When people think of lobbyists, they usually think of groups that work behind the scenes to influence legislators in the U.S. Congress.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, however, has had tremendous success “lobbying” federal courts through “friend of the court” briefs filed in lawsuits on behalf of its conservative corporate clients. For example, the Chamber routinely opposes any perceived expansion of worker rights and it usually prevails.
The Chamber, and its President Thomas Donahue, who earns a salary of $4.95 million a year, spend far more money to influence decision-makers than any other lobbying group.
The Center for Responsive Politics at Open Secrets.org estimated last year that the Chamber spent $1 billion from 1998 to 2013, which is three times the amount spent by the nearest runner up, General Electric, which spent about $294 million over the same period. No union, labor, consumer or environmental group was listed in the top 20 U.S. lobbying groups.
National Labor Relations Board
At present, the Chamber is a critical player in a lawsuit opposing President Barack Obama’s 2012 recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau (CFPB). Obama was forced to resort to recess appointments during Congress’s Christmas vacation in 2012 after encountering a wall of Republican resistance to his proposed appointments.
To challenge the recess appointments, the Chamber joined in a lawsuit filed by Noel Canning Corp., a small bottling company in Yakima, Washington. Noel Canning was the subject of an adverse decision issued by the NLRB in an unfair labor practices dispute. The Chamber argued that the NLRB lacked the authority to issue the ruling because it was not comprised of constitutionally appointed board members.
The Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled in the Chamber’s favor last year, holding that Obama’s appointments violated the Recess Appointments Clause of the U.S. Constitution. The appeals court said recess appointments may be made only during the recess that occurs between each session of Congress and not during breaks that occur while Congress is still in session. The Court also said recess appointments can only be made to fill positions that become vacant during the recess.
The NLRB filed an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court, which has a strong pro-business majority. The Court heard the case in January and could, in its ruling, throw the NLRB into chaos and upset more than a thousand NLRB decisions issued during the past two years.
The Chamber also wants to “save” the CFPB by replacing its director with a bipartisan five-member commission and bring the CFPB under Congressional control. This would castrate the new agency, which was created after massive fraud on Wall Street led to a world-wide economic meltdown from which the world (including the U.S.) has yet to recover.
On another front, the Chamber is opposing a proposed rule by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to publicize companies’ health and safety records.
Last year, the Chamber successfully opposed the so-called “poster rule” proposed by the NLRB to require employers to pose notices in the workplace informing workers of their right to work together to improve their working conditions.
The Chamber does not limit itself to “lobbying” the courts and the legislature. A Google search shows the Chamber in February inserted itself into a special election in Florida. According to Politico, the Chamber funded a TV commercial attacking Democratic Congressional candidate Alex Sink for supporting the Affordable Care Act which, the commercial states, will mean that 300,000 Floridians will “lose their current coverage because of Obamacare.”
The Chamber describes itself as “the world’s largest business federation representing the interests of more than 3 million businesses of all sizes, sectors, and regions, as well as state and local chambers and industry associations.”