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Gibson writes: "My goal when writing the report was to publish a one-stop-shop for everything relating to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's domination of all institutions of merit, from Congress to the courts, to the election cycles. This report also shows how the U.S. Chamber has invested millions of corporate dollars into opposing all legislation relating to healthcare, financial reform, closing corporate tax loopholes, and climate change."

Carl Gibson has written a new report on how the Chamber of Commerce influences our lives. (photo: file image)
Carl Gibson has written a new report on how the Chamber of Commerce influences our lives. (photo: file image)

"Bagful of Cash" Report Exposing the US Chamber of Commerce

By Carl Gibson, Reader Supported News

20 July 13


he following is an excerpt from Shut the Chamber's new 28-page report, "Bagful of Cash: How the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Orchestrated a Corporate Takeover of Government." My goal when writing the report was to publish a one-stop-shop for everything relating to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's domination of all institutions of merit, from Congress to the courts, to the election cycles. This report also shows how the U.S. Chamber has invested millions of corporate dollars into opposing all legislation relating to healthcare, financial reform, closing corporate tax loopholes, and climate change. The report also highlights the U.S. Chamber's support of austerity, fracking, the Keystone XL pipeline, and mostly Republican pro-corporate candidates running for Congress. You can read the full report at

Part III: The Corporate Takeover

People seem to listen to you more when you've got a bagful of cash.

- U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Tom Donohue, The New York Times

According to Donohue, the Chamber raises $5 million per week to keep its operations running. Most of this money, however, comes from billion-dollar corporations, not small businesses. The U.S. Chamber has spent $983 million on lobbying since 1998, and has already spent $16 million in 2013 according to the most recent quarterly reports. The most recent bills (see "Bills" tab) opposed by Chamber lobbyists included the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would have secured financial parity between women and men in the workplace, and the Corporate Tax Fairness Act, which would have closed loopholes and exemptions often used by multinational corporations to avoid paying federal taxes on their U.S. profits. While ultimately unsuccessful, the Chamber did attempt to defeat a bill providing federal disaster relief to cities hit by Superstorm Sandy.

Roughly half of the U.S. Chamber's $140 million spent in 2008 came from just 45 anonymous donors. And in 2009, out of the whopping $150 million spent on lobbying, over half of that money came from the American Health Insurance Providers (AHIP), a lobbying group consisting of the top 5 biggest health insurers. The Chamber subsequently flooded airwaves with ads full of misleading statements about the Affordable Care Act, and sent armies of lobbyists to Congress to oppose the bill. Even though health care reform still passed, the Chamber spent $33.8 million attacking supporters of the legislation in those respective congressional districts, leading to a takeover of the U.S. House of Representatives by corporate-funded candidates. The momentum created by the Chamber's furious opposition to the Affordable Care Act essentially created a Chamber-endorsed House majority that has voted to repeal the act nearly 40 times.

The U.S. Chamber brags about consistently ranking #1 in lobbyist spending for several years in the last decade. In 2012, the Chamber spent $139,000,000 on influencing congressional outcomes, as seen in figure 3.3. To compare, the two largest labor unions - the AFL-CIO and the SEIU - spent just under a combined $6 million last year.

The U.S. Chamber also spent considerable sums fighting the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill in 2009/2010, influencing Congress to vote down or neuter the bill, which was aimed at strengthening financial regulations to prevent a crisis similar to the 2008 housing collapse and subsequent bailouts of the nation's biggest banks. The Chamber specifically came out with a laundry list of amendments aimed at removing all regulatory teeth from the bill, such as removing the derivatives regulations outlined in the Volcker Rule, leaving the leadership and budgeting of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to the mercy of a Congress which was largely installed with the help of the Chamber's financial support, and silencing Wall Street whistleblowers, among others. As recently as April 2013, Tom Donohue was on CNBC calling for the repeal of not-yet-written rules imposed on the financial institutions that decimated the world economy.

Dodd-Frank was written in a hurry and it was written in anger. And here we are three years later ... We're already putting extraordinary stress on every kind of financial institution in this country.

