Corporate donors fund chamber’s 2010 political push

Holly Bailey

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce won't bow to Democrats' requests to reveal donors behind its $75 million midterm-election push. But based on information gleaned from corporate filings and "obscure places," the New York Times offers what it calls a "glimpse" into the money that funds some of the chamber's enormous lobbying and political advocacy efforts.

While the chamber has billed its membership as a mix of major corporations and tens of thousands of small businesses around the country, the Times finds nearly half of the $140 million the group has raised in 2008 came from just 45 companies. That includes one still-unknown entity that contributed $15 million, according to the chamber's tax returns, and 21 unidentified companies that contributed $1 million apiece.

Among the donors the Times could identify: Dow Chemical, which contributed $1.7 million to the chamber, and Prudential Financial, which kicked in $2 million in 2009 to support the chamber's lobbying efforts against Wall Street reform. Meanwhile, Goldman Sachs, Chevron Texaco and the insurance giant Aegon collectively contributed $8 million to a chamber-related foundation that has been critical of financial regulation. More recently, News Corp., parent company of Fox News, contributed $1 million to the chamber's efforts.

But despite all of the attention, the chamber isn't actually the biggest outside funder in 2010. That award goes to the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which, as the Wall Street Journal reports Friday, will have spent $88 million on the 2010 midterms by Election Day. That includes cash from a $16 million "emergency fund" the union recently tapped to help Democrats keep their majority control of Congress.

(Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images)