Section » Focus on the Corporation

The Transparently Secretive Chamber of Commerce

By • on May 31, 2012 at 1:55 pm

Well, the Big Business guys are transparent about one thing: They can’t stand the idea of the public holding them to account for their attempts to buy elections and influence policy, or even that they be prevented from corrupting the government contracting process through campaign spending.

The latest: They are so terrified of having their political spending disclosed that they are pushing in Congress legislation that would prohibit the government from requiring contractors to disclose their campaign-related spending.

Senator Susan Collins, R-Maine, is carrying their water, with the Orwellian “Keeping Politics Out of Federal Contracting Act,” a bill that recently passed the Committee on Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs and may well become law unless the public demands otherwise. To take action to stop this abomination, go here: http://action.citizen.org/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=3D10608.

The Collins initiative is in response to an excellent initiative floated by the Obama administration, but which the White House failed to implement. The simple idea was to require government contractors to disclose their campaign-related spending, including the kind of secret corporate campaign expenditures enabled by the Citizens United decision.

Contractor disclosure is important for two key reasons. First, virtually every major corporation enters into contracts with the government, so if contractors are required to disclose their campaign spending, that would cover most giant businesses. Second, the corrupting pall of campaign-related contributions is worst in the area of government contracting, since this is where the direct payoffs to corporations from political spending are highest. Disclosure will help mitigate the campaign-contractor corruption nexus.

Last year, it leaked that the Obama administration was considering an executive order requiring contractor disclosure.

The response from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s lead lobbyist, Bruce Josten: “We will fight it through all available means. To quote what they say every day on Libya, all options are on the table.” (As I mentioned at the time, just imagine if a prominent figure on the left–one with an office across Lafayette Park from the White House–used such charged, violent rhetoric.)

The Big Business guys have been unwavering in their strident opposition to disclosure of corporate campaign spending.

Said Chamber CEO Tom Donohue last week: “The disclosure thing is all about intimidation.”

The Chamber has certainly been consistent on the point. Here’s what Donohue said after the 2010 elections, in which the Chamber spent more outside money than any other group: “It is important to the Chamber not to change its practices [of not disclosing donors] because when it is known who made a contribution, it gives others the opportunity to demagogue them, attack them, or encourage them not to do it.”

As Carl Forti, one of the co-founders of the Karl Rove-affiliated Crossroads operations said after the 2010 election, “Disclosure was very important to us, which is why the 527 was created. But some donors didn’t want to be disclosed and, therefore, a (c)4 was created.”

The Big Business worry is simple enough. If their spending is disclosed, consumers and shareholders may hold them accountable. This is what Donohue calls “intimidation.”

Back in the real world, the intimidation works the other way. Under relentless attack from the Chamber of Commerce and other business interests, the Obama administration declined to issue the contractor disclosure executive order–despite a strong public call for such action, and strong support from public interest advocates and Members of Congress.

Although there’s not much chance of the Obama administration issuing the contractor disclosure executive order in advance of the 2012 election, it’s conceivable that a second-term Obama administration would do so.

Which is why we’re confronted with the spectacle of legislation that would prevent the government from trying to reduce the likelihood of corruption through a simple disclosure requirement.

If we have any respect for our democracy, we can’t let such a proposal become law. Act now: http://action.citizen.org/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=3D10608.

Robert Weissman is president of Public Citizen, www.citizen.org.

1 CommentContinue»

More Articles

Learning from Facebook

By • on May 23, 2012 at 2:00 pm

Whether or not you’re an investor, it’s important to grasp the significance of what’s happened with the Facebook initial public offering (IPO). In the few days since its IPO, Facebook’s stock price has fallen almost 20 percent amidst news that underwriters led by Morgan Stanley and perhaps Facebook itself shared negative assessments of the company [...]

No CommentsContinue»

The Unlearned Lessons of the BP Disaster

By • on April 21, 2012 at 1:36 pm

The BP disaster taught us many things: Giant corporations cannot be trusted to behave responsibly, and have the ability to inflict massive damage on people and the environment. We need strong regulatory controls to curb corporate wrongdoing. We need tough penalties to punish corporate wrongdoers. There is no way to do deepwater oil drilling safely. [...]

No CommentsContinue»

The Summers of Our Discontent

By • on March 23, 2012 at 12:43 pm

“Just between you and me, shouldn’t the World Bank be encouraging more migration of the dirty industries to the LDCs (lesser developed countries)?” Do those sound like the words of a man who should be running the world’s leading economic development institution? They don’t, but the man who put his name on the memo in [...]

No CommentsContinue»

Focus on the Corporation: Excessive Oil Speculation: Wall Street’s Tax on Us

By • on June 17, 2011 at 8:12 am

Where are the anti-tax activists when you need them? They should be protesting outside of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, denouncing the agency for failing to take action. And they should be applauding a new legislative proposal by Senator Bernie Sanders. Right now, Wall Street speculators are imposing an enormous tax on consumers, and the [...]

1 CommentContinue»

Focus on the Corporation: The US Chamber of Commerce in Wonderland

By • on May 10, 2011 at 5:15 pm

It’s a good rule of thumb: If the US Chamber of Commerce–the trade association for large corporations–is whipped up about something, there’s probably good reason for the public to strongly back whatever has sent the Chamber into fits. Well, the Chamber is apoplectic over a modest Obama administration proposed executive order that would require government [...]

No CommentsContinue»

Corporate America’s War on Political Transparency

By • on April 28, 2011 at 5:53 pm

It’s a modest notion. Companies that bid for government contracts should disclose their campaign spending, in order to diminish the likelihood that contracts are a payoff for political expenditures. The Obama administration has indicated that it plans to impose such a rule, through an executive order. Ideally, the rule would prohibit contractors and lobbyists from [...]

1 CommentContinue»

Nature & Politics: Earthquakes, Waves and Nuke-Speak: Never Believe Anything Until It’s Officially Denied

By • on March 16, 2011 at 12:30 am

The explosion at a Japanese nuclear plant in the early hours of Saturday looks, on the footage, huge and calamitous. An “expert,” interviewed on the BBC, tactfully described it as “energetic”. Here are excerpts from the Associated Press story from Japan, on the wires at about 2 AM Saturday, PST. Rarely has my father Claud’s [...]

1 CommentContinue»

On Wisconsin and America

By • on February 28, 2011 at 5:18 pm

We are now having a major dispute about what kind of society America should be. Right now, the flashpoint in this controversy is Wisconsin, where tens of thousands of people are demonstrating every day in an effort to block Governor Scott Walker’s plan to all but end collective bargaining rights for public employees. But the [...]

No CommentsContinue»

Focus on the Corporation: Corporate Junk Economics Return to Capitol Hill

By • on January 18, 2011 at 10:55 pm

Watch out for corporate junk economics on Capitol Hill. Rep. Darrell Issa, chair of the House Oversight and Government Affairs Committee, has reportedly asked more than 150 trade associations, corporations and think tanks to provide a wish list of public health, environmental and other public protections that they would like to see eliminated. The purported [...]

No CommentsContinue»