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There is one sentence in Danny Hakim’s latest attack on the U.S. Chamber that perfectly sums up his misguided four-part attempt to prove a thesis that doesn’t exist: “Mr. Donohue has transformed the chamber into a powerful lobbying force, an evolution most starkly epitomized by its aggressive advocacy for tobacco.” Hakim takes the undeniable fact that Tom Donohue has indeed transformed the U.S. Chamber into a powerful lobbying force and contorts it to fit a narrative about tobacco that is neither supported in the piece itself, nor presented by facts anywhere in five separate New York Times articles attempting to do so.
How the Chamber’s success in advocating for American business is “epitomized by its aggressive advocacy for tobacco” more than its aggressive advocacy for health care companies or small businesses is never explored. Hakim revisits this construct throughout the piece adding, “While the organization represents a variety of industries, its strategy has been a boon for cigarette makers” but provides absolutely no evidence as to how the U.S. Chamber’s advocacy has disproportionately helped tobacco industry.
Instead, Hakim relies on gross contextual misrepresentations such as fundraising letters sent by Mr. Donohue to a broad array of companies across multiple industries to suggest a special relationship with tobacco executives. When modern day fact-sets cannot support the claims in the piece, Hakim takes readers back more than thirty-years to weave common viewpoints about smoking in the early 1980s as evidence of the Chamber’s current advocacy efforts.
In two of the more alarming factual liberties taken, Hakim states declaratively that Tom Donohue was “bankrolled by cigarette makers” in his previous job as a trucking lobbyist in the 1980s without providing a shred of evidence to support the claim. Later, Hakim writes that “Tobacco companies were among Mr. Donohue’s earliest supporters,” again with absolutely no facts provided to back the statement up. He cites significant increases in contributions to the Chamber made by tobacco companies under Donohue with only passing mention that nearly every industry increased their participation at similar rates and the tobacco companies contributions constituted less than .2% of the Chamber’s overall revenue.
Finally, Hakim intentionally ignored broad and long-held Chamber advocacy efforts on intellectual property, health care, and taxes in order to paint only a few of the Chamber’s efforts in these areas as advocacy for tobacco.
The contextual liberties that have been taken in an attempt to make this narrative work are eye-popping.
The reality is, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce represents the interests of more than 3 million businesses of all sizes, sectors, and regions, as well as state and local chambers and industry associations, on a broad array of issues critical to job creation and economic growth. As Hakim writes, “Mr. Donohue has transformed the chamber into a powerful lobbying force,” but it is his tireless advocacy for all American businesses, not the tobacco industry, that has made that happen.