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November 13, 2009

Companies Are Asked to Distance Themselves From Chamber on Health Care Reform
    by Robert Kropp

A letter from 60 members of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility asks 36 companies that have supported the principles of healthcare reform to publicly state their disagreement with the US Chamber of Commerce's opposition. -- Much attention has been given in recent months to the US Chamber of Commerce's lobbying efforts to derail meaningful climate change legislation, as departures from Chamber membership by such high-profile firms as Apple have been widely reported by the media.

Due at least in large part to the dues paid by its millions of members, the Chamber has pockets deep enough to direct its lobbying efforts at more than one target at a time, and its Campaign for Responsible Health Reform serves as a front for its efforts to defeat what it repeatedly and incorrectly describes as "government-run health care" legislation.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the Chamber has spent $39 million during the third quarter of 2009 alone, in its efforts to defeat legislative proposals that include healthcare reform.

As with the issue of climate change, the positions of members of the Chamber are hardly in lockstep with the Chamber in its efforts to defeat healthcare reform legislation. Many high-profile firms, including Merck, Wal-Mart, McDonald's, AT&T, IBM, and General Electric, have issued public statements in support of the principles of healthcare reform. Thirty-six Chamber members that have publicly supported these principles were targeted this week by a letter from the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR), asking them to clarify whether or not the Chamber speaks for them on health care reform and, if not, to make a public statement to that effect."

The position of ICCR's members on the issue of healthcare reform was clarified in a statement entitled ICCR Health Care Principles. The principles advocated by ICCR member include affordable quality health care for all, access to health care regardless of health or financial circumstances, accountability by all stakeholders for the health care system, and shared responsibility for equitable financing.

The letter, which was signed by 60 of ICCR's 275 faith-based institutional investor members, states, "We have come to the conclusion that some kind of public option or an effective equivalent is necessary." It describes the Chamber's "deliberate mischaracterization of the health reform proposals" as "unconscionable."

The letter asks the 36 companies if they agree with the Chamber's campaign in opposition to health care reform, if they will publicly distance themselves from the Chamber's position, and how they plan to contribute in a constructive way to the health care debate.

Laura Berry, Executive Director of ICCR, said, "This letter reflects years of patient shareholder engagement, to help advance the thinking of top US firms on healthcare reform."

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