Chamber of Commerce No Longer “Represents” 3 Million Businesses

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Late last month, for the first time in more than a decade, the US Chamber of Commerce changed the boilerplate language that appears at the bottom of its press releases. The nation’s largest business lobby no longer claims to be “representing more than 3 million businesses and organizations of every size, sector, and region.” Instead, it claims to be “representing the interests of more than 3 million businesses” (emphasis added). The smallness of the tweak masks its major significance: Representing somebody, which strongly implies a direct relationship, is very different from representing their interests. The Chamber is in effect acknowleging that the “3 million” businesses aren’t actually its members.

Since I began drawing attention to the Chamber’s inflated membership claims late last year, it has been under heavy fire from reporters and activists for routinely misrepresenting its true size. It was forced to admit that its true membership isn’t the 3 million businesses that it has claimed, but something on the order of 300,000. The New York Times and other large publications began using the smaller number in their stories. And yet the Chamber’s press releases went conspicuously unchanged.

Unfortunately, the Chamber’s belated move to correct the record just further muddies the waters. It still doesn’t explain exactly who these “3 million businesses” are. And its new claim to speak for their “interests” (when there are only about 5 million US businesses with payroll) is deeply disingenuous given its staunch opposition to just about every item on the Democratic political agenda. It would be more accurate to say that the Chamber “represents the interests of a small number of big-business donors that profit from polluting the environment and exploiting their workers.” But that has a different ring, doesn’t it?

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DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America will move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

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