Most Powerful Groups in the World - The Business Roundtable Part 1

About the history of the organization known as the Business Roundtable a politcal syndicate of corporate America.



The Enterprise: The Business Roundtable is the most commanding political syndicate of corporate America, counting some 200 of the nation's largest firms as members in an unprecedented effort to present a united business front. As the voice of big business, it has proved successful in influencing U.S. economic and legislative policy, both through the executive branch and the legislature. Its power and position increase in direct relation to setbacks in the areas of labor reform, consumer protection, and environmental issues.

History: Although the Roundtable now represents a broad range of business interests, its seeds of origin were planted in the chaos that prevailed in the construction industry in the late 1960s. Skyrocketing labor costs had thrown many of the building trades into disarray. The last straw was the erection of a General Motors plant in Ohio, where lucrative union overtime attracted workers from all over the Midwest, putting a cramp on other contractors in the region. With that culminating factor, the Construction Users Anti-Inflation Roundtable was formed in August, 1969, bringing some of the largest corporations in America into cooperation with building contractors. As the influence of the Users Roundtable grew, its original membership of some 50 firms more than doubled. Then in the early 1970s a loosely knit, informal group of chief executive officers from some major American firms who were concerned over the declining position of the U.S. in the world market began meeting. Calling themselves the March Group, under the chairmanship of General Electric's Fred Borch, they strove to reach a consolidated strategy in areas ranging from taxation to international trade to environmental concerns. Corporate membership among the Users Roundtable and the March Group overlapped with each other as well as with the Labor Law Study Group, an organization of prominent companies that had united to protect business interests against encroaching labor legislation. Foreseeing the need for a coordinated body representing big-business concerns, and encouraged by then Treasury Secretary John Connally, the three groups moved toward a merger and formed the Business Roundtable in late 1972. When the Roundtable held its first annual meeting in June, 1973, it was well on its way to becoming a political powerhouse for corporate America.

Headquartered in New York, with an office in Washington, D.C., the Roundtable holds regular annual meetings each June. It has a small permanent staff of about 20, and the organization's activities are funded through dues, which member firms pay on a sliding scale based on the volume of their sales and worth of the company. A policy committee of 45 members is the principal governing body; it elects a chairman and three co-chairmen. Other members serve on a series of task forces to study a wide variety of issues, including government regulations, taxation, inflation, energy use, national health, employment, antitrust cases, and corporate responsibility. The task forces prepare position papers, which are reviewed by the policy committee, and if approved, are circulated to other members and to the government. Although the Roundtable presents a united front, there is dissension within the group, with particular tensions between oil company members and some of the other firms, such as General Electric. But, overall, the Roundtable holds a powerful lobbying position, strengthened by the sheer number of large corporations it represents.

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