Wisconsin Wave

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(originally published on September 15, 2010)

Two national watchdog groups have filed separate complaints against the U.S. Chamber of Commerce requesting criminal investigations for tax fraud, money laundering, and campaign finance violations. The first, filed with the Washington, DC FBI Field Office by StopTheChamber.com, was predicated on a letter sent to the organization´s attorney, Kevin Zeese, from an insider at the Chamber who alleged in significant detail that the Chamber and its CEO Tom Donohue are engaged in a massive scam to support Mr. Donohue´s "lavish lifestyle." Mr. Zeese wrote:

"On August 4, 2010, we received a letter from a purported Chamber of Commerce insider in response to our latest reward offer. In short, the insider compares Tom Donohue to Jack Abramoff, Michael Scanlon and Bernie Madoff, in the manner in which he is scamming clients to serve his own interests rather than the interests of the business community. He alleges fraud, campaign finance violations and financial impropriety that could be uncovered with a criminal investigation. Equally troubling is that he alleges that Mr. Donohue does not fear the FEC or Congress and has a plan in place to attack the Department of Justice if the DOJ investigates him." http://www.velvetrevolution.us/stop_chamber/images/COC_DOJ_Letter8410.pdf

The second complaint, alleging tax fraud, was filed Friday with the IRS by U.S. Chamber Watch, http://www.fixtheuschamber.org/. It focuses on $18 million in loans and grants that were made to a nonprofit affiliate, the National Chamber Foundation, by the Starr Foundation, a charity started by the founder of A.I.G. and now led by Maurice R. Greenberg, the insurer´s former chairman. Cyrus Mehri, an attorney for Chamber Watch, said their research, based largely on public tax filings, found that the principal on $12 million in loans has never been repaid and that the money appeared to have been given to the Chamber´s foundation for unrestricted use. The lawyers said that the money, in violation of nonprofit restrictions, was ultimately funneled to the Chamber itself and used to finance broader political causes, including support for legal tort reform to shield companies like A.I.G. from liability. Mr. Greenberg himself had worked to promote restrictions on lawsuits, the complaint notes. Mehri said that the "Chamber´s current political activities were, in effect, being underwritten with money intended for charitable work." http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/11/us/politics/11chamber.html


"The evidence presented to the FBI and the IRS against the U.S. Chamber of Commerce provides a sufficient basis to warrant a serious in depth criminal investigation of the Chamber and its operations," said attorney Kevin Zeese. "We urge the Department of Justice to announce such an investigation, complete with grand jury subpoenas, witness testimony and compelled discovery. The whistleblower who contacted us has alleged that Chamber CEO Tom Donohue is engaged in a Bernie Madoff/Jack Abramoff scam where he creates crises to scare the business community, shakes them down with false promises, and launders their money not to serve the interests of the companies but rather to protect his own interests. Friday´s filing by U.S. Chamber Watch provides strong collaboration of the whistleblower´s allegations. We want to make sure that federal officials take action now rather than ignoring them as they did in the Madoff case."

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