Thomas J. Donohue

Thomas J. Donohue
Advisor and Former Chief Executive Officer, U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Thomas J. Donohue served as chief executive officer of U.S. Chamber of Commerce from 1997 to 2021 and is now an advisor to the organization. He also served as the U.S. Chamber’s president from 1997 to 2019, the first person to hold both titles concurrently in the organization’s history.

During his tenure, Donohue built the Chamber into a lobbying and political powerhouse with expanded influence across the globe and helped secure business victories on Capitol Hill, in the regulatory agencies, in politics, in courts of law and in the court of public opinion, and before governments around the world.

Donohue led efforts to expand trade and domestic energy production, rebuild America’s infrastructure, combat an avalanche of new regulations, protect intellectual property, revitalize capital markets, and advocate for legal, tax, education, and entitlement reform. In addition, he challenged attacks on free enterprise, while working to protect the business community’s right to speak and participate in the political and policy affairs of the nation.

Under Donohue’s leadership, the Chamber emerged as a major political force in races for the Senate and the House of Representatives. As part of this bipartisan effort, millions of grassroots business advocates, as well as the Chamber’s federation of state and local chambers and industry associations, mobilize in support of pro-business candidates.

Donohue established the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform, which advances significant legal reforms in the courts, at the state and federal levels, and in elections for state attorneys general and Supreme Court judges. He dramatically expanded the activities of the U.S. Chamber Litigation Center, the Chamber’s law firm, which represents the business community’s interests in the courts. And he reinvigorated the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, which houses Hiring Our Heroes, a program that identifies job opportunities for returning veterans and military spouses.

Previously, Donohue served for 13 years as president and CEO of the American Trucking Associations, the national organization of the trucking industry. Earlier in his career, he was deputy assistant postmaster general of the U.S. and vice president of development at Fairfield University in Connecticut.

Born in New York City, Donohue earned a bachelor’s degree from St. John’s University and a master’s degree in business administration from Adelphi University. He holds honorary degrees from Adelphi, St. John’s, Marymount, Bradley, and Pepperdine universities, along with the National University of Ireland at Maynooth.

He is a recipient of the Horatio Alger Award and the Boy Scouts of America National Capital Area Council’s Lifetime Achievement Award. He holds the highest civilian honor from Germany and South Korea, as well as the Order of the Crown (Commander Class) presented by the Crown Prince of Belgium and the Grand Cordon of the Order of the Rising Sun awarded by the Government of Japan.

Donohue and his late wife, Liz, have three sons and five grandchildren.

Latest Content

Featured Speaker

National Summit on Equality of Opportunity

Join us for our inaugural National Summit on Equality of Opportunity, where some of the nation’s top business leaders will discuss closing the opportunity gaps for Black Americans in four critical areas: education, employment, entrepreneurship, and the criminal justice system.

Webcast: National Summit on Equality of Opportunity

Webcast for the National Summit on Equality of Opportunity, where some of the nation’s top business leaders will discuss closing the opportunity gaps in four critical areas: education, employment, entrepreneurship, and the criminal justice system.

Coronavirus Press Conference

Tom Donohue and other association CEOs will speak about the coronavirus, the economic impact and how business will lead a path to recovery. 

2020 State of American Business

Please mark your calendar for the webcast of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s 21st annual State of American Business event, where we will explore the most important opportunities and challenges facing the business community in the year ahead.

Latest Content

Author

To Our Nation’s Elected Leaders: Americans Hired You. It’s Time to Do the Job.

All Americans should be committed to rallying our country around the cause of our nation’s recovery and the goal of a better future.

Why Intellectual Property Protection Matters in the Time of Coronavirus

Strong intellectual property protections will be important as private industry and government work together to find a cure for COVID-19.

Aviation Soars to New Heights

Air travel is such a common part of daily life that it can seem mundane. But the truth is that aviation is a vibrant, innovative industry set to reach even greater heights.

Last Thursday, aviation leaders convened in Washington, D.C., for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s annual Aviation Summit. All aspects of the industry were represented—from airlines and manufacturers to unions and regulatory agencies. There was a lot to talk about.

CO— Equips Growing Businesses for Success

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce helps businesses thrive by providing the tools and resources they need to start, run, and grow.

Exhibit A: Our national CO— Summit for Small and Growing Businesses in Washington, D.C.

How to Keep the Economy Growing

Depending on whom you talk to, the economy is either soaring or sinking. Which side is right? Well, both ...

The consumer side of the economy remains strong. The unemployment rate is at a generation low, and take-home pay is steadily rising. In fact, we’re in the third straight year of wage growth. With greater job security and more income, people are spending money. Retail sales beat expectations in June.

