U.S. Chamber of Commerce

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is one of the top 15 dark money groups examined by Issue One’s new “Dark Money Illuminated” report that has been spending millions of dollars in our elections since Citizens United without publicly disclosing their donors. Dark money groups frequently operate as attack dogs during campaigns, criticizing candidates from the shadows. Dark money groups also often push the envelope in terms of how much political spending they can engage in without running afoul of rules that prohibit them from existing primarily to influence elections. By masquerading as a trade association or “social welfare” nonprofit, dark money groups avoid the mandatory donor disclosure rules that would come with registering as a political committee whose primary purpose is to influence elections.

Here’s what Issue One’s year-long “Dark Money Illuminated” investigation revealed:

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce raised

$1.3 billion

between January 2010 and December 2016.

Issue One identified


donors to this dark money group.

These donors collectively accounted for


of its funding.

Issue One found 20 donors that gave at least $1 million since January 2010:

Dow Chemical Co.: $13 million

Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce: $5.5 million

Aetna Inc.: $5.3 million

Crossroads GPS: $5.3 million

Chevron Corp.: $4.5 million

Merck & Co., Inc.: $4.4 million

Microsoft Corp.: $2.8 million

Qualcomm Inc.: $2.7 million

Prudential Financial, Inc.: $2.3 million

American Electric Power Company, Inc.: $2.1 million

Anthem, Inc. (formerly Wellpoint, Inc.): $2 million

Association of American Railroads: $2 million

Southern Company: $2 million

3M Co.: $1.6 million

Intel Corp.: $1.5 million

Exelon Corp.: $1.3 million

MetLife, Inc.: $1.3 million

PepsiCo, Inc.: $1.3 million

Union Pacific Corp.: $1.2 million

Kentucky Opportunity Coalition: $1 million

Note: These numbers have been rounded to two significant figures. Click here to see more details about these contributions — and all identified donors to this group — in Issue One’s exclusive database of dark money donors, and click here to learn more about how these contributors were identified. 

Source: Issue One analysis of data from the Center for Responsive Politics and Federal Election Commission.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce self-reported to the IRS that

of its total spending was related to political campaign activities

It also told the FEC that


of its political spending was negative

About the U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Founded in 1912, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce grew out of an address by President William Taft to a delegation of more than 700 business leaders at the Willard Hotel in Washington, D.C., who had been assembled by Charles Nagel, Taft’s secretary of Commerce and Labor.

More than 100 years later, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce ranks as one of the nation’s largest and most powerful lobbying groups, with an ornate headquarters in Washington, D.C., just a block from the White House.

A trade association organized under Section 501(c)(6) of the tax code, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce mostly endorses Republican candidates, although it occasionally supports business-friendly Democrats. The group says it represents more than 3 million businesses across the country and has a membership of approximately 300,000.

While the U.S. Chamber of Commerce does not disclose its donors, nearly 100 blue-chip companies have voluntarily disclosed their own dues payments to the trade association, according to research by Issue One.

Thomas Donohue, the former president and CEO of the American Trucking Associations, has served as the president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce since 1997.

Donohue — along with the heads of the Business Roundtable and National Association of Manufacturers — has urged companies to reject calls for additional transparency measures about their political spending, criticizing such efforts as plots to “name-and-shame” companies “into either curtailing or eliminating their involvement in public policy debates.”