Chamber of Commerce Gives Wall Street, Polluters What They Pay For

The nation is days away from getting the ultimate lowdown on business for 2016. And when the annual "State of American Business" speech is delivered by the Godfather of corporate lobbying on Jan. 14, it will be a predictable homily if ever there was one.

Thomas J. Donohue, president of the powerful U.S. Chamber of Commerce, is sure to talk about issues such as regulation (which is bad) and litigation (which is good when he and his members do it, bad when you and I do it).

If time permits, he may even touch on coal and nuclear energy (both good). Or a contentious proposal to require stockbrokers to put their clients' interests ahead of their own (very, very bad).

It takes some fancy footwork to espouse the sometimes conflicting philosophies the Chamber promotes, but North America's most feared, honored and ridiculed corporate poobahs are masters at pushing their agenda with a straight face.

We are talking, of course, of the Washington, D.C.-based national lobbying group, and not of the local chambers scattered across the country that don't always agree with the national group's extreme positions.

The Chamber's press office did not respond to emailed questions other than to say it would not provide an advance copy of Donohue's speech.

I don't mean to pick on the U.S. Chamber because its antics can sometimes be pretty entertaining.

In December, the group published a list of 2015's most ridiculous lawsuits. I have to admit the one about the California woman who used a photo from the Internet as evidence she'd received second-degree coffee burns at a McDonald's drive-through was totally over the top.

There was also the New York woman whose wrist was broken when her 8-year-old nephew leaped into her arms when she arrived at his Connecticut birthday party. Sadly, the tyke's embrace knocked Auntie to the floor, resulting in two surgeries. She sued the kid for $127,000.

Those examples from the Chamber's FacesofLawsuitAbuse project are pretty darn funny -- or outrageous, depending on your mood and political leanings. But American business's most ferocious lobbyist is deadly serious when it comes to wagging its finger about the menace of frivolous lawsuits.

Never mind that Donohue boasted in last year's speech that the Chamber itself would be "extremely busy in the courts," using legal action to defend the rights of business and stop what he considers government abuse.

The Chamber's Litigation Center filed a record number of briefs in 2014, he said, predicting it would best that record in 2015.

You might think the group would restrict itself to sotto voce conversation about the amount of paper it files in state and federal courthouses considering its passionate stance against people who clog up the judicial system.

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