Organizations on the political left have begun pushing back against an exposed campaign by one of Washington’s most powerful pro-business lobbies that aimed to sabotage its political opponents.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s law firm, Hunton & Williams, conspired with three private security firms HBGary Federal, Berico Technologies, and Palantir Technologies–to create a multimillion dollar intelligence operation to destroy opposition groups, including unions and other organizations, according to a recent report by ThinkProgress.
The plan reportedly was exposed after Hunton & Williams brought in the three firms to target the Anonymous Network, which had been supporting the WikiLeaks organization which has been releasing U.S. diplomatic cables and other classified military documents.
Aaron Barr, the CEO of HBGary, bragged in a February 5 article that he was going to take down Anonymous. Anonymous responded by shutting down HBGary’s web presence and extracting more than 76,000 emails from HBGary’s servers. Those emails disclosed not only the planned attack on Anonymous, but also the planned attack on the Chamber opposition organizations, which involved covert infiltration, planting false documents, spreading disinformation, spying operations, cyberstalking, defamation, and harassment, according to StopTheChamber, an organzation which opposes the Chamber’s political advocacy.
The U.S. Chamber has opposed much of the reform agenda put forward in the last two years by President Obama and congressional Democrats, and spent tens of millions of dollars in attack ads in the 2010 midterm elections designed to defeat Democrats.
More than 60 congressional Democrats were defeated in those elections, which helped swing the House of Representatives to GOP control.
“The operation planned by Chamber lawyers and private security firms with close ties to the military and intelligence community involved methods developed for use against foreign terrorist groups and rogue countries that pose a threat to our national security,” says StopTheChamber lawyer and spokesman, Kevin Zeese. “It is breathtaking that that these tactics were being used domestically against reporters, unions and non-profit organizations engaged in legally protected First Amendment activity. The plans even targeted family members, including children. These are the tactics we hear about in countries run by dictators and condemned by our own government. Yet, the plans had already been implemented and, but for the fortuitous intervention of Anonymous, they would have moved into Phases Two and Three with millions of dollars in funding provided, according to the disclosed documents, by Hunton & Williams on behalf of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. This is outrageous. We are calling for immediate hearings by Members of both the House and Senate, and for the appointment of an independent prosecutor to investigate and prosecute those involved with this abhorrent, unconstitutional conduct.”
The head of the Teamsters labor union is calling for local chambers of commerce to disassociate themselves from the U.S. Chamber as a result of the reported secret smear campaign.
“The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is dominated by multinational corporations that want to send more U.S. jobs overseas and destabilize working families by forcing down wages,” Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa says. “It revealed its true anti-worker agenda when it decided to pay for spies and smear campaigns against groups willing to stand up to the big corporations.
“I’m calling on state and local chambers of commerce to break from the U.S. Chamber if they haven’t already,” Hoffa says. “That way they can show they’re truly committed to creating jobs and protecting middle-class families.”
The publisher of the news site On The Hill, Scott Nance has covered Congress and the federal government for more than a decade.