“End of the Charade”

The U.S. Chamber will no longer be able to publish "issue ads" like the one pictured here without disclosing its donors.

In an editorial published yesterday in the NY Times, the author brought to light an important question: Will the recent decision by a federal judge to require that donors for political “issue ads” (like those targeting health care reform) be disclosed finally compel the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to reveal the names of its donors?

Not surprisingly, the answer is no, though there is a silver lining. The U.S. Chamber, which spends more on highly partisan political ads than any other organization, will still be able to keep its donors a secret by airing traditional “independent” political ads as opposed to “issue” ads. The good news is, now that the Chamber will be sticking to ads that say “Vote for Congressman A” or “Vote Against Senator B”, it will be easier to understand where its political loyalties lie.

Last year, the Chamber spent $33 million during the 2010 mid-term elections (almost entirely on Republican candidates), yet it claims to be a non-partisan advocate for small businesses. During the 2012 election season, the Chamber is expected to spend much more, but this new disclosure ruling marks the end of the charade for the U.S. Chamber. “When the chamber is overtly advocating the election of Republicans — rather than hiding behind phony issue ads — it will be impossible to deny that it has become a very well-financed arm of the party. And companies that contribute to the chamber will be unable to claim that they are paying dues to an independent business league.”