Internal Memo Reveals Chamber's Long Time Role Quashing Societal Concerns
Sacramento, CA -- The Chamber of Commerce has been at the forefront of efforts to curb criticism and reform of the corporation for decades through manipulation of politics, academia, the courts, the media, and the marketplace of ideas, according to testimony delivered today by consumer activist Jamie Court before a California State Senate hearing on corporate reform.
Court, for example, revealed a confidential 1971 Chamber memo that is a three decade old blue print to control the key engines of American culture in order to limit scrutiny and reform of corporate abuses. The evidence was published in Court's new book Corporateering: How Corporate Power Steals Your Personal Freedom And What To Do About It (Tarcher/Putnam), which Publisher's Weekly said is "keeping the muckraking tradition alive." The memo is available here.
Court claims that the Chamber and other large corporations have too often prioritized the commercial gain of a few large corporations over the interests of the individual, the society, small business and ethical companies, what he calls "corporateering." He hopes to spread the word and turn back the trend.
"Corporate commerce should be about competition for the best products and services, not capturing social and cultural institutions in order to root out criticism and foil reform of corporate abuses," said Court, also executive director of the Santa Monica-based Foundation For Taxpayer and Consumer Rights (FTCR). "If public trust in the corporation is to be restored, the Chamber and other trade groups must abide by a new list of ten commandments that show the corporation is accountable to society not more important than it."
The following are the 10 Commandments as proposed by Court.
1. Thou shall not buy judges. Nationally the Chamber has increasingly financed judicial elections to unseat state Supreme Court justices opposed to limited liability for the corporation -- failing to respect the independence of the judiciary.
2. Thou shall not hold jobs hostage. The California Chamber has foiled pro-consumer, environmental and worker legislation by targeting the bills as "job killers," although they would help many small businesses save money and preserve jobs. For example, the 2003 "job killer" list includes legislation re-regulating electricity in order to control price swings and supply manipulations SB 888 (D-Dunn); requiring price controls on gasoline SB 304 (Morrow); and giving socially responsible businesses preference for state contracts SB 974 (Alarcon). In the past, the Chamber dubbed successful HMO reforms "job killers."
3. Thou shall respect dissent. Workers' dissent is essential to affirm social mores within the corporation. In 2002, however, the California Chamber defeated a "whistleblower" protection bill that would have held corporate executives accountable for not reporting fraud -- SB 783 (Escutia).
4. Thou shall not assume false identities. In initiative after initiative, the California Chamber of Commerce fights pro-consumer proposals under false names that cloud its true identity. "Californians Against Higher Taxes and Electric Rates" was the Chamber's assumed name in the campaign against Proposition 9, a consumer led effort to reform the state's energy deregulation law. "Californians Against Hidden Taxes, Yes on Proposition 37, a Coalition of Taxpayers, Consumers, Business and Farmers" was the Chamber's campaign to make it more difficult to impose fees on tobacco and alcohol firms as well as big polluters. The Chamber also led the "Clean Fuels Coalition" which has fought to weaken fuel regulations.
5. Thou shall not make justice frivolous and markets unfair. The Chamber works in the legislature and courts to limit the legal rights of individuals to go to court for false advertising, HMO abuse, and other unfair business practices. When justice is considered frivolous, bad businesses succeed and better business fails.
6. Thou shall not kill three times. The California Chamber was the only opponent of corporate "three strikes" legislation, which would have required that a corporation lose its license after three felony convictions, in the same way that an individual would go to jail for life. Only one corporation has three criminal convictions. The list of corporate rap sheets is available at this page
7. Thou shall not conceal. Chambers do not make public the source and amounts of membership dues, which might explain positions taken on behalf of a few cash rich members that hurt most businesses. For example, the Chamber purportedly receives a higher percentage of its dues from health maintenance organizations (HMOs). As a result, the chamber often supports public policy positions that benefit HMOs at the expense of the businesses that pay premiums, for example failing to support HMO premium regulation and other reforms. And utilities are purportedly large donors, likely leading the Chamber to defend California's electric deregulation disaster.
8. Thou shall not covet corporate secrecy, but disregard personal privacy. The California Chamber opposes privacy protection legislation requiring written consent before an individual or business's financial information is shared, but staunchly opposes public disclosure of secret settlements about elder abuse and corporate safety issues.
9. Thou shall not cheat the taxpayer. The California Chamber opposes legislation to reassess corporate property tax on an annual basis so that companies do not have to pay their fair share. Much corporate commercial property has never been reassessed as residential property frequently is. This would raise $3.4 billion to fill the state budget deficit.
10. Thou shall not steal the worker's vote. Nationally the Chamber is increasingly using the work place to achieve its electoral goals. For example, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce printed tens of thousands of electoral inserts for employees' paycheck envelopes in states with key Senate and House races.