Supply Chains: Virtually Invisible, Vitally Important

The U.S. Chamber will leverage its lobbying muscle, deep resources, and expertise to modernize them for the consumers and companies.

Establishing Clear Rules of the Road on Data Privacy

At the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, we believe it is possible to both protect individual privacy and promote technological innovation.

An Open Letter to Office Holders, Candidates, and Political Pundits of Both Parties

Let's express our differences as our founders envisioned: at the ballot box.

Businesses and Consumers Reel From Trade Measures

The evidence is stacking up and the word is spreading: Tariffs are a major financial strain on American consumers and businesses alike.

Can the Government Nationalize a Business?

The Chamber stands ready to work with the administration and Congress to resolve the issue of government-running of private businesses.

Small, Midsize Businesses Hold Key to Growth

The U.S. economy grew at a rate of 3% last quarter. We need to listen to America's small and midsize business leaders to further progress.

Progress on Limiting Health Insurance Costs Still Possible

Although ACA repeal efforts have been eclipsed in Washington, consumers across the country are feeling the pain of the law's shortcomings.

Trump’s First 100 Days Bring Victories for Business

This Saturday, April 29, marks the 100th day of the Trump presidency. While critics are quick to point out what the administration and Congress haven’t gotten done so far, we must not overlook what they have gotten done—including the most significant regulatory relief since the Reagan administration, a renewal of America’s energy strength, and the addition of an outstanding new justice to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Torts and Rules Can Stunt Tech Sector Growth

New innovations and technologies are fertile ground for economic growth. They lead to startup companies, job creation, and a rush of capital and investment. But once a technology gets big, it’s never long before government regulators and aggressive trial lawyers swoop in to crash the party. Hasty regulations and expansive liability stunt the sector’s growth and slam the brakes on job creation.

An Important Trade Agreement You Haven’t Heard Of

The World Trade Organization is set to ratify a groundbreaking, but little talked about, agreement called the Trade Facilitation Agreement.

Capital Markets: Fueling Our Economic Growth

Throughout this election, the American people have heard a great deal of misinformation about our nation’s financial system. Candidates eager to portray themselves as anti-Wall Street paint financial institutions as instruments of inequality and capital markets as a system of tricks and traps. This narrative is a threat to our economic future.

The Conversation About America's Skills Gap Is Changing

America has people without jobs, but it also has jobs without people – about 5.6 million of them, thanks to the skills gap.

Entitlements Are the Elephant in the Room

There’s a giant elephant in the room this campaign season, and I’m not talking about a leftover decoration from the Republican convention. Our entitlement programs—Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid—are growing faster than we can pay for them, posing a looming threat to our nation’s social safety net. Yet neither of the major candidates for president will admit it, let alone address it. 

Dear 45: Get Back to the Basics with Free Speech and Free Enterprise

Don’t forget to take care of the two fundamental building blocks of American society.

Both Parties Must Focus on Economic Growth

In many ways, the national parties’ conventions are splashy affairs, featuring headline-grabbing speeches by a who’s who of national leaders and the presidential nominees. A less glamorous but often more enduring function of the conventions is formalizing the parties’ platforms. Though these ideas are not binding, and they are sometimes ignored by the candidates, they telegraph the parties’ priorities and vision for the future of our country.

Let’s Get Back to Business in 2016

Two weeks of political theatrics are getting under way today as the Republicans convene for their party convention in Cleveland, followed by the Democrats next week in Philadelphia. This will be the presidential candidates’ and their parties’ big chance to establish their platforms and show the American people what they really stand for. Will they promote an agenda to support jobs, growth, and prosperity? Or will they advance more of the same failed policies that have delivered slow growth, the lowest labor participation rate ever, and falling incomes?

Defending Free Speech Rights

Over the Fourth of July holiday, Americans gathered to celebrate the freedoms that make the United States the envy of the world. But in our current political environment, it’s not enough to celebrate our freedoms — we must also protect them. Fundamental liberties, including free speech, free association, and due process, are coming under attack from the left and the right. The business community must increasingly defend its right to speak out and participate in the political and policy realms.

New Tool Could Help Narrow the Skills Gap

Thousands of college graduates are trying to land their first professional job in a tough labor market. In today’s competitive environment, simply having a degree or certificate and a can-do attitude does not guarantee success.

Many are embarking on their careers woefully underprepared and unqualified for the types of jobs they desire. The result is a deficit of candidates with the skills employers need and a surplus of young, debt-ridden, college-educated professionals wondering if all that time and money they invested in higher education will pay off.

