With each day that passes a new story emerges detailing the depths of our nation's financial crisis. And while there's been a great deal of finger pointing something that has gone largely unnoticed are the dangerous effects of the big business lobbies like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Make no mistake, this is not the same as your local Chamber, run by your neighbors and friends.
A new report by the American Association for Justice titled Behind the Bailout faults big business interests like the U.S. Chamber for the current financial crisis. It notes that they have consistently sought to destroy any check on corporate excess, accountability and greed.
The U.S. Chamber represented American International Group (AIG), coined by one commentator as “the new Enron,” while engaging in massive corporate fraud before receiving an $85 billion bailout from the Federal Government. Through its Starr Foundation, AIG sent payments totaling $23 million to U.S. Chamber from 2001 to 2005. The U.S. Chamber has yet to answer for the millions of dollars it took from AIG even as the insurer’s former CEOs testified on Capitol Hill about massive executive bonuses, including a $440,000 junket for AIG executives to a California spa after the bailout was approved.
By conducting the dirty work of Enron, Exxon, AIG, and a host of other negligent corporations, the U.S. Chamber has put countless Americans in serious financial jeopardy.
The U.S. Chamber has been paid millions by large corporations to lobby to limit the rights of shareholders, roll back reforms, prevent disclosures to investors, and protect boardrooms while preventing consumers from holding them accountable
And now these same corporations want the American worker to bail them out.
The U.S. Chamber was one of the loudest supporters of the $700 billion taxpayer bailout, even though it spent the last decade fighting to eliminate corporate accountability – one of the major factors that led to the current financial crisis.
The damaging effects of the big business lobby should give us all great pause. The public and our elected leaders should take a second look at efforts by the U.S. Chamber that would further limit big businesses’ accountability.
When the U.S. Chamber pounds their fists and demands a bailout remember the words of the U.S. Chamber’s former CEO Thomas Donohue: "There is every right for business to go to government to look for cooperative ways to resolve problems. There is no right for business to go to government to take care of their follies and their errors."
The U.S. Chamber readily took money from negligent corporations to ward off regulation. It needs to be held accountable for this financial crisis.
Christine Bremer Muggli is the President of the Wisconsin Association for Justice (formerly the Wisconsin Academy of Trial Lawyers), Wisconsin’s largest statewide voluntary attorney organization defending the civil justice system. Look for Christine’s columns each month.