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Class warrior

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The CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce brought his class warfare to Little Rock last week, and we'd like to think that at least a few of the Arkansas Chamber members were surprised and affronted by Tom Donohue's remarks. You couldn't say that the Chamber was ever a progressive organization, but it was not so partisan nor so devoted to serving the privileged few as it has become under Donohue.

He rages against labor unions, shrunken though they are, because they still seek living wages and decent health care for their members and their families. These are matters best left to corporate executives, Donohue says, and if CEOs decide — as they frequently do — that more American jobs should be sent overseas to people more appreciative of starvation wages and witch-doctor health care, so be it. It's the market, stupid. Stop whining about your children.

In fact, Donohue opposes all institutions that help low- and moderate-income Americans improve their lives — unions, a free and honest legal system, the government regulation that shields the individual consumer from powerful and ruthless corporations. The excuse of ignorance cannot be allowed him — he serves on the boards of corporations that have been convicted, repeatedly, of stomping the little guy. His tenure on the Qwest board of directors “has been marked by massive accounting fraud and wholesale violations of state and federal regulations,” according to the consumer group Public Citizen. In 2001, federal District Judge William R. Wilson of Little Rock fined Union Pacific, a Donohue company, $168,000 for destroying evidence in a lawsuit over a railroad-crossing accident that left a motorist dead. In a 2004 lawsuit over another fatal accident involving Union Pacific, the Arkansas Supreme Court wrote that “the record in this case reflects the development of a corporate policy at Union Pacific that put company profits before public safety.” Precisely where they belong, Donohue would say.

Far from being embarrassed by such rulings, and there are more, Donohue directs the national Chamber's contribution of millions of dollars to state judicial races, hoping to install judges everywhere who will favor corporations over customers and employees. Now that the restrictions on judicial campaigns have been loosened, more of this money will be coming into Arkansas. Watch carefully who gets it.

Under Donohue, the national Chamber spends millions lobbying for tax breaks for the wealthy, and contributes still more millions to the Republican Party. It works to defeat state attorney general candidates it considers insufficiently pro-corporation, and it was the primary financial backer of a front group that attacked John Edwards, the Democratic vice presidential candidate, for having been a plaintiffs' lawyer.

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