A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

U.S. Chamber of Commerce


Political leanings: Pro-business/conservative

Spending target: Unknown

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is the world’s largest business organization, representing the interests of more than 3 million businesses, and it advocates a pro-business agenda in Washington, D.C. Although the chamber occasionally supports some Democrats, most of the organization’s efforts go toward electing Republicans. Of the direct political donations given by the chamber’s political action committee in 2016, 96 percent went to Republican candidates.

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.

The chamber reported spending $29.1 million (mostly attacking Democrats or supporting Republicans) in the 2016 campaign cycle, including more than $4.1 million on television ads opposing Katie McGinty, the Democrat from Pennsylvania who lost to incumbent Republican Sen. Pat Toomey. The chamber spent an additional $1.9 million on ads supporting Toomey.

The chamber’s 2016 spending total was seventh among conservative-leaning outside spending groups.

As of April 2018, the chamber had spent $3.4 million for the 2018 cycle in independent expenditures. Specifically, the chamber spent nearly $1 million in support of Republican Luther Strange in the special primary runoff in Alabama to fill Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ vacant Senate seat. It also spent more than $1 million supporting Republican Karen Handel and opposing Democrat Jon Ossoff in the special election in Georgia to fill the House seat left vacant by Tom Price, who was President Trump’s first health and human services secretary. Strange lost to Roy Moore, and Handel won her race.

The chamber consistently advocates a pro-business and pro-trade agenda. In October 2017, Thomas Donohue, the chamber’s president and chief executive, criticized the Trump administration’s plans to renegotiate NAFTA, a trade deal the chamber supports. “There are several poison pill proposals still on the table that could doom the entire deal,” he said. The chamber also has been at odds with some of the president’s positions on immigration. But it has been supportive of Trump’s tax overhaul.