Local Chamber’s participation changes


The Salem Area Chamber of Commerce, formerly a major investor in local elections, is no longer an official participant at all.

The Chamber, which has more than1,000 members, many of them small businesses, has the goal of supporting policies that result in economic growth and middle-class jobs.

In the 2014, 2015 and 2016 local elections the Chamber and its political action committees, the Create Jobs PAC and Build Jobs PAC – both entities legally distinct from the Chamber – donated heavily. Although the entities were not strictly aligned with the Chamber’s endorsements, contributions showed a strong philosophical association.

In 2014 the Create Jobs Pac spent $18,641 backing four city council candidates. At the time it was by far the largest investment by any political action committee in Salem. That year candidate Daniel Benjamin, running for City Council in Ward 6, received more than 46% of his financing from the PAC.

In 2015, the Create Jobs PAC spent more than $250,000 to help defeat the transit measure that proposed to tax local business’ payroll to fund late-night and weekend bus service.

The year 2015 saw a creation of a new PAC associated with the Chamber, the Build Jobs PAC, which the Chamber at the time said was intended to handle miscellaneous elections while the “Create” PAC was meant to fund measures.

Spring of 2016 saw the Build Jobs PAC fund the races of three City Council candidates, only one of whom, current Mayor Chuck Bennett, won at the ballot box. Later in the year, the Create Jobs PAC opposed Measure 97, the business tax increase that failed, and in 2017 it supported the Salem bond measure for the new police facility, a measure that won handily.

There has been relatively little political movement from the PACS since then. In 2018, the Create Jobs PAC has only paid its insurance. The Build Jobs PAC, whose website has news from 2016 and nothing since, paid $2,500 to the lobbying group, Public Affairs Council, which does not appear to have invested in the local city council election.

The Chamber published a position advocating against the Cap-and-Trade legislative proposal in the 2018 Short Session of the Oregon Legislature. While saying that it and its members recognized “the importance of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and being good stewards of the environment,” the Chamber was concerned about the additional energy costs Oregon families might face with no guarantee the program would reduce greenhouse emissions.

Chamber members continue to participate in local politics through individual donations to candidates and advocacy in the legislature.