Tom Donohue

“People seem to listen to you more when you've got a bagful of cash.”
President and CEO

Tom Donohue is the CEO of U.S. Chamber of Commerce.  Before taking the helm of the Chamber in 1997, Donahue spent 13 years as president of the American Trucking Association, where he fundraised and lobbied against the Teamsters union.  Prior to the ATA, Donohue lobbied for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and worked as a labor negotiator for the U.S. Postal Service. Donohue was born in Brooklyn in 1938, earned a bachelor’s degree from St. John’s University and a master’s degree in business administration from Adelphi University.
Source: WhoRunsGov

Since becoming head of the Chamber, Donohue has received a lot of attention for his lobbying and fundraising practices as well as for his $3.7 million salary, chauffeur-driven cars, and private jets. He is currently the sixth highest paid lobbyist in the country.

Donohue has been both praised and criticised as a leader by members of the US chamber of Commerce. He has refocused the Chamber's lobbying and outreach efforts on policies that suit the Chamber's largest and wealthiest corporations.  This strategy has increased the the Chamber's income through fundraising, but has alienated many of the small businesses that make up the majority of the Chamber's membership.  Donahue has also ramped up the Chamber's spending, doling out $120 million in 2009 on lobbying alone, five times what its nearest cohort, Exxon Mobil, spent.
Source: Washtington Monthly

The LA Times notes, "Under Donohue, the [U.S. Chamber of Commerce] has also frequently aligned itself with GOP priorities."


We will not allow the business community to be intimidated, and we will use every tool at our disposal to challenge those who try to silence our voice."
-Washington Post, January 11, 2011

“Show me the money!”
-Washington Monthly, July/August, 2010

“You can never have enough money.”
-Washington Monthly, July/August, 2010

“There is no place in our society where there is not warts. The media? Wow. The Chamber business? The lobbying business? The business business? The church? The Boy Scouts? We got jerks every place.”
-Washington Monthly, July/August, 2010

“People seem to listen to you more when you’ve got a bagful of cash.”
-New York Times, November 28, 2009

“Members come and go all the damn time.”

“Is the science right?  Is the science not right?  I don’t know.”

“If we got the EPA one [ability to regulate greenhouse gases], then we are in deep shit as a country.”
-Politico, October 26, 2009

"We plan to build a grass-roots business organization so strong that when it bites you in the butt, you bleed."

"I'm concerned about anti-corporate and populist rhetoric from candidates for the presidency, members of Congress and the media. It suggests to us that we have to demonstrate who it is in this society that creates jobs, wealth and benefits -- and who it is that eats them."

"I will disclose any funds I am legally required to disclose -- and not disclose any others."
-Los Angeles Times, January 8, 2008

“If energy independence is what we truly want, we can certainly achieve it; we have more than enough energy sources, ranging from coal and oil shale to wind and photovoltaic, that when used in conjunction with one another, can make the country energy independent, but not any time soon and perhaps not even in this century.”
-Congressional testimony, June 28, 2007


Donohue has used millions of the Chamber’s money to weaken or prevent the passage of bills concerning financial reform, health care reform, and climate and energy legislation.  Donohue himself states that by doing the more unpopular lobby work for companies, they can deny direct involvement in interfering with Congressional efforts.

Shortly after the Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling, Donohue announced that the Chamber would raise $40 million to spend on electing politicians in 2010 who would support the interests of big businesses.  The budget later increased to $75 million.

While Donohue expresses a willingness to address climate change, he has opposed viable efforts to do so.  Following an EPA decision to classify carbon dioxide as hazardous to human health (due to its effects as a greenhouse gas), the Chamber submitted comments to the agency claiming that planetary warming would “be beneficial to humans.”

Donohue oversaw the Chamber’s spending of over $132 million on lobbying in 2010, part of a $494,000,000 lobbying investment over the last five years, including specific amendments to the U.S. House American Clean Energy and Security Act, and energy-relation provisions of the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act.  The Chamber’s Political Action Committee has spent over $1.4 million on electing political candidates since the 2000 cycle. The Chamber spent $33 million on electioneering communications designed to support or oppose target candidates in the 2010 election.

As a member of the Board of Directors for Union Pacific Railroad, which depends on shipping coal for 20% of its revenue, Donohue’s role against climate legislation within the Chamber has been questioned as a conflict of interest.  Union Pacific Railroad also donates directly to the Chamber of Commerce.
Donohue impressed upon the country that the Chamber boasted 3 million members, although he stopped using this figure when it was revealed that he may have been exaggerating by a magnitude of ten.