Friday, May 17, 2024

Elite Donor Level Conflicts Openly Waged On The National Political Stage

thehill  |  House Ways and Means Committee Chair Jason Smith (R-Mo.) has demanded the U.S. Chamber of Commerce answer questions about the more than $12 million its Chamber of Commerce Foundation received from the Tides Foundation, a left-leaning nonprofit, between 2018 and 2022.

In a letter last Monday to Chamber president and CEO Suzanne Clark and foundation President Carolyn Cawley, Smith said that the Tides grants appear to conflict with the Chamber’s mission to support American businesses and raise questions about the groups’ tax-exempt status.

A GOP chair investigating the Chamber and its foundation is a major shift from the historically close alignment between the group and Republicans. The probe also comes as the Chamber gears up for a massive lobbying blitz around the expiration of former President Trump’s 2017 tax cuts, a fight in which Smith and Ways and Means Republicans will have heavy influence.

If Republicans hold the House, Smith is expected to retain the Ways and Means gavel and run the House committee charged with tax policy. A sour relationship with Smith could compromise the Chamber’s ability to sway the 2025 tax fight and other priorities that fall before the panel.

The inquiry also represents a new phase in well-reported tensions that erupted after the 2020 election between the Chamber and an increasingly populist Republican Party, some members of which were unhappy with the Chamber’s efforts to improve its relationships with Democrats.

The Chamber and the foundation say the probe is based on a misunderstanding. Eric Eversole, president of the foundation’s Hiring Our Heroes program, told The Hill the funds the foundation received “were charitable contributions from corporations made to the donor advised fund,” a charitable giving vehicle that makes it virtually impossible to trace the ultimate source of the funds.

A Tides spokesperson told The Hill that Smith’s inquiry “is a politically-motivated PR tactic during an election year, driven by actors who disagree with the social justice work of Tides and our partner organizations.”

But Smith made clear he was not satisfied with the initial response.

“The mission statement for the Chamber is pretty obvious: to help American businesses,” he said. “Getting $12 million from Tides and then trying to say it’s really not from Tides, it’s from someone else, that makes me want to look harder.”



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