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A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

U.S. Chamber of Commerce


Political leanings: Pro-business/Right-center

Spending target: $50 million to $75 million


U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which represents more than 3 million businesses, is one of the most powerful lobbying groups in Washington. Since 1998, the chamber has spent $650 million on federal lobbying — more than any organization, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.

The chamber is a 501(c)(6) — an IRS designation for nonprofit trade groups. It can accept unlimited contributions and does not have to disclose its donors, although it did disclose spending $23.1 million on political activity in 2008. Its national political director is William C. Miller Jr., a one-time chief of staff for former GOP Rep. Constance Morella of Maryland. In 2008, Miller oversaw what the chamber called its “largest issue campaign to date with 33 individual television ads and 37 individual radio ads, more than 6.8 million pieces of direct mail, and 8 million phone calls” in 44 congressional races.

In addition, the chamber operates a federal political action committee called U.S. Chamber PAC, which makes direct contributions to federal candidates. In 2008, the Chamber PAC gave $144,000 in campaign donations, mostly to Republicans. The Chamber PAC, which cannot accept contributions of more than $5,000 per year from individuals or other PACs, received corporate PAC donations from Pfizer, a pharmaceutical company; AEGON USA, an insurance company; and CVS/Caremark Corp., among others.

The Washington Post reported in March that the chamber intends to spend “at least $50 million” on federal elections, and the New York Times said in October that the business group could spend as much as $75 million. “The group will target vulnerable Democrats in up to two dozen states with ads, get-out-the-vote operations and other grass-roots efforts,” the Post wrote.