Unusually for the leader of a lobbying group, Donohue went on to boast that the Chamber’s revenues for the year would be $200-$250 million.
“Why is that? Because people need somewhere to go to get help. They need somewhere to go where we can bring everybody together and express our views to the Congress and to the regulatory agencies and to the president and to countries around the world and to the press and to the courts!”
Donohue’s pitch evidently worked. From where I was standing in the banquet hall that day, the checkbooks and fountain pens seemed to be emerging from jacket-lining pockets almost of their own volition. “What we always said was the Chamber does best when there’s a Democrat in the White House, because you want businesses to be scared,” a former Chamber lobbyist said. “There’s no better time to raise money than when businesses are scared.”
Hmm. That’s interesting, and sure puts the Chamber’s complaints about its recent defeats in a different context.
The Monthly story also does a good job explaining how the Chamber orchestrates grassroots and media campaigns around the country, even using local political operatives to set up front groups, keeping its member companies out of the spotlight. This is interesting, and important, stuff:
In other words, a large part of what the Chamber sells is political cover. For multibillion-dollar insurers, drug makers, and medical device manufacturers who are too smart and image conscious to make public attacks of their own, the Chamber of Commerce is a friend who will do the dirty work. “I want to give them all the deniability they need,” says Donohue. That deniability is evidently worth a lot. According to a January article in the National Journal, six insurers alone—Aetna, Cigna, Humana, Kaiser Foundation Health Plans, UnitedHealth Group, and Wellpoint—pumped up to $20 million into the Chamber last year.
That’s a lot of good context. Too bad Post readers didn’t get some of it, to help them judge just what kind of a season the Chamber is having.