyee.ca/Opinion/2009/09/07/NewMonkeyTrial/
  15. http://www.time.com/time/business/article/0,8599,1932979,00.html Is the chamber its own worst enemy?, TIME, 31Oct 2009
  16. http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2009/10/chamber-backs-smaller-membership-number
  17. http://www.uschamber.com/about/default.htm US Chamber of Commerce website,31 Oct 2009
  18. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/10/15/AR2009101504000.html?hpid=news-col-blog
  19. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/11/15/AR2009111503159.html


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