In 2009, a single $86.2 million contribution from the health insurance industry’s largest trade association, AHIP, accounted for almost half of the Chamber of Commerce’s total contributions. Much of that money was dedicated to the Chamber’s then-escalating campaign against the health care reform bill — a campaign the Chamber characterized as an advocacy effort on behalf of the broader business community.
In the below ad, for instance, the Chamber warned of “increasing health care costs for businesses and working families.
In his State of American Business Address earlier this year, Chamber CEO Tom Donohue bemoaned the plight of business owners.
“Think for a moment about the nation’s job creators—the men and women who run our small and large business,” he said. “Most of these job creators would like nothing more than to keep their workers employed, create new jobs, and bring some hope and relief to families struggling without a paycheck. But… [t]hey see health care legislation that contains a burdensome mandate on employers and virtually no meaningful reforms to improve quality or control costs.”
Last July, Donohue warned that the health care bill would “raise rates on small businesses,” and this September, the Chamber hosted a fly-in day for small business owners to lobby legislators to eliminate one of the legislation’s controversial revenue streams.
However, a review of the Chamber’s 990 disclosure forms reveals that most of the Chamber’s contributions other than the giant AHIP cash drop came from businesses large enough to be able to cut a check for over $100,000.
According to IRS data, the AHIP contribution alone constituted 42 percent of the Chamber’s total incoming contributions. Not counting that single contribution, the Chamber received 15 contributions of a million dollars or more, for 13 percent of its total contributions; 64 contributions between $250,000 and $1 million for another 14 percent, and 229 contributions between $100,000 and $250,000, for yet another 14 percent.
Taken altogether, those 309 contributions above $100,000 accounted for 83 percent of the Chamber’s total intake.
According to Bloomberg, the Chamber spent $45.5 million on their campaign against the bill in 2009, and kept spending tens of millions up until Congress enacted the legislation.
In a statement to TPM, Chamber spokesman Tom Collamore explained that the Chamber’s efforts were intended to “advance a market-based health-care system and advocate for fundamental reform that would improve access to quality care while lowering costs,” and included “public opinion polling, nationwide grassroots, national advertising, events throughout the country and significant earned media outreach.”
“Just as every American wants their privacy protected, the Chamber strongly supports the privacy of our member companies and organizations and is in compliance with federal laws and regulations,” Collamore said.
Brian Beutler is TPM's senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he's led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight, and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.