A new study by watchdog group Public Citizen has revealed that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which claims to represent the interests of millions of businesses of all sizes, has been largely fueled by donors who have given at least $1 million to the lobbying giant. Public Citizen’s review of the Chamber of Commerce’s most recent tax forms shows that the group raised just over $93 million in 2021 from donors who gave $1 million or more. The report reveals that just 1.4% of the donations that year provided more than a quarter of the Chamber’s itemized contributions. The business lobby group raised $197 million in 2021.
According to Public Citizen’s findings, the chamber brought in 18 contributions from those who donated between $2 million to over $4 million, and around $54 million was raised from these big-money contributors alone. The data proves that the chamber focuses more of its advocacy on big business and not necessarily small businesses, said Lisa Gilbert, executive vice president at Public Citizen.
Kasper Zeuthen, a spokesman for the group, dismissed the findings and told CNBC that the vast majority of the organization’s members are small businesses. He added that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s governing board consists of small business owners, the heads of state and local chambers of commerce, mid-size businesses, and representatives of some of the nation’s most successful companies.
However, the tax records show that while the group saw large contributions in 2021, Chamber CEO Suzanne Clark received a total compensation of $5.1 million that same year, including an incentive package of $3.75 million. The study comes as the chamber faces criticism from key Republican leaders on Capitol Hill, including attacks by House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and House Majority Leader Steve Scalise, after the lobbying group endorsed several Democrats running for House seats.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce does not publicly disclose its donors, but its website boasts that it’s “the world’s largest business federation representing the interests of more than 3 million businesses of all sizes, sectors, and regions.” Its board consists of executives from companies such as Microsoft, 3M, Citadel, Virtu Financial, FedEx, Deloitte, Fidelity Investments, Caterpillar, and U.S. Bank.
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