Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Chamber of Commerce Political Donations

A recent release touting the benefits of being a member of the Peoria Area Chamber of Commerce shows that the political action arm of the Chamber called the PAC gave candidates a total of $40,000.00 for the years 2004 and 2005. The election records show that almost $20,000.00 was given to David Ransburg, Marcella Teplitz and Gale Thetford. All three lost by substantial margins. In other recent elections only two PAC financially supported candidates, Tim Riggenbach and Dale Risinger were elected, and the other four lost. Two out of nine is not a good record. As I’ve said in previous blogs that the Chamber works out of what we called when I was in business, “ivory towers” and does not have the pulse or represent the grassroots of this community. Nor do I believe they represent a majority of the more than 1200 members of the C. of C. In one blatant error the PAC endorsed Phil Morgan over Mike Mason. Problem was Mason wasn’t running. The person running, Pat Hidden won over Morgan in a landslide. The Chamber resembles more of an entrenched government bureaucracy. They went against the public referendum that opposed the buying the water company and threw their support to the PAAG group that wanted the City Council to buy. Chalk up another loss and failure to accept the opinions of the overwhelming majority.

There are some good people on the Chamber Board and Committees. Unfortunately the chamber appears to be in the “this is the way we have always done business mode.”

I’ve called for changes in some of the leadership of this community and some have happened. The Chamber needs some changes in leadership. That can only happen if outsider Chamber members decide to become more involved. In Peoria, well known for its “good old boys and girls clubs” that is probably not going to happen. The voter made it happen in recent elections and will probably vote for more changes as property taxes and other taxes continue to rise in this community. Unfortunately Chamber members are not elected by the community.

The Peoria County Board voted to drop their membership in the Peoria Area Chamber of Commerce despite the fact that 12 of the voting members of the County Board represent districts within the Peoria City limits. There has been no interest in rejoining. The Peoria County Board did vote to contribute $50,000.00 to the Economic Development Council which is under the Heartland Partnership as is the Chamber.

For more information on the Chamber, refer to my previous blogs.


Anonymous said...

Amen - The Chamber needs some different perspectives and new blood.

Anonymous said...

While there is little doubt that Chamber supported candidates have lost, doesn't the organization still have the "right" and obligation to support whomever it believes will best serve the business community? I'm not so naive to think that "cronyism" doesn't exist, but there’s nothing wrong about supporting your friends who, ostensibly, would support the cause of business. Like it or not, quid pro quo is basic human nature. It shouldn't (and can’t) be outlawed – it’s just part of reality. And part of that reality is that if a candidate is so “bought out” by a benefactor, voters will, I would hope, figure that into the mix as they consider their candidate. Alas, most people don’t vote and most voters seldom consider candidates as thoughtfully as they should – but that’s another discussion…

I agree that the track records is less than stellar, but I think the Chamber "believes" they supported the right people, if not winnable candidates. The bigger challenge that the Chamber faces is how they get behind their candidates with something more than money...how to help them actually win (which is always something more than money).