Corporate America goes all-in on Dr. Oz
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a group that represents virtually every major American corporation, is throwing its support behind Mehmet Oz, the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania. The Chamber told Axios it was donating $3 million to support Oz's campaign against Pennsylvania Lt. Governor John Fetterman (D).
Corporations — whether individually or through a trade organization like the Chamber — are prohibited from donating $3 million directly to Oz's campaign. (Corporate PAC donations are capped at $5,000 per election.) So instead, the Chamber is routing the money through the Senate Leadership Fund, a Super PAC set up by Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R). The Senate Leadership Fund can raise unlimited funds from any source and spend them to boost Oz and other Republican candidates.
The Senate Leadership Fund is key to McConnell's efforts to regain control of the Senate. McConnell says if he is successful, he will consider passing a national abortion ban. Pennsylvania is one of a handful of states that could determine which party has a majority in the Senate. Recent polling shows Fetterman with a small lead, but Pennsylvania is a competitive state. In 2020, pre-election polling overestimated Democratic performance. The $3 million from the Chamber could have a real impact on the outcome.
In a statement, Chamber executive vice president Neil Bradley described Oz as "a pro-business champion" and said Fetterman "subscribes to a far-left, government-knows-best approach." Yes, Oz opposes corporate tax increases. But Oz also promotes a number of extreme positions that are opposed by many of the companies the Chamber purportedly represents.
Oz is “100% Pro-Life” according to his website. He supports exceptions in the case of rape, incest, and the mother’s health, but believes “life starts at conception.” During a tele-town hall in May, Oz told voters that abortion at any stage is murder.
“If life starts at conception, why do you care what age the heart starts beating at?” Oz said. “It’s, you know, it’s still murder, if you were to terminate a child whether their heart’s beating or not.”
Oz is also a Trump loyalist and describes himself to voters as “Trump’s guy.” Earlier this month, Oz appeared alongside Trump and far-right gubernatorial nominee Doug Mastriano at a rally where Trump insisted twice he won the election and called Biden an “enemy of the state.” The Trump-endorsed candidate has also refused to confirm the legitimacy of Biden’s election. When asked during a Fox interview if he believed the election was stolen, Oz said that “there’s lots more information we have to gather in order to determine that, and I'd be very desirous of gathering some.”
In April 2022, during the Republican primary debate, Oz said, “we cannot move on” from the 2020 election. When asked to clarify a few months later, Oz “responded that the different ways cheating occurred had to be understood to ensure it never happened again,” CBS News reports.
Oz has also downplayed the significance of climate change and suggested there is no reason to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. He claimed that continuing to pump more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere is not a problem. “Carbon dioxide, my friends, is 0.04% of our air," Oz said during a campaign stop in march, "That’s not the problem." Throughout his campaign, Oz has called for increased fossil fuel use, tweeting remarks like, “Back off Biden and give us the freedom to frack!”
Corporations that claim to be committed to combating climate change are now spending millions to put Oz in the Senate.
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Where the Chamber gets its money
Where does the Chamber get the millions it is donating to promote Oz's candidacy? It comes from dues paid by member corporations. And which corporations are members? The Chamber keeps its membership list secret.
We know, however, that virtually every major American corporation is a member of the Chamber. The Chamber's board of directors includes representatives from FedEx, Bristol Myers Squibb, Facebook, AT&T, United Airlines, Abbott, 3M, Microsoft, Deloitte, Fidelity, Chevron, Intuit, Xerox, Pfizer, Dow, AllState, Delta, and many others. Most member companies do not have a board seat.
How much do members pay the chamber in dues? That's also a secret. Some companies, however, voluntarily disclose some information about the dues paid to the Chamber. Capital One's 2021 Government and Policy Affairs Group Annual Report discloses that more than $50,000 of its annual dues to the Chamber went to "federal lobbying expenses."
But we don't know how much Capitol One contributed to the Chamber's federal lobbying or other political activity. And we don't know how much Capital One paid in dues overall to the Chamber. But whatever Capital One is paying, a portion of those dues is now being used to support Oz's Senate campaign.
It's possible to learn bits and pieces about dues paid by other companies. Visa disclosed that it donated more than $25,000 to the Chamber in 2021. Google discloses that it is currently a member of the Chamber and makes "substantial contributions" but provides no other information. CVS provides more complete information, disclosing it paid $500,000 to the Chamber in 2021 and $325,000 to a related organization, the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform.
But many companies choose to keep the dues they pay to the Chamber completely secret. So it's impossible for the public to know which companies are helping fund Oz's Senate campaign.
There are a handful of major corporations that are not members. Apple, for example, resigned its membership in 2009 in protest of the Chamber's policy on climate change.
A corporate smokescreen
The Chamber claims that supporting Oz is a priority for the business community. But that is not reflected in Oz's own campaign finance reports. Since the outset of the campaign, Oz has only collected a handful of donations from corporate PACs. Bloomin' Brands, the parent company of Outback Steakhouse, donated $2500; Lifepoint Health, which operates a network of hospitals, donated $2500. There were a few other corporate PAC donations from small energy companies.
Most companies seem unwilling to directly associate themselves with Oz's campaign and policy positions. But they are nevertheless supporting his candidacy through the Chamber and the Senate Leadership Fund. The indirect donations shield corporations from accountability for using corporate funds to support Oz. ‘