The Washington Post reports that the Chamber of Commerce, Washington’s most powerful pro-corporate lobby, is having its own governance problems as some of its members are uncomfortable with the positions the Chamber is taking and one group is trying to break off.
The board of the U.S.-India Business Council — whose membership includes the chief executives of Pepsi and MasterCard — has voted unanimously to break off from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, saying that “recent actions taken by the Chamber have left us with no alternative but to take this vote to formally separate.”The vote by 29 USIBC board members was the culmination of a running battle with U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Thomas J. Donohue that dates back to 2010 and which came to a boil during the recent visit to Washington by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi…
The fight between the USIBC, which has about 350 members, and the Chamber was largely about turf and independence. A member of the USIBC board said that Donohue was unhappy that the USIBC invited Vice President Pence to a meeting because Donohue wanted to invite Pence to a different event.
A person close to the USIBC board said that Donohue also wanted to oust certain members of the USIBC board and install others, moves that would be unprecedented in the history of the council.
Donahue is arguing that the USIBC cannot be split off from the Chamber.
Steven Mufson asks if this is a sign that the Chamber’s influence is slipping. The very size and power of the Chamber has led to schisms over policies on issues like health care and climate change.
Companies like GE, which long relied on the Chamber to be their guide and advocate in Washington, are now as politically sophisticated and connected as the Chamber — if not more so. And in an era that allows virtually unlimited independent political spending, they can form their own more focused, and perhaps more effective, associations. Many lobbyists who represent companies individually think the Chamber has taken on the lumbering character of its aging building, a 92-year-old limestone edifice lined with Corinthian columns overlooking the White House.