Inside the Chamber’s Free Enterprise Campaign

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National Journal has a fantastic new piece out today about the Chamber of Commerce’s advocacy campaign to “defend and advance America’s free enterprise values.” Turns out, it’s not going quite as well as they hoped, and is even drawing criticism from some conservatives for being more about raising money for the Chamber than it is about promoting an agenda in a meaningful way.

But that’s not to say it hasn’t been effective. The Chamber is expected to report $250 million in revenues last year, a 25 percent increase over 2008. It spent $123 million on lobbying last year, nearly twice as much as it did in 2008. The group has launched a campaign to gather 1 million voter contacts that it can use to advance its electoral and policy agenda. And its non-profit wing, the National Chamber Foundation, is planning an initiative to get educational information about “the free enterprise system” into elementary and high schools across the country (nothing like starting early!).

Among the more interesting elements of the article: apparently the Chamber approached some major corporations, like ExxonMobil, about funneling more money into the group’s advocacy work, but met hostility. Instead, Chamber president Tom Donohue is turning increasingly to very wealthy individuals for support:

When he launched the campaign last spring and summer, Donohue initially talked to ExxonMobil and some other longtime financial angels about committing new funds to the project, according to lobby sources. Executives at two companies that he approached let it be known that they had already made big contributions to other chamber efforts, such as the Institute for 21st Century Energy. (Chamber officials dispute that these corporations gave them the cold shoulder.)

The executives suggested that Donohue consider approaching wealthy individuals in such sectors as energy, financial services, and high tech, according to a lobbyist close to the chamber.

Donohue has done just that. For the first time in chamber officials’ memory, he is seeking to finance most of the campaign through donors outside of the corporate community. He has been searching out individuals, who, as Donohue puts it, “have done exceedingly well in a free enterprise system” and asking them for contributions as high as six and seven figures. “These are people who said, ‘Hey, I never could’ve done this anywhere else in the world, and it’s probably a good idea to remind everybody how it worked.’ “

The piece is worth a read.

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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