Overview

A memo written for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in 1971 by Richmond, Va. lawyer Lewis F. Powell Jr. triggered a dramatic increase in political activity among corporate leaders, one that persists today.

Powell, later a Supreme Court justice, urged business leaders to pool their economic and intellectual resources to secure passage of pro-business public policies.

The resulting explosion in lobbying and political spending triggered the growth of lobbying groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and a variety of political action organizations.

There were 89 corporate political action committees in 1975 and just under 2,600 last year; in just the second quarter of 2013, according to the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics, business interests spent more than $700 million on lobbying in Washington, compared to $12 million for organized labor.

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