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Investor Coalition to Board Members of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce:
Chamber’s Attack Ads on Health Care Put Shareholders at Risk
In Run-Up to Mid-Term Elections, Concerns Mount Over Anonymous Spending by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
NEW YORK CITY, NY///October 26, 2010/// A coalition of 36 institutional investors from the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR) with holdings in major U.S. corporations including Dow Chemical, Pfizer, IBM, CVS Caremark, IBM and Wellpoint are asking Directors of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce (Chamber) to disclose how dues and other contributions are being spent. At issue is $75 million in political advertising being funneled through the Chamber to punish legislators who supported health care reform.
“The letter addresses the use of our company’s funds to support a policy position that may be to the disadvantage of the company’s long term health”, said Margaret Weber from the Congregation of St. Basil.
According to the Chamber’s website, “Directors determine the U.S. Chamber’s policy positions on business issues and advise the U. S. Chamber on appropriate strategies to pursue.” The investors cite the Directors’ failure to challenge the Chamber’s support for attack ads on members of Congress who supported health care reform and requests proof that company funds are not contributing to this effort.
“As a shareholder coalition with health care industry representatives, we need to ensure that we are not complicit in what is being increasingly seen as a highly politicized attack,” said Laura Berry of ICCR.
Ed Gerardo of Bon Secours Health System, Inc. said, “Many of these companies promote health care principles on their websites that contrast sharply with the Chamber’s advertising campaigns. This is about message consistency, transparency and oversight which are the fundamentals of good governance.”
The letter is the second appeal to Chamber members on health care reform. In November 2009, ICCR members called on Chamber members with stated positions similar to ICCR’s Health Care Reform Principles to challenge the Chamber’s lobbying efforts against the passage of health care legislation.
Said Cathy Rowan of Trinity Health, “We all support productive public discourse that will help the Affordable Care Act be implemented in a way that benefits everyone. But the idea that, through dues or other gifts, our companies are inadvertently contributing to the Chamber’s negative campaign puts the company and its shareholders in jeopardy.”
“Several resolutions are being filed with a number of companies with ties to the Chamber because concerned shareholders are alarmed by the punitive and partisan nature of the advertising campaign”, said Donna Meyer of Christus Health. “Through our collective power as shareholders, we will continue to press companies to be transparent about their Chamber activity and if necessary, urge them to withdraw their membership in protest.”
Director of Communications, ICCR