I have nothing but respect for the “chamber of commerce” — the thousands of local organizations that help small businesses and consumers, but most people don’t realize that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce (USCC) is completely different. The USCC has become a blatantly partisan organization, running the largest campaign against Democrats in the upcoming election: spending more than $75 million and as of September 15, airing more than 8,000 ads on behalf of GOP Senate candidates alone. Spending from the USCC on political ads dwarfs that from every other issue group, and is larger than what the political parties spend on most candidates. News Corp (the parent company of Fox News and now the Wall St. Journal) donated $1 million to the USCC this summer.
As a non-profit trade association, the USCC can raise unlimited funds without ever disclosing any of its donors, and they have taken strong advantage of the Supreme Court ruling that allows unlimited corporate spending on politics. While Republicans filibustered attempts to outlaw foreign corporations from running political ads, the USCC used their offices in other countries to actively solicit funds from foreign corporations, including ones directly controlled by foreign governments.
For example, USCC operates an office in Bahrain, which collects over $100,000 a year in “dues” from foreign-owned businesses. The membership form stipulates that money should be sent directly to the US Chamber of Commerce, and also explicitly states that foreign-owned firms are welcomed. They also operate an office in India, which includes some of India’s largest corporations (like the state-run State Bank of India). This office generates over $200,000 a year in dues. On their website, they promise to help change American policy to help businesses in India. The USCC also has affiliates in Egypt, Abu Dhabi, Saudi Arabia, Russia, and China, among others.
In addition to annual dues, which is as high as a third of a million dollars for large companies, companies can also donate additional money to the USCC. For example, during the health care debate, it was discovered that health insurance companies like Aetna pumped $20 million into the USCC to pay for attack ads aimed at killing reform, while publicly claiming that they supported health care reform. We have no way of knowing how much money foreign-owned companies, including ones owned by foreign governments, are spending on ads designed to influence the US elections and buy favors from politicians, since the money is simply laundered through the USCC (who have no requirement to disclose their donors or donations).
It doesn’t matter than US law forbids foreign corporations from being involved in American elections. We don’t have to worry about foreign countries attacking us. They’ve already bought us, courtesy of the USCC.