- U.S. Chamber President Tom Donohue

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce's most heavily lobbied bill was in 2010, when they threw their full weight behind the Stop Online Piracy Act, or SOPA. The bill would have allowed for global entertainment companies to censor any online content at their discretion. Despite the opposition to the bill on the part of many powerful Silicon Valley tech companies who were members of the U.S. Chamber, the group's lobbyists pushed hard for its passage.

The Chamber's vast lobbying efforts have, at least indirectly, led to the early 2013 explosion at the fertilizer plant in West, Texas, which killed dozens of first responders and leveled the surrounding community. A 2009 bill aimed at strengthening safety standards at chemical and fertilizer plants like the one in West was labeled a "key vote" by the Chamber that year, and the group mobilized on behalf of fertilizer companies to successfully defeat additional safety regulations. The bill was defeated in the House, and wasn't even brought up for a vote in the Senate. The Chamber has never publicly apologized for spending millions to defeat legislation that could have potentially saved the community of West from the explosion. Thanks to the continued support of decreased regulation, the West fertilizer plant has been inspected by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration just once since 1985.

U.S. Chamber CEO Tom Donohue has been one of the most outspoken proponents of austerity, and advocates regularly for the overhaul of Social Security and Medicare to become commoditized programs in which corporations can seize more profit. Tom Donohue's Chamber also backed President George W. Bush's plan to privatize Social Security in 2005. Combining the Chamber's support for Social Security privatization and support for deregulating financial institutions, it isn't hard to imagine a much more dismal scenario in the 2008 financial crisis if Social Security funds had been plundered along with the housing market bubble burst.

The other side of the U.S. Chamber's pro-austerity coin is its vehement defense of corporate tax avoidance. Even though 32 corporations dodged enough federal income taxes to pay for the entire education budget (approximately $72 billion), the Chamber of Commerce successfully lobbied to defeat the Corporate Tax Fairness Act, which would have closed enough tax loopholes to generate approximately $70 billion in additional tax revenue every year. The contribution to federal tax revenues between payroll taxes paid by employees and income tax paid by corporations has flipped. From 1950-1960, corporations paid roughly $1.00 in income taxes to every $0.33 in payroll taxes paid by employees. Today, corporations are only paying approximately $0.07 cents in income tax to every $0.33 in payroll tax paid by employees. Essentially, the Chamber is using the budget gap to demand the gutting of earned benefits like Social Security and Medicare while lobbying to absolve its corporate members of its federal income tax obligations.

Tom Donohue has gone on record supporting the practice of hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, as have many of the Chamber's state affiliates. Despite well-documented risks to community drinking water supplies, the Chamber alleges that fracking provides jobs. While that may be true, the Chamber has lobbied to defeat bills aimed at investing in alternative, renewable energy sources proven to generate far more jobs.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has also used the jobs and domestic energy arguments in its support of the Keystone XL pipeline which would mine tar sands oil in Alberta, Canada, and pipe it 1,700 miles to Port Arthur, Texas. The pipeline's most optimistic predictions only credit it with creating 6,000 jobs over a two-year period, meaning 3,000 temporary jobs each year. And even though oil companies would get rich from the pipeline, none of the oil would actually be used in the U.S. as it has already been marked for export mostly to South American and European markets.

Current Chamber president Tom Donohue is on the board of directors for Union Pacific Railroad, which would be partially responsible for transporting tar sands oil by train to be refined in Texas should the Keystone XL pipeline never be built. Union Pacific has paid Donohue more than $1.1 million since 1998 in retainers, and it has donated over $700,000 to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce since 2004.

Despite repeated warnings from climate scientists like NASA's James Hansen, who said that tar sands oil would mean "game over for the climate," the Chamber has actually gone on record saying that climate change can be mitigated by humans adapting their anatomies to a warmer climate.

Humans have become less susceptible to the effects of heat due to a combination of adaptations, particularly air conditioning. The availability of air conditioning is expected to continue to increase ... Populations can acclimatize to warmer climates via a range of behavioral, physiological and technological adaptations.

