Photo: AP

The Chamber of Commerce is straight-up evil. It takes millions of dollars from America’s biggest corporations and uses that money to advocate for whatever advances their financial interests at the expense of everyone else. It’s advocated for the tobacco industry, denied the science of climate change, and sought to defeat Wall Street regulation. It fights regulation of business at every turn; anything that might possibly interfere with their members’ short-term profits even at the expense of humanity’s long-term prospects of survival. More importantly, they’ve spent millions—$69 million on lobbying in 2018 alone—to try to achieve these goals.

Yesterday, these bastards held their annual “State of American Business” event, with the organization’s president Tom Donahue and chief lobbyist Neil Bradley. During the event, Roll Call reporter Kate Ackley asked the two fellas about the Democrats’ proposed anti-corruption bill, HR 1, which would institute a public campaign financing system, create national automatic voter registration, and make Election Day a holiday.

Bradley’s response tells you all you need to know about how this organization does business:

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Let’s break this utter shit down:

We have looked at HR 1. There are some elements encouraging greater participation in elections, that’s great, we all want to see more people voting. There are provisions about making sure elections are secure, great, we all want secure elections.

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The Chamber of Commerce has spend tens of millions of dollars on electing Republicans. In 2016, it spent $29 million in outside spending (election spending that isn’t donations directly to candidates or PACs), all of which went to help Republicans. The Republican Party, you’ll recall, has dedicated itself to discouraging voter participation: It’s passed voter ID laws, closed polling locations, and thrown out voter registrations. This is not new. The party has been doing this for many years. The Chamber of Commerce knows this. They love it!

Then, Bradley moved onto whining about preserving the Chamber’s “voice” in democracy:

Unfortunately it then takes a pretty quick divergent path in trying to figure out how it shuts down particular voices, particularly the voice of the business community in our electoral system. That is something the chamber has been against since time immemorial for the very reasons that Tom talked about in his speech. What we would hope Congress would do was focus on how we could get more folks participating in democracy, whether that is at the ballot box or in the electoral system, and that means focused on those things, increased participation, not regulate people out of participation.

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This is a reference to the fact that HR 1's campaign finance provisions would make it much harder for the Chamber of Commerce to influence elections as they currently do; the idea that it would “regulate people out of participation” is perhaps a reference to the public financing of elections included in the bill, which could make it harder for the Chamber to dump millions of dollars on getting their preferred candidates elected. The Chamber spent $35 million in 2014, $29 million in 2016, and $15 million in 2018. That’s the “voice of the business community in our electoral system” he’s talking about: money. We know that conservatives and the Business Community think money and speech are one and the same; this was the intellectual basis for the Citizens United ruling, after all.

All of this is very simple, really. If money is speech, and the Chamber of Commerce has hundreds of millions of dollars to spend, it naturally has many, many, many times the “voice” of the average American—who only has their one vote and maybe $25 to spare to donate to a candidate they support, if that. (If they have the time and energy to research candidates and donate to them at all, which the poorest are least likely to have). This is what the Chamber wants to preserve. It wants to keep its outsized voice in politics. It wants to be able to continue to shout into policymakers’ ears while you can barely whisper.

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The funny thing is, HR 1 would still let them do that. It certainly would represent the biggest hit to the system of corporate influence on politics we’ve seen in years if it passed, but it wouldn’t stop the Chamber spending millions and millions on lobbying, as long as they register correctly. But the Chamber must fight even limited gestures at reining in corporate influence over politics; that’s what they’re paid for.

You know, ultimately, it seems like a pretty bad system where companies can amass immense wealth by exploiting and underpaying workers and then use that wealth to direct politicians to prevent anything from being done about that exploitation. Just one woman’s take.