Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Everybody's After the Chamber of Commerce

What's more American than the Chamber of Commerce? Main Street and apple pie. Local accountants and insurance agents. Ribbon cuttings, golf tournaments, Christmas parades. What's not to like? Well, the Chamber of Commerce has run into a streak of bad luck lately with seemingly everybody finding something not to like, including conservatives right here in Richardson, Texas.

First, the fact-checkers. Mother Jones challenged the Chamber's claim of having 3 million members. The Chamber walked that claim back, admitting to only 300,000 members but defiantly still claiming to "represent" 3 million businesses, even if all are not official members.

Next, the background-checkers. The Huffington Post is digging into just who those 300,000 members are, or rather, just who is funding the Chamber. It suspects that the bulk of the Chamber's money comes from industry giants such as IBM, AT&T, etc. The Chamber doesn't care to open its books, but we do know that more than 90% of the companies on its board of directors are, in fact, large regional, national or international companies. Expect to hear more about whose deep pockets fund the Chamber as the fact-finding continues.

Inevitably, the backlash. Several big companies recently resigned membership in the US Chamber of Commerce over the Chamber's opposition to climate change legislation. Big names like Nike and Apple. Then, someone pulled a stunt, calling a fake press conference falsely announcing that the Chamber was reversing its opposition to the legislation. The Chamber, embarrassed, sued those responsible, clumsily reviving a one-day story and keeping it in the news another day.

Finally, the pile-on. Even though the Chamber has set up a Web site to take donations and "Join Our Fight Against The Extreme Left-Wing Agenda", it's not just the left that has issues with the Chamber. A local blogger in Richardson, David Chenoweth, is now targeting the Richardson Chamber of Commerce. He's about as far from the "extreme left-wing agenda" as they come. Here's his reaction to learning that the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to President Obama:

"What Planet Are These People From? ... But Barak [sic] Hussein Obama, a Nobel Peace Prize? On what friggin' planet did I wake up on this morning? And he earned this by? For being neck deep in the criminal ACORN network? For being the first ½ black president? For openly turning his back on Israel? For trying to destroy the US and turn it into a socialist state? For his attempts to make worthless the US dollar? For more deficit spending than all of previous presidents combined? And let's not forget the 'US is bad/apology tour'. So bow to your king BO!"

You know it's been a bad month for the Chamber of Commerce when both the Left and Right are chomping on its leg. This guy thinks the connections between Richardson city government and the local Chamber are too cozy. Using the Open Records Act, he posted a 2004 letter jointly signed by the interim president of the Richardson Chamber of Commerce and the Richardson City Manager offering to appoint Bill Sproul to CEO of the Richardson Chamber of Commerce, the Richardson Economic Development Partnership and the Metroplex Technology Business Council. Although he doesn't specify the legal or ethical violation here, judging by the graphic accompanying his post, it has something to do with a pig and a trough of gold. But he promises more to come concerning this supposedly incestuous relationship. The interim president of the Chamber of Commerce who signed that 2004 letter was none other than Charles Eisemann, the bĂȘte noire of Richardson city council critics. This could get interesting. Will the Richardson Chamber strike back as the US Chamber did? Only time will tell. But get the popcorn ready, just in case.

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