Thursday, January 14, 2016

The Biggest Union Of Them All

Updated 3:04 a.m. 1/16/16

Review:  The Influence Machine: The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Corporate Capture of American Life

Seasoned journalist Alyssa Katz is out with an expose on the US Chamber of Commerce that shows the bosses union to be the most influential political organization in the country after the Republican and Democratic parties, and one that has been increasingly using its vast resources in underhanded ways.

Tom Donohue
As is known to anyone not in a deep coma, the Chamber knee jerk opposes anything that benefits workers in any way. The Chamber pushes its extreme right wing Capitalist ideology by putting its hands on as many of the levers of power as it can, Katz has been saying in a series of interviews about the book. Namely. With an army of lobbyists, through the courts via several internal legal divisions, with massive public relations, much of it via fake citizen astroturf groups, and by giving tons of dark money to political candidates.

Katz  outlines, for example, how, when the Chamber was unsuccessful in defending State Farm Insurance against a 48-state class action lawsuit filed in Illinois, it poured money into the opponent of an Illinois Supreme Court judge and got him tossed out of office. A new, Chamber friendly court then threw out the $1.6 billion settlement. The case involved a State Farm policy of having repair shops use knock-off replacement parts when consumers thought they were getting original equipment parts.

Katz' personal web site contains links to reviews of the book and to many of the interviews she's given about it, and also has some entries in which she elaborates on some of this.

As Katz told Sasha Lily on Against The Grain, the Chamber wasn't always so ideological and aggressive. That changed with the advent of a new President and CEO, Tom Donohue, who took over during the Clinton Administration.

The Chamber conceals much of what it does with a special IRS status that was given to it on its formation in 1912, Katz says. It uses that status and the Citizens United Supreme Court decision to skirt the law and anonymously pump millions into conservative candidates' campaigns.

The Chamber of Commerce, and like groups -- the Business Roundtable, the Manufacturers Association, the American Trucking Association,  and others -- exactly fit the definition of a union, a group of people who get together to pursue interests they have in common. All of them, and especially the Chamber, vehemently oppose employees using the same strategy they use.

Whether that's more hypocritical or unfair is open to debate. How they get away with it, and continue to have a public image as a kind of friendly group a civic volunteers, is another thing. That's the fault of us, of the trade unions, and of sleazeball Democrats who go crawling down to the chamber offices once a year to give a speech and then schmooze with the people who exploit and oppress the people those same Democrats are supposed to be standing up for.

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