The U.S. Chamber of Commerce recently revised its published membership numbers from 3 million to 300,000 after Mother Jones uncovered it was playing games with its numbers. But even the revised numbers are misleading, since the Chamber’s 25 largest contributors provided a staggering $54 million to the Chamber in 2008, accounting for 39% of its $140 million in total contributions. One contributor gave the Chamber $15.3 million in 2008. The Chamber has not disclosed any of the contributors’ names.
As National Journal exposed just last week, this is exactly what five of the nation’s largest health care providers have been doing. Though publicly supporting President Obama’s health care reform efforts, Aetna, Cigna, Humana, UnitedHealth Group and Wellpoint secretly funneled $10 million to $20 million to the Chamber in the latter half of 2009 to fund ads aimed at killing health care reform.
Now, the Chamber is using the same type of financing to oppose the proposed Consumer Financial Protection Agency (CFPA). They will cloak their opposition in false claims about the CFPA’s impact on small business, but the Chamber’s opposition is really about the major financial services firms that we believe secretly bankroll the Chamber and its multi-million dollar campaign to defeat the CFPA, says Americans for Financial Reform, a coalition of over 200 national, state and local consumer, labor, retiree, investor, community, business, and civil rights organizations who are campaigning for real reform in our nation’s financial system.
“Neither Congress nor the American public should have to accept the Chamber’s misleading and self-serving misrepresentations of its membership and their contributions,” AFRtoSenateLetterJan20-2010) states. “We deserve to know who is really bankrolling this effort to keep a broken status quo in place.”
The ongoing unwillingness of Wall Street bankers to lend, despite trillions of dollars of taxpayer money provided to them through the bailout, is not the result of “the uncertainty in regulatory standards and increased liability” created by the recently proposed CFPA, as the Chamber asserts. Rather, it is result of the banks’ uncertainty about their own balance sheets following years of excessive risk-taking and questionable lending practices that was made possible by the risky and incomprehensible consumer financial products they themselves created under a regime of inadequate and incoherent regulatory oversight.