U.S. Chamber of Commerce fundraising surged to over $215 million in 2020 despite GOP leaders’ criticism

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  • The US Chamber of Commerce raised just over $215 million in 2020, nearly $60 million more than the year before, according to a new tax form reviewed by CNBC.
  • The document shows that executives including then-CEO Tom Donohue, who made more than $7 million in 2020, also saw his final year as the group’s head.
  • Republican leaders such as Kevin McCarthy and Mitch McConnell slammed the chamber in 2020 for supporting a group of House Democrats in the buildup to the last election.

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The world’s largest business lobbying group saw its fundraising increase last year, despite criticism from generally sympathetic Republican leaders.

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According to a new 990 tax form reviewed by CNBC, the US Chamber of Commerce raised more than $215 million in 2020, an increase of nearly $60 million over the previous year. The group is officially a 501(c)(6) non-profit and does not publicly disclose the names of its donors.

The document shows that Chamber executives, including then-CEO Tom Donohue, saw a windfall, who raised more than $7 million in 2020, his last year as head of the group. That amount only included bonuses and incentives worth just over $5.9 million.

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Donohue reportedly over $6 million a year ago. Suzanne Clark, who became CEO earlier this year, earned over $4 million in 2020 as group chairman, including over $3 million in bonuses and incentives.

The organization spent more than $80 million on lobbying last year alone, according to data from the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. His net worth was over $30 million at the end of the year.

A spokesperson for the Chamber of Commerce referred CNBC to the 990 filing when asked for follow-up questions.

The Chamber advocates pro-business policies. It had a separate Political Action Committee that contributed to both Democrats and Republicans. The Chamber of Commerce has often favored policies that align with Republican or more conservative Democratic lawmakers, such as not raising taxes and eliminating trade tariffs.

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The group supported the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill that Biden signed last month, but continued to oppose a more than $1 trillion social spending package, which has yet to get out of Congress.

Republican leaders pat Chambers for supporting one in 2020 Group I of House Democratsn buildup for the last election.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., criticized the group in an interview with Fox Business last year.

“I don’t want the support of the US Chambers because they’re sold out,” McCarthy said at that time. “It’s hypocrisy that the US Chamber of Commerce would support Democrats who are part of this socialist agenda that’s driving this country out, and it’s fighting this president.”

Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who was the Senate majority leader at the time, took a swipe at the group at around the same time.

“Honestly at this point, I think they’re so confused about what they’re about that they probably don’t care much,” McConnell said.

Since then, the Chamber has seen some senior leaders leave the organisation. Corporate veteran Charles Schwab left the Chamber of Commerce following his decision to close his political action committee following the deadly riots on Capitol Hill on January 6.

Donohue criticized former President Donald Trump’s role in creating the riots.

“The President’s conduct last week was absolutely unacceptable and completely unforgivable. By his words and actions, he has undermined our democratic institutions and ideals.” Donohue said in January.

Trump and Chambers have bowed their heads before, especially on the then-president’s tariffs. In 2019, after a Chamber official spoke out against the use of tariffs on CNBC, Trump called on the network to give his counterpoint and rip off the group’s stance on trade.

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