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Several Key Officials Leave U.S. Chamber of Commerce as Lobbying Group Faces GOP Criticism

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  • Several key officials have left the U.S. Chamber of Commerce as the nation's biggest business lobbying group shifts its priorities and changes its leadership.
  • At least four of the Chamber's key leaders left in recent months as Republicans criticize the group for backing some Democrats.
  • The group's former top tax lobbyist joined a lobbying shop that focuses specifically on tax legislation.

Several key officials have left the U.S. Chamber of Commerce as the nation's biggest business lobbying group shifts its priorities and changes its leadership during the administration of President Joe Biden.

At least four of the group's key leaders left in recent months.

The former Chamber executives who have recently departed either declined to comment or did not return requests for comment to CNBC.

A Chamber spokesman would not comment on why the leaders mentioned in this story chose to leave.

"While the Chamber doesn't comment on specific personnel, we are proud of our talented staff, our record low turnover, and recent new hires," the spokesman said. "Our employees are crucial to serving our members and our mission to create jobs and stimulate economic growth."

He noted that the group recently hired former House of Representatives parliamentarian Tom Wickham as senior vice president for state and local policy; Kasper Zeuthen, who led communications strategy on trade and other policy matters at the European Union delegation to the United States, as a vice president; and Denise Osei, from marketing outfit Destination DC, as the group's social media strategist.

Still, the timing of the departures coincides with increased Republican criticism of the Chamber as it backs more Democratic lawmakers.

The changes also come as the new CEO, Suzanne Clark, takes over for Tom Donohue, who led the organization since the late 1990s. The Chamber also recently lost Charles Schwab as one of its corporate members.

Caroline Harris, a leading tax lobbyist for the Chamber, left the group this month, according to her LinkedIn page. She had been at the Chamber for over a decade, her page says.

A person with direct knowledge of the matter, who declined to be named in order to speak freely, told CNBC that Harris is joining Capitol Tax Partners, a lobbying shop that focuses on tax legislation. The firm touts that it has worked on every tax bill that has become law over the last 30 years, including former President Donald Trump's tax reform bill.

The firm was paid nearly $12 million in 2020 for its lobbying work, for clients such as Apple, FedEx, Amazon, Citadel, Goldman Sachs and the American Investment Council, according to data from the nonpartisan Center for Responsive politics.

The managing partner at Capitol Tax Partners did not respond to requests for comment.

Another recent departure is Christina Atchley Lotspike. She was a head lobbyist focusing on technology and transportation infrastructure, which is a key priority for the Biden administration. The president is seeking to raise the corporate tax rate to help pay for his $2 trillion infrastructure proposal.

Atchley's LinkedIn page says she left the Chamber this month after more than seven years with the group. She is now a lobbyist at grocery shopping app Instacart.

Rob Schroder left the Chamber at the start of 2021, according to his LinkedIn page. He was a senior vice president of international affairs. He had also been at the Chamber more than seven years, according to his LinkedIn page.

Stan Harrell, who had been the Chamber's chief financial officer, no longer holds that title, according to the group's website. Instead, it lists him as a former senior vice president and CFO.

The most recent 990 tax form for the group's foundation from 2019, lists Harrell as the CFO. The form shows that Harrell signed and dated the 990 document in November 2020 as the CFO. His LinkedIn page says he's been at the Chamber for more than 20 years. The Chamber spokesman did not say who is in line to be its next CFO.

These moves mark the latest departures from the Chamber of Commerce.

Scott Reed, a former senior political strategist at the Chamber, told CNBC last year that he resigned due to the "leftward movement and constant Trump bashing of the Chamber." The group claimed it fired Reed.

The departures also come as companies face pushback from GOP leaders for opposing Georgia's new voting law and similar measures being crafted in other states. Critics have said these laws would curb voting access for minorities.

While some of the Chamber's members have been vocal about their opposition to these laws, the organization itself has taken a more direct stand against the Democratic-backed For the People Act, which aims to bolster voting access.

The group's letter opposing the bill indicates that it is against most of the voting legislation being debated across the nation.

"The Chamber is deeply troubled by efforts at the state and federal level to enact election law changes on a partisan basis," it said.

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