Melanie Collins, a small business owner and leader with the Maine Small Business Coalition, traveled to Washington, DC on October 19 to speak at a press conference outside the headquarters of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Her message was simple: “The U.S. Chamber of Commerce doesn’t speak for small business, and it doesn’t speak for me.”
The event, coordinated by Public Citizen, US PIRG, the Business Ethics Network, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, and other partners, was a mock “birthday party” commemorating the U.S. Chamber’s 100th birthday and challenging its secret political spending operations.
“Secrecy is at the heart of the chamber’s sales pitch,” said Collins. “When I want to make my voice heard, I stand up and speak. I use my name. I think the chamber’s big donors should, too.”
Collins added, “The most offensive part of all this special interest political spending is that they do it under the name of the small business owner. I call that small business identity theft.”
As of October 19, the U.S. Chamber had spent more than $1.3 on outside spending funding political advertisements in Maine’s Senate race. Although many local chambers of commerce in Maine distanced themselves from the U.S. Chamber’s initial ad buys, the Chamber has continued to attack candidates for U.S. Senate in Maine under the guise of speaking for Maine small businesses.
“When outside groups and big corporations like Anthem spend money to try to buy elections in Maine, small business owners from all across the state lose out,” said Collins.
The event was covered in a range of media outlets, including:
Roll Call: Liberal Groups Protest U.S. Chamber’s Election Spending
Washington Post: Corporate donors fuel Chamber of Commerce’s political power
National Journal: Passive-Aggressive Birthday Wishes to the Chamber
The Morning Sentinel: Child-care provider from Falmouth calls on chamber to reveal donors
Corporate Crime Reporter: Groups Call on Chamber to Open Up