E-Mail Forum
  Chamber of Commerce and RichPAC Identify Establishment Candidates
September 20, 2010

On the national and state level, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the California Chamber of Commerce are nothing but paid shills for Wall Street and the petroleum industry. The New York Times notes that the Chamber has “a war chest rivaling that of the Republican Party itself” and represents “the Obama administration’s most-well-financed rival on signature policy debates like health care and financial regulation.” According to the Washington Post, the $44.3 million the group has paid to lobbyists so far this year, along with the $50 million it plans on spending to elect business-friendly politicians this fall, will make it the top lobbyist in Washington once again. (The group is nevertheless unlikely to top the $144 million it spent buying political influence in 2009.)

The California Chamber of Commerce has endorsed Meg Whitman for governor, triggering resignations of board members. The president of the University of California and the chancellor of the California community college system have quit the California Chamber of Commerce board of directors after the group voted to endorse Republican Meg Whitman for governor.  The endorsement is the latest example of the state's largest business organization increasing its political profile.Jack Scott, a former Democratic state senator from Pasadena who was appointed as community college chancellor by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, announced his resignation Friday in a letter to chamber President Allan Zaremberg after the endorsement vote. "I do not believe the board is using sound judgment by catapulting the California Chamber of Commerce into the center of a fierce political contest," Scott wrote. "…It is destructive to the chamber's core mission and the businesses it represents when it becomes a partisan operation." UC President Mark G. Yudof suspended his membership last week in anticipation of the vote. "As the president of a public university, I cannot take sides in electoral politics," Yudof wrote in a letter to Zaremberg. "I must preserve my politically agnostic status."

On the local level, chambers of commerce are typically not as shamelessly controlled by Wall Street and Big Oil, but the Richmond Chamber of Commerce is an exception. As its largest contributor, Chevron dictates policy to the Richmond Chamber of Commerce. The Richmond Chamber of Commerce chartered a political action committee called RichPac, which raises funds and supports the candidacy of business (read Chevron) friendly candidates.

The City of Richmond cut its ties with the Richmond Chamber in 2006 (with Viramontes abstaining) because of its partisanship (City Council Cuts Ties With Chamber of Commerce and Council of Industries, November 15, 2006), and Chip Johnson of the Chronicle blasted the Chamber for its political dealings (Chamber Politics Debate Continues, November 21, 2006).

Now, this slate of candidates supported by the Richmond Chamber of Commerce and RichPac includes some of the nicest people you know, but they have all sworn fidelity to Chevron, developers (particularly North Shoreline real estate speculators) and Upstream Point Molate. Maria Viramontes is a member of the original “Chevron Five,” (which lost 40% of its members in the 2008 election) and  both she and Ludmyrna Lopez are members of the equally infamous “Casino Four.”

According to its Form 460 filings, RichPac has over $21,000 on hand as of June 30, three-quarters of which has been provided by North Shoreline property owners and one–quarter by BAPAC. BAPAC’s largest donor was Winehaven Partners, LLC. Do you see the pattern here?

The Richmond Chamber of Commerce actually does us a great favor by publishing their slate of candidates, so we can know who not to vote for. So here are RichPac’s endorsements:

RichPAC endorses business-friendly candidates
The Richmond Political Action Committee exists to identify and support business-friendly candidates for local office. The Richmond Chamber is proud to announce that RichPAC will endorse the following candidates for election in November:

MARIA VIRAMONTES for City Council | www.mariaviramontes.org
LUDMYRNA LOPEZ for City Council | www.myrnalopez.com
VIRGINIA FINLEY for City Council | www.electfinlay.com
RHONDA HARRIS for City Council | www.voterhonda.com

I should disclose that my business has been a member of the Richmond Chamber of Commerce for over thirty years, and I once served on the board of directors. The Chamber does a lot of good things, like organizing the Home Front Festival. I think the idea of a local organization that supports and promotes local businesses, especially small businesses that do not have the internal capability of large businesses, is a good thing. I just can’t stand the politics of the Richmond Chamber.