Recognizing Military Spouses and Their Sacrifices

Five years ago the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation launched Hiring Our Heroes (HOH), a nationwide initiative to help veterans and transitioning service members find meaningful employment opportunities in the civilian workforce.

Time to Check Federal Regulatory Power

The U.S. government is built on a system of checks and balances. Skeptical of government power, the Founding Fathers made it difficult to encroach on the rights of citizens and established co-equal branches of government. They created frequent elections so that the people could hold elected officials accountable.

Lawmakers Should Make Laws, Not Regulators

Many Americans are angry with a Congress and administration that seem out of touch with the people, are unaccountable,and act in their own self-interest. Nothing better exemplifies these sentiments than an issue happening largely under the radar. Federal regulators—the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Labor Relations Board, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and the whole alphabet soup of federal agencies—are skirting safeguards and essentially creating laws of their own.

Fight Against Power Plant Rule Gains Steam

The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) so-called Clean Power Plan is the mother of all regulations, aiming to radically transform the electricity sector under the guise of restricting greenhouse gas emissions from domestic power plants. The new standards would drive up energy costs on businesses and consumers, impose tens of billions in annual compliance costs, and reduce our nation’s global competitiveness. Worst of all, the rule is unlikely to reduce global carbon emissions, instead simply shifting them—and U.S.

Don’t Forget About the Pacific Trade Deal

Amid the tumult of an unpredictable presidential campaign, a consequential debate over the new Supreme Court vacancy, and a lame-duck administration determined to implement its regulatory agenda until the lights go out in the White House, it would be easy to let other priorities—like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)—fall by the wayside. Now, more than ever, we’ve got to walk and chew gum at the same time—and that means continuing to build support for this game-changing agreement and pushing for strong bipartisan approval in Congress.

Intellectual Property Fuels Global Innovation and Growth

To address the leading problems of our time and to seize opportunities to enhance life for all citizens, there must be a worldwide commitment to innovation, economic growth, and technological progress. And creating and protecting intellectual property (IP) must be a driving factor.

DOL Rule Would Limit Small Business Retirement Plans

Today, 99% of employers in the United States are small businesses, responsible for 63% of new private sector jobs. To compete with larger companies and attract employees, small businesses need affordable retirement savings plans. They need more convenient, cost-effective ways to contribute to their employees’ retirement—not less. But a proposal by the Department of Labor (DOL) could actually limit small businesses’ access to retirement services or lock them out of the retirement market altogether.

Give American Business a Chance to Show the World What We Can Do

We hope you will focus on growing our economy, creating jobs, lifting incomes, and expanding opportunities for all Americans.

A Productive 2015 Defies Expectations

As we look ahead to 2016 and consider the policies we need to grow the economy and put Americans back to work, we must not buy in to the conventional wisdom that it’s impossible to get anything done in an election year. Isn’t that what they said about 2015? Well, a funny thing happened on the way to 2016—working with Congress, the business community got a lot done for the country.

Education Bill Makes the Grade

Who says that lawmakers can’t set aside differences, find common ground, and do the right thing for our country? Key members of the House and Senate recently proved it’s possible with a bipartisan agreement on long-overdue legislation to update the federal government’s largest K–12 education program.

Global Climate Proposal Deserves Serious Scrutiny

As President Obama begins talks with world leaders in Paris on a proposed climate change agreement, it is critically important that any agreement be thoroughly examined to determine whether it is fair to American workers, families, and businesses whose jobs and livelihoods depend on secure, affordable energy. Based on what we know about the president’s own proposal and the agreement that may be taking shape, several problems are already apparent.

Dear 45: Business Is Here to Help

One year from today, we will know who the 45th president of the United States will be. But the business community isn’t going to wait until the votes have been cast or the oath has been taken to introduce our next president to the issues that are most important to employers, executives, and entrepreneurs. Through the yearlong Dear 45 Campaign, the U.S.

Momentum Builds for Obamacare Reforms

While, unfortunately, Obamacare appears here to stay for now, some of its counterproductive mandates undermining the employer-sponsored health care system—which provides benefits for more than 160 million Americans—have to go. Thanks to rare moments of bipartisanship, two of the offending provisions have been struck down. If we keep up the fight, more could follow.

Data Privacy: The Next Big Lawsuit Bonanza

You’ve got to give the trial bar credit for being innovative. It has opened up a new frontier in the litigation sweepstakes—data privacy. Cyberattacks are growing in size and frequency, more and more consumers are exposed to them, and state and federal data privacy laws are complex and increasingly antiquated. That means the risk and potential liabilities are staggering.