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Forum Post: Dark Money and the US Chamber of Commerce: Majority of Donations Given by Just 64 Entities

Posted 5 years ago on Feb. 10, 2014, 3:01 p.m. EST by LeoYo (5909)
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Dark Money and the US Chamber of Commerce: Majority of Donations Given by Just 64 Entities

Monday, 10 February 2014 14:04 By Candice Bernd, Truthout | News Analysis

http://truth-out.org/news/item/21781-dark-money-and-the-us-chamber-of-commerce-majority-of-donations-given-by-just-64-entities

Don't be fooled by the US Chamber of Commerce's rhetoric that it represents the interests of small businesses in America, because the interests of those really funding the Chamber are likely very different from the concerns of the nation's mom-and-pop shops.

A new report by Public Citizen, called "The Gilded Chamber," analyzes the US Chamber of Commerce's 2012 tax forms and found that more than half of all contributions to the Chamber came from just 64 donors in 2012.

The report looks at 1,619 contributions listed on Form 990 tax return documents, required for nonprofits to report contributions of more than $5000 to the IRS, by the Chamber and its partner, the US Chamber Institute for Legal Reform (ILR). The ILR works in conjunction with the Chamber for legal reforms that largely favor business and against consumer-access to the courts. Only a few of the organization's overall donors make up the majority of their contributions, according to the report.

"It makes you wonder whether they have policy disputes: whether concerns from small businesses who donate to the Chamber and want certain things to come out of it; are they going to get their policies pushed by the Chamber if the companies giving the hundreds of thousands and millions are making up much more of the base of the Chamber's fundraising?" Sam Jewler, the report's author, told Truthout.

According to the report, the sum of all contributions of $5,000 or more amounted to more than 94 percent of the Chamber's total donations in 2012, with an average donation at $111,254. Overall, the top 43 organizations contributed a combined $80.4 million to the Chamber. The Chamber's revenue came largely from dozens of contributions of $500,000 or more and hundreds of donations ranging from $10,000 and $20,000, according to the study.

"The US Chamber is one of the largest conduits of 'dark money' in the country, but it refuses to disclose its donors," said Lisa Gilbert, director of Public Citizen's Congress Watch division, in a press release. "The American people deserve to know more about who's influencing this powerful force in our politics. By looking at the size of the Chamber's and ILR's donations, we can learn a little more about what kinds of businesses they represent - seemingly, very large ones."

But the ILR was even worse in terms of the disparity between large donations from a few entities and smaller ones. The report found that the ILR's average donation was $454,110, with just 21 entities giving a combined $27.3 million. This accounted for more than two-thirds of the ILR's total $43.6 million in donations. The ILR's funding came almost exclusively from contributions ranging in the hundreds of thousands or millions. The report found that a huge majority, 71 percent, of the ILR's 96 donations were for $100,000 or more, and more than half were for $250,000 or more.

"Generally, [the ILR] works to characterize consumer lawsuits as frivolous and a waste of time and money, and that may be the perspective of entities that were able to donate an average of $450,000 dollars - which what the ILR got in its average donation - but for the average consumer, a lot of people want to hold on to the right to sue in a class-action lawsuit if there's a large number of people damaged by a company's practices," Jewler said.

The Chamber characterizes itself as representing "the interests of more than 3 million businesses of all sizes, sectors, and regions. Our members range from mom-and-pop shops and local chambers to leading industry associations and large corporations." But this appears to be in stark contrast to what the organization's funding actually says about the interests that hold sway over the Chamber.

But it's still hard to say exactly what the interests of these large corporations and organizations are beyond generalizations because the donor's identities remain unknown. According to the report, the only company to publicly disclose its contribution to the Chamber is Dow Chemical Co., which disclosed giving $2.9 million to the Chamber (its sixth biggest donation in 2012).

Copyright, Truthout.

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[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 5 years ago

Tapering of Quantitative Easing Is Throwing Emerging Markets Into Chaos - and Big Banks Are Getting Richer

Monday, 10 February 2014 11:40 By Jaisal Noor, The Real News Network | Video Interview

http://truth-out.org/news/item/21777-tapering-of-quantitative-easing-is-throwing-emerging-markets-into-chaos-and-big-banks-are-getting-richer

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9KdYwmrtsEc&feature=player_embedded

TRANSCRIPT:

JAISAL NOOR, TRNN PRODUCER: Welcome to The Real News Network. I'm Jaisal Noor in Baltimore.

Emerging markets have been reeling since the beginning of the new year. The currencies and stock markets of Argentina, South Africa, Turkey, among other countries, have declined substantially, prompting their central banks to increase interest rates to stem the outflow of capital. The emerging-market rout, the worst start to a year on record, is widely believed to be related to the winding down of the U.S. Federal Reserve's quantitative easing program.

Now joining us to discuss this is Jane D'Arista. She's a research associate with the Political Economy Research Institute, or PERI, at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, where she also cofounded an economist committee for financial reform called SAFER, or Stable, Accountable, Fair and Efficient Financial Reform.

Thank you so much for joining us.

JANE D'ARISTA, RESEARCH ASSOCIATE, PERI: My pleasure.

