By now, most Americans realize that Big Money is a powerful force in American politics. Members of Congress often shy away from regulating an industry that showers them with campaign donations. Members will rush to vote for massive subsidies and giveaways to big donors.
One senator who has been mostly unmoved by the presence of this Big Money is Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH). He has been a leader in taking on the big banks, working to create a more just and humane health care system, and kicking Big Money out of politics.
But when you take on special interests, they tend to retaliate in a heavy-handed way. Brown is up for re-election this year, and corporate front groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce are spending heavily to try to defeat him. As one example, the Chamber spent $1.5 million to unseat Brown through last year, and Brown’s campaign estimates that the same group has committed to spending at least $1.2 million on additional ads through this year. (The Chamber says it will spend as much as $10 million overall for Senate ads in the first part of 2012.)
It’s important for the public to understand why this much money is being spent by the Chamber to defeat Brown. On virtually every issue area, he has upset the corporations that fund the Chamber, and those corporations now want to get rid of him. We’ve prepared this mini-report to explain how specific donors to the Chamber may have been angered by Brown decided to stand with his constituents and the taxpayers instead of corporate donors:
THE BANKS: Brown has been a tough advocate for fixing the financial system that brought the world to the point of economic catastrophe in 2008. He authored the Brown-Kauffman amendment in the Senate during the financial regulation debate. The amendment would’ve effectively broken up the biggest banks, but failed to pass a Senate vote. The Chamber is funded by banking entities like Citigroup and New York Private Bank & Trust.
THE HEALTH INSURERS: During the debate over legislation to reform the American health care system, Brown was a leader, advocating for a public plan for Americans to buy into at least, if not a Medicare for All system that completely cuts out private insurers. Health insurers from America’s Health Insurance Programs used the Chamber of Commerce to secretly funnel tens of millions of dollars to attack health reform efforts, and their money is now likely going to be used to attack Brown for being a leader in holding their industry accountable.
THE DRUG COMPANIES: The American drug industry has a pretty good deal. They use their political clout to get massive funding from the government, then they use their political clout to bar Americans from reimporting drugs from countries where they are cheaper, like in Canada. Brown didn’t think that was right, so he voted for a measure that would’ve allowed Americans to purchase drugs from other countries. Chamber donors like Eli Lilly and Merck are likely very unhappy about Brown standing with Americans and free market advocates over their companies.
THE OUTSOURCERS: Support for corporate-written “free trade” agreement that hollow out our manufacturing base and reward human rights abusers overseas has become vogue among bipartisan elites, but not Brown. He opposed the agreements made with South Korea, Colombia, and Panama. The Chamber has countless outsourcing-backing corporate members who supported these agreements, including Eli Lilly, Microsoft, Intel, 3M and others.
It’s important for the voters to understand that these advertisements are not simply coming from concerned citizens. They are being financed by America’s top corporate front group, which is being used by corporations to lash out against one senator who worked very hard to hold them accountable. If Brown is defeated, it will send a clear message to other senators willing to challenge Big Money: If you stand up to us, we will make sure you’re unseated. But if Brown wins, there’s at least a chance that we will see more senators willing to take politically courageous stands in the future.