Prudential Financial sent in a $2 million donation last year as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce launched a national advertising campaign to weaken the historic rewrite of the nation’s financial regulations.
Dow Chemical delivered $1.7 million to the chamber last year as the group took a leading role in aggressively fighting proposed new rules that would impose tighter security requirements on chemical facilities.
And Goldman Sachs, Chevron Texaco and Aegon, a multinational insurance company based in the Netherlands, donated more than $8 million in recent years to a chamber foundation that has helped wage a national campaign to limit the ability of trial lawyers to sue businesses.
These large donations offer a glimpse of the chamber’s money-raising efforts, which it has ramped up recently in an orchestrated campaign to become one of the most well-financed critics of the Obama administration and an influential player in this fall’s Congressional elections.
Such donations suggest that the recent allegations from President Barack Obama and others that foreign money has ended up in the chamber’s coffers miss a larger point: The chamber has had little trouble finding U.S. companies eager to enlist it, anonymously, to fight their political battles and pay handsomely for its help.
And these contributions, some of which can be pieced together through tax filings of corporate foundations and other public records, also show how the chamber has increasingly relied on a relatively small collection of big corporate donors to finance much of its Washington agenda.
The chamber makes no apologies for its policy of not identifying its donors. It has vigorously opposed legislation in Congress that would require groups like it to identify their biggest contributors when they spend money on campaign ads.
Proponents of that measure pointed to reports that health insurance providers funneled at least $10 million to the chamber last year, all of it anonymously, to oppose Obama’s health care legislation.As a nonprofit organization, the chamber need not disclose its donors in its public tax filings, and because it says no donations are earmarked for specific ads aimed at a candidate, it does not invoke federal elections rules requiring disclosure. The annual tax returns that the chamber releases include a list of all donations over $5,000, including 21 in 2008 that each exceed $1 million.