Politicians & the Chamber play dirty…what else is new?

What’s this we hear about the Lake Champlain Regional Chamber of Commerce getting preferential treatment over other regional development associations in the form of a $100,000. grant earmarked for the purpose of sweet-talking Quebec businesses in what are described as “outreach efforts?”

The appropriation started out as a $500,000 fund for marketing Vermont as a good place to do business. That amount shrank to $200,000 during conference committee, and the Quebec outreach proposals appeared in the waning hours of the session as a $100,000 appropriation. The money comes from the Vermont Enterprise Fund, which was originally intended as a cash incentive for the IBM sale to GlobalFoundries but was never used for that purpose.

So, in other words, a slush fund created to groom private economic interests from abroad appears to have been opportunistically hijacked by the Lake Champlain Regional Chamber of Commerce before the rest of the boys were even given a peek under the hood.

What surprises me is that this comes as any kind of a surprise to  Tim Smith of the Franklin County Industrial Development Authority.  

Mr. Smith objects to what he correctly sees as an unfair advantage negotiated by the LCRCC, and a lack of transparency in the process.

All I can say is welcome to my world, Mr. Smith.  

In the broader world of politics, the Chamber is not known for playing fair.

And while we are on the subject of local Chambers of Commerce, why are we still allowing them so much unfettered influence on the business of business in Vermont?

The answer is probably that they have become so insidious in small town America that we hardly notice they are here.  

Most Vermonters completely overlook their connection to the soulless Mother Ship of Greed: the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a powerful global economic player which just this past week was excoriated by the New York times for engaging in an organized effort to combat  anti-smoking efforts around the world.

Already infamous for their efforts to discredit Climate Change science, the Chamber is also the champion of the tobacco industry as it faces off against expanding health education that is making it more and more difficult to ply this killer trade even in third world countries.

Three years ago, Ukraine filed an international legal challenge against Australia, over Australia’s right to enact antismoking laws on its own soil…Taras Kachka…argued that several “fantastic tobacco companies” had bought up Soviet-era factories and modernized them, and now they were exporting tobacco to many other countries. It was in Ukraine’s national interest, he said, to support investors in the country, even though they do not sell tobacco to Australia.

Mr. Kachka was not a tobacco lobbyist or farmer or factory owner. He was the head of a Ukrainian affiliate of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, America’s largest trade group.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce derives its power from the sheer number of small local and regional affiliates that unify under its name.  It is their passivity with regards to the Chamber’s overarching agenda of  anti-Climate science and pro-smoking that allows it to continue against the forces of both education and common sense.

When the state awards funds to even a minor agency of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, it becomes complicit with their appalling agenda.

Until local and regional Chambers rise up and conspicuously disassociate themselves from the Mother Ship, they will get no quarter from me.

About Sue Prent

Artist/Writer/Activist living in St. Albans, Vermont with my husband since 1983. I was born in Chicago; moved to Montreal in 1969; lived there and in Berlin, W. Germany until we finally settled in St. Albans.

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