Just a couple of years ago, most people had no idea what the Chamber of Commerce did. Aren’t they mom and pop’s small-business lobby in Washington? Now, thanks in large part to the work of Chamber opponents, we’ve come to learn that the biggest business lobby in the world is also one of the biggest impediments to real democracy in the US, and that they’re a huge force in opposing healthcare reform, employee free choice and other labour legislation, veterans’ rights, banking regulations and, of course, transparency.
The US Chamber of Commerce is the public face of a corporatism that is hijacking our democracy – and so dramatically limits any chances of meaningful reform. Even local chambers, fed up, have been leaving the US Chamber en masse. But what might it take for the “Facebook generation” in the US to topple, Tunisia- or Egypt-style, this arrogant and destructive force in American politics?
The spectacular series of leaks, counter-leaks and counter-counter-leaks revealed (and continues revealing) a disdain for free speech that shocked even us. It turns out that a consortium of private “cyber-security” firms were developing a $2m proposal to use a variety of sophisticated disinformation techniques to destroy the reputations of Chamber opponents, including public-interest, consumer-advocate and worker-rights groups such as US Chamber Watch and Change to Win. (The same firm was reportedly also proposing, in a presentation for Bank of America, a plot to destroy WikiLeaks, and to “neutralise” constitutional scholar Glenn Greenwald of Salon.com.) Like the Chamber of Commerce, Bank of America has denied knowledge of these plans.
More specifically, the firm proposed to (according to a leaked document) “create a false document, perhaps highlighting periodical financial information, and monitor to see if US Chamber Watch acquires it”. To help make this happen, they’d “create a fake insider persona and generate communications” with Change to Win, a labour group the firm theorised might be allied to Chamber Watch. Maybe they’d even “create two fake insider personas, using one as leverage to discredit the other while confirming the legitimacy of the second”. But it didn’t stop there: the security firms proposed passing off the faked documents they’d created as the fabrication of Change to Win.