Not What They Appear To Be


Politico has an incredulous overview of a new US Chamber of Commerce initiative to spend $100,000,000 of its members money on lobbying against White House initiatives.  When I owned a small business, the local rep (salesman) for the USCofC used to come by every few months looking for donations.  It’s a good racket, because local businessmen are used to dealing with their local Chamber of Commerce, and they assume the US version is just more of the same, but in the large economy size, so they are receptive to opening their wallets.  Their impression of the Chamber is good because the local C of C does yeoman work for beautifying the business district, inviting speakers in to talk about small business loans, coordinating special promotions, raising funds for charity and so forth.

The first time that rep came knocking, I invited him into my office and went through his literature and listened to his talking points.  It quickly became apparent that small business concerns were not on their radar at all, despite the fact that every third sentence mentioned “small business owners” or “main street America”.  Their interests at that time seemed to consist of lowering the capital gains sales tax (not something the average small business owner has the luxury of worrying about), keeping various tax loopholes alive (again, you need a team of full time accountants to take advantage of them) and even things that actively hurt small business people, such as repealing some of the government regulations that are meant to keep business with connections (read “generous lobbyists”) from getting any more of a leg up than they already have.  The two biggest items affecting the small business owners I knew where the recently imposed draconian laws on reporting business use of a personal car, and the difficulties in getting a home office deduction.  The rep had no idea what I was talking about.

The tone of the literature was annoying too.  Very political in an arms length way, and very Republican.  Now, I don’t know if the USCofC ever acted as a real CofC, but I always wondered if some right ringers hadn’t seen it as simply a lucrative take over target.  It had a great mailing list, probably a lot of money in the bank, and the board was elected by the membership.  Probably earnest industrious types orginally and no match for the well oiled takeover artists.

AAA, the automobile club strikes me the same way.  When you look at what they spend member,s money on, it is primarily to lobby for far-right agenda items.  I don’t know if it is still true, but hey used to lobby against an increase in fuel economy standards, and also to lobby against transportation money being spent on light rail and commuter trains.  Their spending patterns so closely matched those of the Big 3 automakers and road contstruction industry that I had to suspect a past takeover.  After all, they had the same member voting on the board.   No bad deal if you can get someone else to fund your lobbyists

A few years back, the Southern Baptists essentially took over the United Baptist Convention (? I have the name wrong if anyone can help me out) and turned it hard, hard to the right.  The traditional Baptists protested but were heavily sanctioned and intimidated.  Finally, they had enough and decided they wanted to split off.  The Southern Baptists were more than happy to let them, but they had to leave behind the money, real estate and institutions that had been built up over the span of decades.  “Thanks for the dough, don’t let the door hit you on the way out!”


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