John Smart

Whose Chamber of Commerce is this anyway?

By - Oct 12th, 2010 04:00 am

Logo courtesy of U.S. Chamber of Commerce website

In most small communities, the Chamber of Commerce is made up of  local business people — with perhaps a paid organizer or two — and their purpose is to promote local businesses, period.  If there is a state Chamber of Commerce, it should only be there to coordinate those local organizations for their joint benefit, right?

So, what about the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the one based in Washington, DC?   What’s their job?

Is it to solicit funds from American corporations as well as foreign and multi-national ones and use those dollars to promote Republican office-seekers? So it would seem.  Reports of such financial activities have recently been covered in national news stories, and we’ve seen the results every day on our television screens, where negative ads against Democratic candidates are sponsored by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

They have gone after Senator Russ Feingold to the tune of a quarter of a million dollars. In a sense it isn’t surprising; Feingold will never be accused of being in anyone’s pocket, least of all big business — he was voted #1 enemy of Washington lobbyists.  His campaign issued a statement: “The corporate special interests are lining up to take out their number one enemy, Russ Feingold.  It’s clear whose side Ron Johnson is on — the wealthy, out-of-state, corporate special interests who are trying to buy this election.”

The Hill, a non-partisan Washington news source, reported that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce sponsored a  negative television commercial aimed at Wisconsin State Senator Julie Lassa, who is running against Sean Duffy to succeed retiring Congressman Dave Obey. The commercial ends by showing Lassa’s home telephone number with the line, “Tell Julie Lassa, stop voting for job-killing tax hikes.”

Photo courtesy Julie Lassa for Congress

Aside from the fact that she is not known for supporting tax hikes, Lassa is obviously concerned for her family’s privacy and security, and her campaign has reacted appropriately.

Does this sound like something our local Chambers of Commerce should have any connection with?  I don’t think so.

If you are curious whether or not your local Chamber is in any way affiliated with this national Republican campaign-support organization, you can check out their website to find out. I was pleased that the chamber in my hometown of Park Falls is not listed as an affiliate, although many others are: Milwaukee, Brookfield, Madison and, of course, Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce — they’re a mainstay!

It will come as no surprise to anyone that businesses are inclined toward the Republican Party — large ones for obvious reasons (“the rich get richer, and the poor get poorer”), and small ones because they are drinking the big business Kool-Aid.

But should an organization supposedly dedicated to supporting small business be so blatantly partisan, and do local Chambers even know that they are unwittingly endorsing such shenanigans? Why don’t we ask them?

John Smart is retired in his hometown of Park Falls, Wisconsin, is a member of the Governor’s Commission on the United Nations, the board of the Wisconsin Alliance for Excellent Schools, and is vice-chair of the Price County Democratic Party.

Categories: Commentary, Politics

Leave a Reply

You must be an Urban Milwaukee member to leave a comment. Membership, which includes a host of perks, including an ad-free website, tickets to marquee events like Summerfest, the Wisconsin State Fair and the Florentine Opera, a better photo browser and access to members-only, behind-the-scenes tours, starts at $9/month. Learn more.

Join now and cancel anytime.

If you are an existing member, sign-in to leave a comment.

Have questions? Need to report an error? Contact Us