Chamber of Commerce Launches Massive "American Free Enterprise" Campaign

What do Americans need most right now? Jobs. If you wanted Americans to buy your snake oil, what would you promise them right now? Why, jobs of course, even though the snake oil being peddled is the very thing that sank the economy in the first place.

The master snake charmers over at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have unveiled their new, glitzy, multi-million dollar ad campaign to beat back financial services regulation, consumer protection, and other reform measures being proposed in Congress this fall. The campaign makes vague promises to create 20 million new jobs in the next 10 years. (This from a group that claimed on its website to have 3 million members, but shrunk that number by 90% when challenged this week by Mother Jones.)

Calling it the "American Free Enterprise" campaign, the Chamber's TV ads use beautiful images of farmers, mothers, flags, small businesses, football, flags, steelworkers, lemonade stands, flags. You get the picture. Amusingly, they sneak in a few pictures of Wall Street banker-types shaking hands over and over again.

The campaign tells America to "dream big," and the message is that sometimes "Washington may help in times of trouble" but only "the free enterprise system" is up to the challenge of creating 2 million jobs a year.

Of course it was Chamber-backed deregulation of the financial markets that lost us 7.5 million jobs in the first place. So the Chamber has an uphill battle to convince us that anything it is peddling will do the trick.

The announcement of the campaign prompted Steven Lerner of Service Employees International Union (SEIU) to comment: "The only jobs the campaign will create is for Chamber of Commerce ad men."  Lerner went on to remind us that the Chamber  has been wrong about every major public policy issue of the last decade. It thinks global warming is a myth, a position that recently cost them many high-profile members like Apple computers. It fought the passage of the Family and Medical Leave Act. It fought to prevent poor children from receiving medical care through the State Children's Health Insurance Program. It thinks having a minimum wage hurts the economy. It is going to the wall to stop the Employee Free Choice Act from becoming law. On the job front, the Chamber has supported every trade agreement and tax break that has led to the off-shoring of millions of American jobs and recently fought to kill a proven job machine, "Buy American" provisions in the economic stimulus package passed by Congress.

But, most importantly, the Chamber has backed every wild-eyed deregulatory scheme ever cooked up by the Banksters, including the systematic removal of depression-era protections against casino-style gambling on Wall Street.

This week, the Chamber is actively opposing the Obama administration's number one financial reform, a Consumer Financial Protection Agency. In other words, the financiers and CEOs of the Chamber have had a major role in creating the crisis; they accepted boatloads of bailout cash from taxpayers; and now they are saying "we have done our part, leave the rest to us."

The Chamber is running scared. As the unemployment rate heads toward 10% and the pace of foreclosures picks up again, the Chamber is worried that the American public might actually flex its muscle and demand meaningful reform of the financial markets.

They are right to be worried. Today SEIU released polling data showing that the American people are deeply angry about the economic crisis and overwhelmingly in the financial reform camp. The SEIU poll shows that: 74% of American voters agree that, "The greed and risky decisions of banks and financial companies led to the financial crisis and recession, and it's time that Congress cracked down on their reckless practices to protect consumers." SEIU also tested 5 specific proposals for financial reform with every proposal netting 75% or higher support:

  •  88% of Americans support reform rules for credit card companies to cap interest rates and ban excessive no-fault rate hikes.
  • 86% of American want to hold banks accountable for their promise to use taxpayer money to resume lending.
  • 82% of Americans believe we should regulate overdraft fees to protect consumers from misleading and predatory bank policies.
  • 78% of Americans support putting limits on executive compensation and bonuses for banks that received bailout funds.
  • 75% of American support the creation of a Consumer Financial Protection Agency, which is being debated in Congress this week.

Americans are tightening their belts. Like everything else, we are buying a little less snake oil these days. While the pictures are pretty, while the flags are nice, and while we agree that America will see better days, we still want a muscular effort by our federal government to actively create jobs. We also want meaningful financial services reform that will crack down on the Chamber of Commerce and the other Banksters that put us in this position in the first place.

If you are interested in doing battle with the Chamber, find out more and take action at

Mary Bottari

Mary Bottari is a reporter for the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD). She helped launch CMD's award-winning ALEC Exposed investigation and is a two-time recipient of the Sidney Prize for public interest journalism from the Sidney Hillman Foundation.


A man who said he was waiting for a friend that worked at the Chamber of Commerce on Solano Avenue in Berkeley, asked to use my cell phone to call her to ask why she didn't show up. After his (bad actor) rambling, and at the end fake drooling, I had a hunch that he was affiliated with some right wing people, from the right wing comments he made. I don't keep up with the daily news in the area, but it does seem that right wing people are trying to take over the area. Also, today my e-mail was hacked, it could not be sent.

wow, your U.S. Chamber of Commerce story looks more like an SEIU story. SEIU this, SEIU that, etc... give us a break we are not as stupid as you would like the public to be. we will demand change and it will be at the end of a revolt to remove this administration that is poised to raise taxes even higher yet again.

Really a revolt? Really? If that is what you need to make it through the day then more power to ya but you should know that for all the bluster and wailing the right does it will pretty much be Obama for 2 terms. You didn't even make a rational point about one thing in the article, but I guess you were just doing a drive by and that probably made you feel good.............H