About Those Chamber of Commerce “Members”

Our Greg Marx does a good job looking at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce member-count dispute, which has laid bare that the press has accidentally helped mislead readers for years on the lobbying group’s size.

Three million or 300,000? Think small (360,000 now).

A buddy and I were talking about this on Friday and I wondered whether the Chamber just conveniently ignored all those press fact errors over the years or if it had actively misled. Surely a lobbying organization wouldn’t do the latter! So I looked it up.

See for yourself. Here are Google searches of the Chamber’s site only (my tallies below exclude “very similar” results, as defined by Google):

— “Three million members” pulls up seventeen mentions, several of them with no “federation” qualifier.

— “3 million members” gets fifteen hits, most of which don’t qualify “members” at all, one of which is from Chamber CEO Thomas J. Donahue himself.

— “300,000 members”? Two hits.

— “360,000 members” (the latest member number) gets no hits.

— “Three million businesses” gets 797 hits, while “3 million businesses” gets 738.

— “300,000 businesses” gets zero hits, as does “360,000 businesses.”

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Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR's business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at rc2538@columbia.edu. Follow him on Twitter at @ryanchittum.