- U.S. Chamber of Commerce comment to the EPA

In the John Roberts Supreme Court, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has an overwhelming win rate of 70%, particularly in cases where it has first filed an amicus brief. During the duration of President Obama's first term, the Chamber was undefeated in Supreme Court rulings in which it was invested. The New York Times reported that the nation's highest court hasn't been this accommodating to major corporations since World War II, quietly stacking up small victories for them in a stream of 5-4 decisions.

The Chamber's lawyers successfully got the Supreme Court to make it harder for victims of corporate negligence to sue for damages, whether they are claimants in the BP oil spill or employees of corporations filing class-action lawsuits in cases of abuse. They recently ruled in favor of agribusiness giant Monsanto in a seed patent case against a farmer trying to save his seeds, ruling that Monsanto had the right to claim domain over the farmer's crops, since their genetically-modified seeds had cross-pollinated into the neighboring organic crops on the farmer's plot. Justice Clarence Thomas once worked as a corporate attorney for Monsanto. He did not recuse himself from the decision. He also didn't recuse himself when ruling against the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, despite his wife's having launched a lobbying group opposed to the Affordable Care Act's implementation.

Perhaps the most notable case of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce winning a Supreme Court ruling where an amicus brief was filed was in their support of the Citizens United v. FEC ruling in 2010. The Supreme Court's decision effectively reversed a century's worth of campaign laws, now allowing corporations to spend an unlimited amount of money from their vast treasuries on electioneering purposes. In the 2010 congressional midterm elections, 93% of the Chamber's contributions went to Republican candidates. Of the remaining money spent on 11 Democrat candidates, they were on non-candidate specific ads. The Chamber exclusively funded Republican candidates for the U.S. Senate in 2010. Though they endorsed West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin, they didn't spend any money on his behalf. In the 2012 elections, the Chamber pledged to spend $50 million (but reported $33 million), ranking 8th in total outside money spent. Of the 50 House and Senate races in which the Chamber had spent money to support or oppose candidates, they lost 36 races. Among groups that don't identify their donors, the Chamber ranked second behind the Koch Industries-backed Americans for Prosperity.

Attempts to roll back the effects of Citizens United v. FEC are met with fierce opposition from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. While successfully lobbying to kill the DISCLOSE Act, which would have required groups spending money on elections to reveal their donors, the Chamber called the attempts to regulate corporate dominance of the election cycle an attack on free speech and democracy.

What's most in need of disclosure is the real purpose behind this bill. It's nothing more than a brazen attempt to tilt the playing field in favor of the incumbent party in this fall's elections, silence constitutionally protected speech, and abridge First Amendment rights.

- U.S. Chamber President Tom Donohue

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is also a member of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), an organization that brings together corporate lobbyists with largely Republican state legislators. At annual ALEC retreats, lobbyists and legislators break off into task forces which collaboratively write "model bills" to maximize corporate profit. Model legislation aims to privatize public assets, lower corporate taxes, and repeal environmental regulations and workers' rights. The Chamber is a member of ALEC's Civil Justice Task Force, the Education Task Force, the International Relations Task Force, and the Telecommunications and Information Technology Task Force.

Carl Gibson, 26, is co-founder of US Uncut, a nationwide creative direct-action movement that mobilized tens of thousands of activists against corporate tax avoidance and budget cuts in the months leading up to the Occupy Wall Street movement. Carl and other US Uncut activists are featured in the documentary "We're Not Broke," which premiered at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival. He currently lives in Madison, Wisconsin. You can contact him at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , and follow him on twitter at @uncutCG.

Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News. your social media marketing partner


A note of caution regarding our comment sections:

For months a stream of media reports have warned of coordinated propaganda efforts targeting political websites based in the U.S., particularly in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election.

We too were alarmed at the patterns we were, and still are, seeing. It is clear that the provocateurs are far more savvy, disciplined, and purposeful than anything we have ever experienced before.

It is also clear that we still have elements of the same activity in our article discussion forums at this time.

We have hosted and encouraged reader expression since the turn of the century. The comments of our readers are the most vibrant, best-used interactive feature at Reader Supported News. Accordingly, we are strongly resistant to interrupting those services.

It is, however, important to note that in all likelihood hardened operatives are attempting to shape the dialog our community seeks to engage in.

Adapt and overcome.

