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Chambers and Political Engagement

Chambers of commerce in the US operate almost exclusively as non-profit entities known as 501(c)(6) corporations. Unlike charities, these 501(c)(6) non-profits have the authority under state and federal tax rules to represent their members in public policy debates. They may lobby and take positions on actual or proposed legislation, subject to local, state and federal laws. Chambers may legally endorse candidates for public office and/or ballot propositions (but most do not). The use of general fund revenues for chamber political and lobbying purposes is strictly regulated. The chief executive or another member of the staff is sometimes a state-registered lobbyist. The portion of any member’s dues investment allocated to direct lobbying is not deductible as a business expense.

With another big election season on the horizon, chambers will be considering their positions on issues and candidates, as well as possible actions or positions. Should a chamber of commerce be nonpartisan? How involved can a chamber get in issues potentially affecting its members? Read on to learn how other chambers approach this issue.

ACCE Surveys & Research

Employee Political Activity: Bylaws and Policies

Several chambers include provisions in their bylaws or employee handbooks regarding employee involvement in politics, such as campaigning for candidates or running for elected office themselves.

Candidate Forums

See all samples related to Candidate Forums (includes invitations and guidelines).

Endorsements of Candidates or Issues

See all samples related to Endorsements.

Event Contracts & Policies

Chambers are also working out the issue of whether to allow political materials or campaign activities at chamber-sponsored events. Do chambers have the right to tell a venue host to remove political signage?

Articles & Online Resources

Presentations

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Last Updated: 2/9/2017

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