Mother Jones reports that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce likely inflates the number of businesses in its membership. While it touts having 3 million members, the actual number may really be around 200,000.
A review of archived press releases shows that in July 2001, the nation's largest business association reported having 150,000 members. According to Mother Jones, the chamber began exaggerating its membership numbers in February 1997, when its ranks suddenly grew from about 200,000 to a staggering 3 million. The jump coincided with the appointment of current president Tom Donohue.
The United States Chamber of Commerce is comprised of 150,000 companies 2,800 state and local chambers and 850 associations.
Mother Jones reports that the business lobbying group builds up its numbers by including the membership of the 2,800 local chambers. However, the national organization has little relationship with its local chapters.
The chamber clarifies its relationship with its local organizations on its website. It also says that it will not "confirm the membership status organizations," making it particularly difficult to pinpoint the exact number of member businesses.
Because the U.S. Chamber is not a parent organization of other chambers, not all state, metro, or local chambers are members of the U.S. Chamber.