Marc Ash
Founder, Reader Supported News

+70 # MainStreetMentor 2013-07-20 15:52
Readers of RSN might want to consider forwarding a link to this article to every City Council Member of their respective city's City Council. They might also consider sending that same link to Chamber of Commerce offices across the width and breadth of the USA.
+26 # wwway 2013-07-21 09:59
The leaders in our own little community know this and choose it. As a result private business is wrecking our community and building a school requires a huge fight.
+19 # tedrey 2013-07-21 12:13
I have just notified the mayor of Ann Arbor, as well as my City Council representatives . May I assume that at least the 39 other who have green-lighted this comment have done likewise?
This is doing SOMETHING.
+18 # tedrey 2013-07-21 12:17
I have also contacted my state representative, who I fully expect to react as we would wish. There are still some good progressives in office.
+1 # unitedwestand 2013-08-12 22:43
What a great idea! I just send this to my Congressman and my two Senators.

Thanks for the idea.

Power to the people and peace.
+82 # michelle 2013-07-20 16:15
Stop consuming if you can.

If you must consume, walk into a store and ask if they are a member of the Chamber of Commerce. If they are---Walk Out.

We can fight the corporations by withholding our dollars.
+34 # Joe Bob 2013-07-21 00:50
I agree, also don't attend C of C Mixers and buy into their business crap.
Chamber of Crooks is more like it.
+26 # kochadoodledoo 2013-07-21 06:38
Think I will have to make some copies of this article to hand to those people who answer "yes."
+34 # kochadoodledoo 2013-07-21 06:41
This has got to be one of THE BEST articles I have ever read. Thank you Carl Gibson for exposing these CROOKS.
+32 # gordontaurus 2013-07-20 22:24
thank you for this extraordinary exposure of a terrifyingly effective corporate fascist. May Donohue live long enough to begin to realize how much damage he has done. While this may be too much to hope for, at least some of us have a growing awareness of our enemies within.
+36 # ganymede 2013-07-20 22:42
The Chamber of Commerce sounds like the same cabal of businesses who installed Adolph Hitler as the German leader.The same greedy, unforgiving, fascist mentality. The rightwing hasn't found their Hitler yet, but it's not for want of trying. Hitler, as we all know, outsmarted these businesspeople, took over Germany and made a good go at destroying Europe. Our wonderful country seems to be on a similar destructive path.
-75 # brycenuc 2013-07-20 22:53
Hooray for the Chamber of Commerce for opposing the criminal conspiracy of climate change
+8 # reiverpacific 2013-07-21 09:54
Quoting brycenuc:
Hooray for the Chamber of Commerce for opposing the criminal conspiracy of climate change

"Full fathom five ----!"
+8 # erogers 2013-07-21 17:00
Quoting brycenuc:
Hooray for the Chamber of Commerce for opposing the criminal conspiracy of climate change

Best thing readers can do with this type of idiot is stop responding. Just give your negative and walk away. Some people just write nonsense to get a response.
+7 # Jiovanna 2013-07-21 19:09
Or to see how many negatives they get! Funny and sad.
+2 # AMLLLLL 2013-07-22 14:51
Don't chicken out; read it.
+27 # Rick Levy 2013-07-20 23:16
I'm disappointed that this "expose" didn't include the C of C's successful efforts against increasing the the minimum wage.
+3 # kochadoodledoo 2013-07-22 05:48
No doubt the entire report did.
+54 # DurangoKid 2013-07-20 23:35
When I started my business, the Chamber of Commerce paid me a visit. The guy showed up with a flag lapel pin and an armload of anti-union, anti-environmen t, propaganda. It took me all of about 10 seconds to send him packing. My main regret was not keeping all the documents he brought with him. Fascism comes with shiny brochures.
0 # unitedwestand 2013-08-12 22:51
Good for you, and thank you for understanding their game and rejecting the CofC lethal chamber game.

