How would you feel if Darth Vader won the “Father of the Year” award? What about Donald Trump receiving the “Most Humble Human Being” prize?
In a comparably absurd award-allocation, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce recently received the “CEO Cancer Gold Standard” accreditation from the CEO Roundtable on Cancer.
The CEO Roundtable on Cancer is a non-profit organization comprised of CEOs that are “committed to fighting cancer.” Their “CEO Cancer Gold Standard” is an award given to organizations that have taken effective action in the fight against cancer.
In the past, such prestigious organizations as the American Cancer Society (ACS), the National Cancer Institute (NCI), and the Mayo Clinic have all received this very “Gold Standard” award.
Committed to… Making People Smoke Cigarettes
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce certainly does not belong on this distinguished list.
The Chamber is the largest lobbying group in the world. In Washington and throughout the globe, the Chamber promotes the interests of businesses and corporations, fighting regulation and legislation that would reduce profits for some of the world’s largest corporations. The Chamber has waged an elaborate global campaign to fight tobacco regulation, spending hundreds of millions of dollars to keep people smoking.
Due, in part, to their lobbying efforts, tobacco is the #1 cause of cancer in the U.S., responsible for 1/3 of all cancer deaths. Globally, 20 percent of all cancer deaths are associated with tobacco use.
Obviously, an organization that wants as many people to smoke as possible does not deserve an award recognizing admirable action against cancer.
An International Lobbying Superpower
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is a business network with over 300,000 member companies. According to opensecrets.org, the Chamber spent over $124 Million on lobbying efforts in 2014 alone. No coincidence, The Chamber is often criticized for its dubious lobbying efforts.
A major focus of the Chamber is fighting environmental regulation in the interests of the fossil fuel industry and big oil, an effort carried out by funding biased scientific studies that deny climate change.
Other positions the Chamber has taken include supporting offshoring while opposing financial regulation on Wall Street, the Affordable Care Health Act (known informally as “Obamacare”), and the DISCLOSE Act (which aimed to limit foreign influence on U.S. elections).
The Chamber also spent millions promoting the Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency (FACT) Act, an outrageous bill that would make it very difficult for suffering asbestos-exposure victims to receive compensation and medical treatment. If the Chamber of Commerce succeeds in helping the Republican-backed FACT Act become law, any individual who files an asbestos-related lawsuit will have to publish personal information on the Internet, exposing themselves to identity theft and cybercrime.
That means hardworking men and women who are sick and dying because of unfortunate asbestos exposure would have to put themselves at risk of theft in order to receive the justice they deserve and the help they so desperately need.
How can an organization that fights against helping cancer victims suddenly become – overnight – a recognizable hero in the fight against cancer?
Smoke ‘em If You’ve Got ‘em
In June of 2015, the New York Times published a multi-part investigation revealing the collaboration between the tobacco industry and the Chamber.
The investigation showed how the Chamber used its international affiliates to lobby against tobacco regulation in foreign capitals, instigate trade forum disputes to block tobacco regulation, and grant the tobacco industry special powers and exemptions from international trade agreements, such as the Trans Pacific Partnership.
For example, when, in 2011, Burkina Faso passed a law mandating that at least 60% of all tobacco packaging be covered by graphic warning labels, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce sent a letter to the country’s Ministry of Health saying the law violated international intellectual property rights and trade agreements. Under threat of costly lawsuits, Burkina Faso’s government had to withdraw the bill. Big Tobacco won that battle because of The Chamber.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has exercised its clout on behalf of the tobacco industry in similar ways across the globe – in Nepal, Australia, the European Union, and Uruguay.
An Undeserving Award Recipient, If Ever There Was One
The CEO Roundtable on Cancer has compromised its reputation and trustworthiness by recognizing the U.S. Chamber of Commerce as an organization that works to eliminate cancer.
Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, a nonprofit organization, has called on CEO Roundtable to rescind this recognition until the Chamber ceases to cooperate with the tobacco industry.
“We urge the CEO Roundtable on Cancer to realize that there is a fundamental conflict between its worthy mission of combatting cancer and the Chamber’s activities on behalf of the tobacco industry,” the nonprofit said on its website.
Unless the CEO Roundtable on Cancer has changed its goal to making corrupt organizations look good, most people can agree on one thing: the U.S. Chamber of Commerce certainly does not deserve the “Gold Standard” award.