A Lot to Lose: the U.S. Chamber’s Fight to Protect its Richest Corporate CEOs’ Wallets

The following article is brought to you by US ChamberWatch.

On behalf of corporate CEOs, who would personally gain hundreds of thousands – even millions – of dollars, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has been lobbying heavily for a permanent extension of the Bush Tax Cuts for the wealthy. The CEOs for whom the U.S. Chamber is lobbying include some of the wealthiest executives in the nation, who make tens of millions of dollars in annual income: bankers like Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan (average income: $21,991,394), Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman Sachs (average income: $31,949,089), and John Stangfeld of Prudential Financial (average income: $16,375,447); coal mining executives like Massey Energy’s Don Blankenship (average income: $12,739,276); and insurance company CEOs like Ronald Williams of UnitedHealth and Angela Braley of Wellpoint (average income: $16,196,989 and $12,204,978, respectively). Each of these CEOs stands to personally gain at least $700,000 to $1.7 million if the Bush Tax Cuts are extended.

Unsurprisingly, the U.S. Chamber does not highlight the personal benefits the Bush tax cuts provide for these millionaire executives, but as demonstrated in press reports last week and in the U.S. Chamber’s own tax filings, these are the CEOs who fund and determine the U.S. Chamber’s agenda. And the Chamber is spearheading this CEO-driven effort despite clear evidence that the tax cuts would actually hurt the American business community it claims to represent: the cuts would add hundreds of billions to the deficit and limit the effectiveness of on-going efforts to revive the American economy and create jobs. According to the tax policy group Citizens for Tax Justice (CTJ),

Fiscal responsibility, job creation, and tax fairness all depend on Congress allowing the Bush tax cuts for the rich to expire at the end of this year as scheduled. According to figures from the Treasury, extending the Bush income tax cut for the richest 2 percent would cost $678 billion over a decade.

The U.S. Chamber has apparently chosen to ignore the destructive impact the extension would have on the middle class and rebuilding the economy as a whole. Equally troubling, the U.S. Chamber has even opposed tax reforms that actually would benefit mainstream American businesses and incentivize creation of American jobs. For example, the Chamber opposed a payroll tax holiday for companies that brought jobs back to the United States from overseas, arguing that Congress must focus on the “big picture:” “all 2001 and 2003 expiring tax provisions.” But in fighting for an extension of the Bush tax cuts, the U.S.
Chamber is doing nothing more than ensuring a personal perk for the people that pay its bills.

New research on U.S. Chamber CEOs’ compensation by U.S. Chamber Watch and tax analysis by Citizens for Tax Justice illustrates just how much benefit these CEOs will gain from an extension of Bush Tax Cuts.

Key Findings:

Rupert Murdoch, the CEO of News Corporation, whose donation of $1 million to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce led to well-publicized shareholder outrage, would pocket more than $1.3 million.

Don Blankenship, a former U.S. Chamber Board member and the CEO of Massey Energy, whose company owned the mine in which twenty-nine miners died in April 2010’s mining disaster, the worst in forty years, would take home more than $700,000.

David Cote, the CEO of Honeywell and a member of the National Fiscal Commission, who keynoted an address to the National Chamber Foundation expressing concern about the national debt over the next ten years, would get a tax cut of over $1.2 million.

CEOs of big banks on Wall Street, who helped collapse the economy and then used the U.S. Chamber to fight stronger financial regulations, stand to reap between $700,000 and $1.6 million each.

The CEOs of the health insurance industry, whose industry saw an overall increase in profits this year even while they slashed benefits and instituted breathtaking premium increases, are looking to personally benefit from another hit on the middle class by taking in between $335,000 and $875,000.

U.S. Chamber President and CEO, Thomas Donohue, who has shifted the Chamber’s mission from serving mainstream business to serving the interests of the CEOs whose corporations write the biggest checks, will personally gain over $200,000.

The following is the conclusion found to the


The U.S. Chamber’s lobbying to extend the Bush Tax Cuts for the wealthiest two percent is not about jobs or the economy. It’s about protecting the millions of dollars that extending the cuts would garner the CEOs who fund the U.S. Chamber and determine its agenda. Nonpartisan analysis has shown that these cuts would ultimately be destructive to the American economy, yet the U.S. Chamber fights to protect tax cuts for its CEOs even when other alternatives – that might actually result in job creation – are on the table. According to the U.S. Chamber, protecting the paychecks of millionaire CEOs would somehow “address uncertainty that is plaguing main street, help businesses to create jobs, and get the economy growing.”37 Why the intense rhetoric and protracted fight? Perhaps because U.S. Chamber cronies aren’t the only ones who stand to benefit. U.S. Chamber CEO Tom Donohue himself stands to pocket an additional quarter million annually on top of his $3. 5 million annual take home pay if the tax cuts are extended. Sometimes, the U.S. Chamber’s motivations are difficult to pin down. Other times, like when it bends over backwards to keep the rich, rich, the motivation seems obvious.

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