The people are many but big business plays so dirty that our heads are spinning from their wrath of evil intent.
+29 # kalpal 2013-07-21 03:48
The rich will always test assured they have the right to screw over anyone who is not rich. They can buy lobbying muscle that will write legislation that protects them and harms the nation because the lobbyists will hand over money to legislators who are willing to hurt America in favor of America's richest.
+37 # CavKChas 2013-07-21 05:28
This article should be HEADLINES in every major newspaper in the country ASAP. The Chamber of Commerce is a tremendous threat to the United States and its people. Such "DOMINATION AND INFLUENCE" should never be allowed, PERIOD.
+14 # tedrey 2013-07-21 11:59
But HOW do you do that? The major newspapers (and other media) have become impervious to accounts that endanger the C. of C. and other corporate vultures. Every day there are articles in RSN that could radically change opinion if the public actually could be able to read them.
+6 # kochadoodledoo 2013-07-22 05:50
Every major newspaper in the country is probably a member of the C of C.
+17 # Douglas Jack 2013-07-21 06:08
Carl G, This is a great article identifying specific points of local action needed to undo the chamber's destruction of 'democracy' (Greek 'power-of-the-p eople'). Popular response is not politics directly, but 'economy' (Gk 'oikos' = 'home') as the real voting ballot for every non-essential dollar & time we spend. Don't be deceived by the other easily manipulated superficial election ballot. If we don't participate in economic investment & ownership of our homes & workplaces, then we are forever at the hierarchy's violent 'beck & call'.

A specific welcome by 1st Nations to colonists upon European invasion is contained in the world's 'indigenous' (Latin 'self-generatin g') & 'Haudenosaunee' (Iroquois 'People of the Extended Home') Great Law of Peace. 1st Nations saw colonist detached isolated homes, loneliness, dominance of men over women, white over black, rich over poor as well as subservience to corporate & colonial masters. During the initial 50 years of invasion, 1st Nations could have wiped us out, but instead fed, clothed, housed, healed & economically welcomed us to join with them.

Indigenous welcome & the Great Law is based on: 1) Proximal Living where female-male & intergeneration al collaboration is easy. Personal & family privacy is essential as are opportunities to interact. 70% of us already live in multihome dwellings. 2) Inclusive Time-based accounting in specialized Production Societies.
+3 # Jiovanna 2013-07-21 19:13
Fantastic! Are you from Canada?
+2 # Douglas Jack 2013-07-22 08:33
Jiovanna, I'm from Kahnawake north (Mohawk 'on-the-rapids' aka LaSalle) Tiohtiake (M. 'Place where the nations & their rivers unite & divide'), 'Kanien'keh' (M. 'Land of the Flint') aka Montreal region.

'Canada' (M. 'Kanata' = 'village') is an example of 1st Nation observations of us as divided refugees living in isolation, fighting nature & the huge gifts which we were ignorant of. 1st Nations responded with welcome to come & join them as well as words they would repeat to try & help us understand that we don't need to be subservient to our bosses & we could thrive in living together.

The fear by European refugee invaders was so unnecessary. Glorification of this period of genocidal invasion by today's education, church & state does not help us understand ourselves today. Many immigrated & respected 1st Nation laws & customs to become half-breeds. If the subservient majority had joined as well, then the war, rape & pillage our corporations & armies still continue to impose around the world would have ended. We would have been able to help our European roots to understand their own trama of Babylonian, Greek & Roman invasions & destruction of the Polyculture Orchards
+21 # Rita Walpole Ague 2013-07-21 06:12
I've renamed the Chamber of Commerce to my now calling them the CHAMBER OF BOMBERS.

Push harder than hard the C of B does, here in the country's super fusion center, Colorado Springs, to put even more of our tax payer funds into endless war and $$$$$$ going to the MITC, a.k.a. the military-indist rial-terrorism complex.

