In a new video series, "The Loaded Chamber,"
GRITtv takes a closer look at the increasingly secretive and partisan U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and how it got to be such a power monger in Washington. Many Americans think of the Chamber of Commerce as a local organization that supplies maps or information about local businesses, or think of it as a sort of civics league, like the Elks Lodge. But the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington, D.C. is completely different. It often has no ties to local Chambers of Commerce. It spends more money on lobbying than any other entity in Washington, D.C., outspending even the political parties on elections nationwide. The Chamber has a $200 million budget, and as a 501(c)(6) trade association, it doesn't have to pay any taxes or disclose its donors. Forty percent of the U.S. Chamber's income comes from just 26 of its members, and in return for the funds, the Chamber runs political attack ads against selected members of Congress who have taken positions counter to the interest of a specific corporation. The ads often contain out-and-out lies, and say legislators hold positions that they have not taken on certain issues. The arrangement allows multinational corporations to anonymously attack U.S. legislators while avoiding accountability, and prevents public backlash against its brands or services.