The US Chamber of Commerce, which describes itself as “the world’s largest business federation representing more than 3 million businesses and organizations of every size, sector, and region,” but which actually represents the interests of rich oil companies, rich pharmaceutical companies, automakers, and other (rich) polluting industries, spent $57.9 million in 2008 alone on lobbying in Washington—by far the most of any organization.
We know lobbying in general is creepy, but why should we worry about US Chamber lobbying in particular? For one thing, the Chamber (along with its pet organization the Institute for Legal Reform (ILR)) is perpetually advocating for tort reform—specifically the kind that erodes away consumer rights by designing mega-business-friendly laws that undermine the accountability of companies who profit enormously from the dangerous and even deadly products they market to Americans. It regularly fights for federal preemption of state claims, and has expressed opposition to the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, which it calls “a device against business.” In the 2008 elections, the Chamber paid millions of dollars for aggressive ads attacking Democratic Congressional candidates (including Minnesota’s DFL Senate candidate Al Franken), and supported such Republican candidates as John Sununu, Gordon Smith, Roger Wicker, Saxby Chambliss and Elizabeth Dole.
Now that the possibility of medical malpractice tort reform is on the table, the Institute for Legal Reform “is launching a new advertising blitz to pressure Congress to include more comprehensive and sweeping tort reform provisions in the health care bill, said institute spokesman Mark Szymanski.”
When the Chamber of Commerce vehemently, aggressively supports something, we can all assume that big business will win out over the little guy if the Chamber gets what it wants. Enacting malpractice reform would mean a loss of patients’ rights to safe treatment in favor of pharmaceutical and medical device company profits.