U.S. Chamber Faces Crisis of Credibility

Jan 12, 2010, 11:46 ET from Change to Win

Change to Win Scorecard Details Woeful 2009 for U.S. Chamber

WASHINGTON, Jan. 12 /PRNewswire/ -- Tuesday morning Tom Donohue, the CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, will make an annual address on the "State of American Business."  In the speech, Donohue is expected to give the U.S. Chamber's views on the economic state of the country and take on the Obama Administration over a broad range of policies the Chamber views as threats to free enterprise.  However, before Donohue lectures on jobs and the economy, he needs to address a growing crisis of credibility that engulfed the U.S. Chamber in 2009.  

The "2009 U.S. Chamber Credibility Scorecard" released by Change to Win today shows the extent to which the U.S. Chamber has seen its standing fall.  In the past year alone, the U.S. Chamber has seen its extreme positions split the organization and lead to high-profile defections and criticism from members both over the group's issue positions and the policies.  CEOs and corporations close to Donohue and the Chamber have been ensnared in legal scandals involving insider trading and accounting fraud.  Meanwhile, the Chamber was put on the defensive over revelations that it had inflated its membership numbers and that a nearly a third of its 2008 revenue came from just 19 donors rather than the millions of businesses it claims to represent.

"The U.S. Chamber enters 2010 badly damaged and in no position to lecture," said Change to Win spokesperson Mike Gehrke.  "2009 was a disaster for the U.S. Chamber, which is to be expected when you bank your credibility on the extreme agenda of a few corporate CEOs.  In 2010, the Chamber can resolve to work for change and reform, or to spend another year obstructing, blocking and misleading."

Among the lowlights of the past year in the CtW report include:

  • Member Businesses Quit the Chamber and Distanced Themselves Over Policy and Process.  The U.S. Chamber was rattled by high-profile defections of businesses including Apple, Exelon, PNM Resources, PG&E, PSEG and Mohawk Paper.  Nike publicly quit the U.S. Chamber's Board of Directors, several local Chambers of Commerce publicly distanced themselves from the DC-based U.S. Chamber, and companies like General Electric and Comcast publicly dissented from the U.S. Chamber's position on issues.  The splits often went beyond policy differences, with board members publicly complaining that they were not included in the body's policymaking or, as the CEO of the New York Chamber bluntly stated, "They don't represent me."
  • Reports Revealed Small Base of Chamber Funding. In November, Greenwire reported that "The U.S. Chamber of Commerce often says it speaks for 3 million members, businesses both large and small. What it doesn't promote as readily is that 19 supporters last year provided a third of the trade group's total revenue."  One contributor gave the Chamber $15.3 million in 2008.  The Chamber has not disclosed any of the contributors' names. [NY Times.com Greenwire, 11/23/2009]
  • Chamber criticized for running millions in misleading and outright false ads.  In November, FactCheck.org exposed the Chamber's misleading health care ads which claimed health care reform would cause massive job loss and lead to "crushing" tax increases.  [FactCheck.org, 11/17/2009]   And FactCheck.org recently called Chamber ads run in December that claimed "52 percent of all lawsuits" target small businesses were "false" and "malarkey."  [FactCheck.org, 1/7/2010]

CtW's "2009 U.S. Chamber Scorecard" can be found at http://www.changetowin.org/chamber/2009-us-chamber-credibility-scorecard.html.

SOURCE Change to Win