The Chamber Of Commerce, Cut Down To Size

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has longed claimed, and I've probably printed, that they've got a membership roster exceeding 3,000,000 businesses.  When a company like, oh, say, Apple, decides to dis-affiliate, the Chamber press shop has been able to say, apparently with a straight face, that 2,999,999 entities still support the group. The implication: Apple (and Excelon and Nike) are just a few crumbs off the side of a mountain. (Privately, Chamber officials contend that these companies caved to pressure from Democrats and are afraid of retaliation from the administration.)

Well -- it should have been obvious to those of us who've written about the chamber at the 3 million figure was, to say the least, an exaggeration. And not an innocuous exaggeration either.  As Mother Jones points out, the 3 million figure includes every member of local and regional chambers of commerce, many of whom want nothing to do with the mothership -- and some of whom have no formal affiliation with it whatsoever. Indeed, many state and local chambers are members of the national chamber, just like businesses are. Indeed, the Chamber's brand -- in part because of the hard work done by state and local chambers -- remains pretty solid outside of Washington.

Computed correctly, the Chamber has about 200,000 small business members. That's nothing to sneeze at, but it's not 3,000,000 either. To the Chamber's credit, as of yesterday, they've begun to use the regular number.

Hopefully, everyone else will follow suit.  The truth is that, whatever the merits of the Chamber's stand against the largely Democratic climate change legislation is, the debate has cost them significant coalition partners. It's becoming harder for the Chamber to mount the sort of astroturf campaigns that've been so effective before.