The Nashua Telegram reported yesterday that the Greater Hudson (NH) Chamber of Commerce is disassociating itself from the US Chamber of Commerce because of the intensely partisan political role taken by the US Chamber this election season. As anyone who watches TV can attest, the US Chamber of Commerce is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars in this region running attack ads against Democratic candidates. While the Chamber is entitled to advocate positions it believes are pro-business, the Chamber’s overt political activities far surpass any that I ever remember.
The Chamber of Commerce’s involvement in right-wing politics is not new. It has even shared with us its blueprint for action. Written by soon-to-be Supreme Court Justice Lewis Powell in 1971, the so-called Powell Manifesto was a memo from corporate lawyer Powell to the chairman of the education committee of the US Chamber of Commerce. In the memo, Powell outlined “an attack on the free enterprise system” which, had this memo been publicly available during his Court confirmation hearings, would have warranted Senators to inquire as to past treatment for paranoia. But besides describing the “attack”, Powell also outlined a response by big business, a response that seems to be peaking with this election. Here’s Powell’s prescription for fighting the opponents of capitalism:
The role of the National Chamber of Commerce is therefore vital. Other national organizations (especially those of various industrial and commercial groups) should join in the effort, but no other organizations appear to be as well situated as the Chamber. It enjoys a strategic position, with a fine reputation and a broad base of support. Also — and this is of immeasurable merit — there are hundreds of local Chambers of Commerce which can play a vital supportive role. . . While neither responsible business interests, nor the United States Chamber of Commerce, would engage in the irresponsible tactics of some pressure groups, it is essential that spokesmen for the enterprise system — at all levels and at every opportunity — be far more aggressive than in the past. . . It is time for American business — which has demonstrated the greatest capacity in all history to produce and to influence consumer decisions — to apply their great talents vigorously to the preservation of the system itself.
So as far back as 1971, the US Chamber of Commerce was urged to leverage it’s local Chambers of Commerce to become overtly involved in partisan politics. The Nashua Telegraph story makes it clear that many New Hampshire Chambers have no affiliation with their US counterpart. The Greater Lowell Chamber’s website is silent as to any affiliation it may have with the US group. I’m guessing it has none but it would be nice to know that for sure.