I recall sitting in my office in the U.S. Senate’s Hart Office Building in DC between 2008 and 2010 with my desk TV always turned onto one of the cable news channels when the Senate was not in session. Incessantly, I saw TV ads from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce speaking as the “voice of small business” attacking Democratic efforts to achieve national health reform and universal coverage because of the harm it would cause small business.
Only later, in 2011, did we learn that the entire tab for that endless advertising campaign was paid for by major U.S. health insurance companies and their trade association, America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) to the tune of more than $100 million in direct donations. Later, I had the chance to ask AHIP President Karen Ignagni (who recently stepped down) why these donations had never been disclosed. “Because no one ever asked us,” she replied.
Today, the New York Times reports a devastating story about the role the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is playing in advancing the interests of the global tobacco industry in thwarting tobacco regulation and smoking prevention efforts in nations all around the globe:
“From Ukraine to Uruguay, Moldova to the Philippines, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and its foreign affiliates have become the hammer for the tobacco industry, engaging in a worldwide effort to fight antismoking laws of all kinds, according to interviews with government ministers, lobbyists, lawmakers and public health groups in Asia, Europe, Latin America and the United States.”