Transparency Efforts By Corporations Undermine Chamber’s Anti-Disclosure Stance

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce claims that a draft executive order being considered by the Obama administration would be an assault on free speech. The proposed order would require federal contractors to disclose donations to third party groups. But many of the companies affiliated with the Chamber have extolled the values of disclosure and already publicly reveal their donations voluntarily.Aetna, for example, discloses their contributions to trade associations with dues over $50,000 or more. It also reveals what portion of those dues are allocated to non-deductible lobbying. Dell does not usually make payments to trade associations that are designed for political purposes beyond its normal dues, but has a policy of disclosing the information on their website when they do.

Procter and Gamble said on its website that it “has no plans to use corporate funds to support independent political expenditures to influence federal elections, nor to make contributions to trade associations for that purpose.” Microsoft says it will “publicly disclose and update annually on Microsoft.com a list of those trade associations to which Microsoft pays dues and makes other expenditures through our Corporate and Regulatory Affairs Group.” eBay says it “believes it is important to disclose our lobbying and political activity in a clear and transparent fashion.” The policies and statements on disclosure from the Chamber members were collected by U.S. Chamber Watch.

“In its war on political disclosure, we know the US Chamber isn’t standing up for small businesses, many of whom have broken with them on this issue,” Christy Setzer, spokeswoman for U.S. Chamber Watch, told TPM in a statement.

“They’re not even standing up for Big Business, since companies from Aetna to Xerox already disclose their memberships in trade associations like the Chamber,” Setzer said. “Once again, the Chamber’s merely doing the dirty work of shielding companies like BP and Massey Energy, who have plenty to hide, from a critical public view.”

Republicans have largely dominated the narrative over the proposed executive order, claiming that the Obama administration is waging war on political opponents. But Democrats say that taxpayers have a right to know how their money is being spent by companies on the federal payroll.

Andy Kroll of Mother Jones reports that shareholders at several other companies like Home Depot are pushing for internal policies requiring companies to disclose all political campaign spending.

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