Who rules the Chamber?

In the hopes of predicting the next defector from the Chamber of Commerce (following the high-profile lead of Apple), we’ve compiled comprehensive political giving info on the business lobby’s 100+ board members.  By analyzing the political ties among the directors, we figured we’d be able to get an idea of who really rules the Chamber — and who is next to leave.

Priscilla and sundin pitched in to assemble the data, drawn from Open Secrets’ stash.  Some interesting patterns emerged, and we built a fascinating data set.  But I don’t think we’re ready to make any predictions, just yet.

In order to get a better sense of how the Chamber works, we need more eyes and better data.  So I’ve started a new research group focused on the Chamber  — join up if you’re interested in figuring out who really rules the Chamber of Commerce.  It’s also linked from the front page.

For now, we’re going to continue looking at the Chamber’s board members.  We’ve collected campaign contribution info, so we’re going to move on to mapping each board member’s work history, other board memberships, and school ties.  What other fun clubs do they belong to?  Who do they play golf with?  We’re gonna find out.

But beyond the board of directors, there’s lots more to do on the Chamber of Commerce — all sorts of committees and affiliated organizations and elite circles within the elite circle, and so on.  It’s a big organization!

Chamber CEO Donohue himself speaks to the troubles of managing a large membership organization in a recent interview with the Wall Street Journal:

[Donohue] also notes that the idea that every member is always going to agree on every policy is ludicrous. “Bring 10 people to Thanksgiving dinner. Can you agree on anything? You try to take, let’s just say for the hell of it, one thousand core members. Let’s get them to agree on where to go to lunch, what day it is, how we should approach global warming or medical care. Holy (bleep)! So we have a system here and it works. And sometimes people aren’t always happy, but most companies look at this and say ‘Okay, I’ve got seven major issues. So I have a little disagreement on this one, but I’m getting along well on those.'”

Where are these disagreements and divisions?  Of the 1000 core members, who forms Donohue’s base of support?  Who are the fringe players?

How does the system work?

We have our work cut out for us. But if you’ve got a stake in workers’ rights, or climate change, or healthcare, or financial reform, or the future of American business, you’ve got a good reason to join the group and help bring some transparency to the US Chamber of Commerce.