After all, endless war is oh so profitable for the villainaire rulers, and the C of B is all about profit for villainaire rulers. Nothing new.
+16 # dick 2013-07-21 06:13
WE elect the politicians, they appoint or WE elect the judges.
WE patronize their businesses. WE must look in the mirror, change. But WE find it much easier to WHINE. Actively, generously support RSN, EW's reinstatement of Glass Steagall, gutted by Clinton Democrats, leading to CRASH.
+18 # Floridatexan 2013-07-21 08:43
The repeal of Glass-Steagall may have been signed by Clinton, but it was the brainchild of 3 Republicans...P hil Gramm being the ringleader. Clinton shouldn't have signed it, true, but the bill had a veto-proof majority. Idiots.
+12 # Douglas Jack 2013-07-21 07:02
In reading the attached full report, I still give it an excellent score for describing the nature of the beast, but beware, before political comes economic democracy. The C of C Takeover report as do many disempowering reports, describes corporate strengths & citizen weaknesses leaving people in a perpetually subservient position. It's important to describe citizen strengths for participatory ownership by all stakeholders. Humanity's pre-colonial 'indigenous' (Latin 'self-generatin g') heritage was one of universal ownership. India with Gandhi achieved independence through 'Swaraj' (Hindi = 'self-sufficien cy'). The details of citizen capacities must be described for us to go forward with any kind of power over our own lives.
-57 # brycenuc 2013-07-21 07:07
It's good to know that someone is putting some money behind fighting the global warming insanity.
+15 # suzyskier 2013-07-21 13:40
Sure go ahead and bury your head in the sand. How can taking care of the environment be a negative thing?? We should be mindful of our planet at all times whether there is climate change or not. Plundering our resources, yah great idea.
+6 # erogers 2013-07-21 17:01
Quoting brycenuc:
It's good to know that someone is putting some money behind fighting the global warming insanity.

Do not respond just leave a negative. Eventually the idiots will stop.
+22 # Michaeljohn 2013-07-21 07:07
The sad thing is that idiot shills like Donohue, when they eventually leave this world, will still firmly believe everything they spew and wonder why civilization is crumbling around them.
+23 # Kootenay Coyote 2013-07-21 08:36
The missing indictment: the US CofC is a fascist organization propagating rank Fascist philosophy & policy.
+20 # Vardoz 2013-07-21 09:59
Until a half a million get out into the streets and there is national unrest and protests they will not stop. The people have to assert themselves.
+4 # kochadoodledoo 2013-07-22 05:59
Be prepared though: THEY have the big guns.
+19 # Vardoz 2013-07-21 09:10
After they've broken us, impoverished us and crushed everything that would make life viable for the majority, then what? What is the goal here? Is it to suck us dry until we are nothing but slaves for the corporate monster?
+6 # AreYouMadEnoughYet 2013-07-22 03:09
No, I think it is to kill us. Read the Georgia Guide Stones. They want to kill us, actually.
+5 # kochadoodledoo 2013-07-22 06:00
I believe you stated their goal well: to suck us dry until we are nothing but slaves for the corporate monster!
+19 # wwway 2013-07-21 09:48
Democracy is a process that ensures the people get the government they deserve. What better way to create a facist state than to encourage the democratic process to make the choice for facism.
The onus for democracy falls upon "we the people." When "we the people" want to be entertained with false appeal arguments and fuzzy culture war issues they're happy to give up democracy.
So sad!
+7 # kochadoodledoo 2013-07-22 06:02
I think a big problem is that "we the people" just want to be "entertained" period.
+16 # reiverpacific 2013-07-21 09:48
My small business means noithing to the local chapter of the C. of C., mostly -no ENTIRELY, made up of a long-establish country club of " We've got ours -screw you!" types big on realtors, lawyers and their well-heeled relatives.
I joined when I first got to this area and abandoned them during the second year and have had nothing to do with them since. -In fact I like to tweak their pookit' noses every chance I get!
Sounds like they are very model of the national country-club.
+11 # angelfish 2013-07-21 14:57
It should be disbanded and not allowed to form in any OTHER way, shape or form! They are TOXIC to America!
+4 # Walter J Smith 2013-07-22 09:11
Donohue is correct about the heartbeat of the US political corruption: the Democrats & Republicans have an on-going sale on their votes.

The highest bidder wins every vote.

Just look at the bills they pass.

Wall Street wins upwards of 90% of the Congressionally & Presidentially approved cash layout from Uncle Sam.

Uncle Sam's bipartisan majority agrees: nothing for the poor, and only 10% for governing the middle class. The 5% of the population that gets that 90% of Uncle Sam's budget spent on them buys the votes that results in that spending layout.

What is astonishing is that 90% of the middle class voters keep voting for the totally corrupt democrats and republicans.

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