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A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Political leanings: Pro-business/conservative 

2018 total spending: $10.9 million

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is the largest business organization in the world, representing the interests of more than 3 million businesses, and advocates a pro-business agenda in Washington, D.C.

Although the chamber occasionally supports Democrats whom it deems pro-business, the bulk of the organization’s efforts skew sharply toward electing Republicans. Of the direct political donations given by the chamber’s political action committee in 2018, for example, 80% went to Republicans.

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 a total of $10.9 million on independent expenditures and electioneering communications during the 2018 federal election cycle. That total was the eighth highest among conservative-leaning outside spending groups.

Independent expenditures are TV ads and other forms of communication that call for the victory or defeat of specific candidates, and electioneering communications refer to a candidate without expressly advocating for or against that person.

In 2018, the chamber spent $1 million on an ad linking Democratic Sen. Jon Tester to liberal Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. Tester went on to win reelection over the chamber’s endorsed candidate, Republican Matt Rosendale. It also spent $1 million in support of Arizona Republican Martha McSally’s losing bid for the U.S. Senate.

Tom Donohue, the chamber’s CEO, stated in January that in 2020, “We will lead the opposition to the policies that undermine the job creators, that penalize the innovators, and that target the wealth creators and investors that allow Americans to provide for their families and plan for their futures.” 

Last October, the chamber aired TV ads touting McSally’s support for the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, which is a trade pact negotiated by the Trump administration. After losing to Democrat Kyrsten Sinema in November 2018, McSally was appointed a month later by the governor to fill the late Sen. John McCain’s seat. McSally is up for election in 2020.

As of April 22, the chamber spent more than $349,000 in support of two candidates in primary elections. It spent approximately $149,000 on Republican Tom Tiffany, who won the Republican primary in February in Wisconsin’s 7th Congressional District and now faces Democrat Tricia Zunker in the May special election. It also spent $200,000 on ads supporting Rep. Henry Cuellar, a moderate Democrat from Texas, who narrowly defeated his progressive challenger, Jessica Cisneros, in the Democratic primary on March 3.

FactCheck.org Undergraduate Fellow Katherine Hartzell contributed to this article.