The Obama years have so far been a predictable boom-time for the army of anti-regulation lobbyists paid by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The Center for Responsive Politics reports that the Chamber spent $276 million over the past two years lobbying against, among other things, health care reform, environmental protections and Wall Street regulations. The Chamber is the number-one spender on lobbying this year as in years past, but it is outdoing itself, setting records in its own outrageous largess. In just the last three months of 2010, the Chamber spent $50.9 million on lobbying at the federal, state and grassroots levels. That’s a step down from last year, when in the last financial quarter as health and financial industry reform were being discussed in DC, the Chamber spent $79 million from October through December to defeat or water-down Democratic legislation.
From the Center’s money in politics watchdog site Open Secrets:
Overall in 2010, the Chamber spent $132 million on lobbying, down 8.6 percent from its all-time high of $144 million in 2009. Nevertheless, the Chamber again in 2010 ranked as the No. 1 top-spending lobbying client — although it should be noted that many organizations, unlike the Chamber, report only federal-level lobbying expenditures in these reports.
The Chamber spent on average roughly $50 million a year on lobbying through the Bush years. It spent about $55 million in 2007 and about $80 million in 2008. Lobbyists at Mayer Brown LLP received $560,000 from the Chamber this year. Mayer’s other clients include telecommunications companies, auto manufacturers and health insurance companies.
An increasing number of businesses in recent years have dropped membership with the Chamber over what they say are its backward views, particularly on the environment. As the Colorado Independent reported two years ago, Colorado businesses joined with high-profile U.S. corporations in breaking with the Chamber over its opposition to climate change legislation. Chamber representatives said proposed climate change laws were based on junk science and would derail the American economy.
Heavy hitters like Apple, Exelon, Levi Strauss and Pacific Gas and Electric Co. outright quit the Chamber in 2009. Nike resigned from the Chamber’s board but maintained its membership, and companies like Duke Energy, General Electric, Alcoa and Johnson & Johnson have disavowed the chamber’s positions on global warming.
“It’s our professional opinion that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is out of step with the leading edge of economic recovery,” said Paul Sheldon, senior consultant with Longmont-based Natural Capitalism Solutions, which has provided corporate sustainability consulting to companies representing 3 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product, including Goldman Sachs.
“We have tracked 13 different studies which document that those companies that come into clean sources of energy, sustainability and responsible corporate behavior are outperforming their competitors before, during and after an economic downturn,” he added.