Two weeks ago, President Obama criticized the U.S. Chamber of Commerce for running ads fighting his plans to create a consumer protection agency - in part because the chamber is getting millions from foreign corporations. (The chamber denies that foreign money was used for the ads, but its finances are private, and groups that run political ads are no longer required to reveal where the money comes from.)
A New Hampshire chamber was so upset with the parent organization that it severed ties. Is there any talk about the local chamber following suit?
"We are a member of the U.S. chamber," says Delores Newton, executive vice president of the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce. "And this year we paid about $700 in dues."
But Newton says this money all goes to provide the local chamber with access to training and informational programming, not to run ads for various causes or candidates.
"Absolutely no penny is spent on politics," says Newton, adding that the local chamber doesn't vote on the parent group's positions. "We do not have a PAC. It would be illegal to spend member dues for or against a candidate. So we do not do that."
The local chamber does have a conduit fund, which it uses to pass donations from members to political candidates and causes. However, each member decides where the money goes, though the chamber does make recommendations.
Newton says she doesn't know much about the parent group's policies, but insists, "We're not here to fight their battles."