NOOR: So let's start off by just quickly again explaining what quantitative easing is. And talk about why the Fed is winding down this program.

D'ARISTA: Well, quantitative easing is a program the Fed instituted as part of its out-of-the-box thinking to increase liquidity in the markets. And it meant that it was buying assets at a huge rate, about $85 billion a month over a period of time, and was using it to keep interest rates at zero and provide the liquidity.

So the feeling is now that the economy has gotten much better, that there are real signs of progress. Growth has increased. They're not as happy as they might have been about employment, but they feel that it is time to begin to taper the program, not to buy quite so many every month as they have been buying, and therefore allow interest rates perhaps to rise a little bit to accommodate a faster-growing economy.

NOOR: And what's your take on that? Do you believe the economy actually is growing?

D'ARISTA: Well, the economy is growing, but it's growing in a very dysfunctional way. I mean, it is growing out of proportion. It is not growing in areas that affect Main Street, small businesses, wages, etc. And so it is a concern that that is going.

Now, part of the concern, I would like to say, is also where is this money that the Fed has created gone. And that's where we get into the issue of emerging markets. We have had a pattern over the last two decades of which this is exactly a replica--not exactly, never exactly, but it's pretty close. A core country, say, the hegemon, the United States, but others as well, will go into recession. The central bank will start pumping in liquidity. It brings down interest rates in that economy, in the core economy, the developed economy.

The investors turn around and start looking for better rates, more income, search for yield, as they called it. And they have started going, as of the 1990s, into emerging markets to find increased profits.

Now, the first major case, of course, was Mexico, and in that case the money flowed out of the United States. It was there in the international transactions accounts. It went to Mexico. It drove up the stock market in a couple of years by 400 percent. Over this time, of course, Mexicans were using their inflated stocks to borrow from their banks. The money that flowed in was, of course, gone into the peso, and therefore the exchange rate was rising. And so it looked like a wonderful thing for Mexico for a while.

But as in every other case, the Asian crisis, etc., and the one that we're facing today, there's a tipping point, the tipping point when the exchange rate becomes overvalued. And that means that while imports are cheaper, exports become more expensive, and you develop a current account deficit, meaning the difference between what the country imports and exports widens and it's exporting less. And, therefore, to make up that difference it has to start using its foreign exchange reserves.

At this point, the investors look at the situation and they say, oh dear, this is not good and it's time for us to go, and in the meantime, the core country, the developed countries, one or more of them, have begun to raise interest rates, and the investors flock home. And in that case--and today they're flocking back into the euro, back into the dollar, etc., and this leaves the countries in crisis.

So we are at a point where we are at the tipping point now with many of these economies. And what we have seen over the last--well, since 2010, the figures are that there's been about $1 trillion a year flowing into the emerging market economies. Well, it has not been doing a very good job of resuscitating the U.S. economy, because it's gone away, and therefore it will come back, we'll get growth, more growth in the U.S. as it begins to come back, but we will have crises elsewhere. And those crises will be severe. That pattern has been with us for 20 years, as I say.

So the question is: why? What are we doing? And why aren't we stopping it? What's wrong with this pattern? Who does it hurt? Well, it hurts everybody and it has delayed a recovery in the U.S. and in Europe, with particularly dire results for Southern Europe. And it is now about to do another whammy on the emerging market economies.

NOOR: And so you just mentioned who is hurting. I think it's also worth mentioning who it's benefiting.

D'ARISTA: Well, at this point it--we're at the tipping point. So it's beginning to come back. So, for example, European funds are back into Europe, but they're also going into the U.K. and into Japan. So there are benefits there. I mean, the capital flows. What we're talking about here are capital flows. And what we are seeing in all this underlying is the extent to which the world, and especially the developed economies, have backed the idea of the free market and continue to do so. Every trade agreement, the World Trade Organization enshrines the idea of free capital flows. And the International Monetary Fund, a few questions now and then. But the U.S. also takes the view that capital controls on the part of these countries that might like to prevent so much money coming in and/or so much money going out so quickly is a very bad thing. I mean, the idea is the free market. It should solve the problem. It has not solved the problem for 20 years, and here we go into another crisis once again which will affect those economies.

During this period of time, yes, some people in the U.S. who stay in emerging-market assets may be hurt, but the reflow back to the U.S. will be beneficial to the U.S. and to Europe, etc.

NOOR: And the whole time, the big banks are the ones that are making a killing off this.

D'ARISTA: They are the ones. They are the investors. They are the privileged ones in the global economy.

There was recently a book that was advertised that said the media is at fault, because over the years they have pitched all of their reporting and analysis to the investor, not to policy and not to Main Street and not to business. The investor. The investor is, as you say, the big banks, it's the hedge funds, it's the mutual funds. It's even some treasuries of major corporations. These people are the ones who move their money around. They're the ones who are looking for the highest yield at all times, irrespective of what it will do to the economies of the various countries that are involved.

NOOR: Jane D'Arista, thank you so much for joining us.

D'ARISTA: My pleasure. Thank you.

NOOR: You can follow us @therealnews on Twitter. Tweet me questions and comments @jaisalnoor.

Thank you so much for joining us.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.