July 09, 2015

Senators ask U.S. Chamber of Commerce board member companies about the Chamber's Big Tobacco lobbying efforts

WASHINGTON, DC - Today, United States Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), sent letters to the CEOs of all 108 member companies of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Board of Directors asking about their positions on the efforts of the U.S. Chamber and its international affiliates to fight against international anti-smoking laws, regulations, and policies. The letters also ask about the Chamber's processes for informing the board member representatives and obtaining their approval for the pro-tobacco campaigns.  

Last week, the New York Times reported that the U.S. Chamber and its international affiliates are "engaging in a worldwide effort to fight antismoking laws of all kinds" and have "undertak(en) a three-pronged strategy in its global campaign to advance the interests of the tobacco industry."

In today's letters, the senators expressed concern about the Chamber's lobbying activities in support of the leading cause of preventable death worldwide, writing, "To single out one industry for such an extraordinary dedication of U.S. Chamber resources seems quite remarkable, but to choose to lobby for tobacco is even more difficult to understand."

The letter explains that the senators seek to "fully understand the U.S. Chamber's support for the tobacco industry, the decision-making process that resulted in this support, and the role of ... board members in this process." The senators ask the board members' CEOs about their position on the Chamber's efforts, what information they may have received from the Chamber, if the Chamber provided them with an opportunity to express their views on the activities, and if the companies informed their shareholders of any role they may have played in the Chamber's pro-tobacco campaign.

Text of the letter is available here, a recipient list is available here, and a copy of all the letters can be found here (note: this is a large PDF download).