Most Powerful Groups in the World - The Business Roundtable Part 2

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



Exploits: Again and again in the late 1970s, the Roundtable demonstrated its deftness in guiding public policy-through lobbying Congress, advising the president, and initiating legislation. Its predecessor, the Users Roundtable, was successful in eroding much of the power of the building trades unions in many parts of the country, with a growth in dollar volume and industrial percentage of nonunion construction throughout the 1970s. One of Business Roundtable's undertakings has been a public-relations campaign to tell its side of the story concerning the American economy. The Roundtable has supported efforts through the Joint Council on Economic Education to promote the teaching of economics from the kindergarten level on up. The Roundtable has also attempted to make greater use of the press to foster pro-business sentiment and has sponsored a series of articles in the Reader's Digest on the virtues of free enterprise and high worker productivity and the evils of inflation.

The Roundtable commands a flank of skilled lobbyists and has succeeded in undoing the Labor Law Reform bill, rewording one of the federal clean-air acts, and bottling up antitrust bills. In 1978 it attacked a Consumer Protection Agency bill and succeeded in defeating the legislation, thereby virtually emasculating the agency. In addition to backing various tax bills before Congress, such as President Carter's proposal to reduce corporate taxes, Roundtable representatives helped design Carter's first tax program, blocked attempts to audit the Federal Reserve, and promoted the deregulation of natural gas prices. Its task forces produce studies on such topics as how much federal regulations cost companies each year, using the studies to back up their viewpoints. In an effort to make it easier for businessmen to accept appointments to federal regulatory agencies such as the Interstate Commerce Commission, the Roundtable completed a study providing recommendations dealing with conflict-of-interest problems that make industrial leaders leery of taking regulatory jobs. Other areas in which the Roundtable pursues an active interest include investment tax credits and the acceleration of industrial plant depreciation schedules. So far, it has shied away from formulating major policy recommendations on divisive issues like trade with Communist bloc countries and national defense spending.

Famous Members: The Business Roundtable brings together representatives from nearly every area of industry and business imaginable. Well-known corporate executives such as William M. Agee of the Bendix Corporation, George P. Shultz of Bechtel, and A. W. Clausen of BankAmerica serve on its policy committee. So does Donald Regan, secretary of the treasury in the Reagan administration. Almost every major oil company belongs, with Standard Oil, Exxon, Texaco, Atlantic Richfield, Gulf Oil, and Shell leading the pack, Heavy industries like U.S. Steel, Bethlehem Steel, the Boeing Co., and the Caterpillar Tractor Corp. are represented. The membership role includes manufacturing conglomerates like Johnson & Johnson, and Procter & Gamble; financial institutions such as Citicorp and J.P. Morgan and Co.; and utilities such as AT&T and Pacific Gas & Electric Co. A large number of food manufacturers belong to the Roundtable, including General Foods, General Mills, Coca-Cola Co., Campbell Soup Co., Kraft, Inc., and Nabisco Co. Department store chains such as Macy's, J.C. Penney, and Sears, Roebuck and Co. are members, as are a miscellany of insurance companies such as Metropolitan Life and Prudential. General Motors and Ford Motor Co. belong, as do Trans World Airlines and Eastern Airlines. Chemical and pharmaceutical companies abound, including Dow Chemical, Allied Chemical Corp., Du Pont, and Eli Lilly & Co.

How Much Power: The Roundtable's activities intrude on almost every aspect of daily life. It seeks to undo regulations regarding safety on the job, clean air standards, and consumer protection-in order to benefit the corporate structure. As Thomas Ferguson and Joel Rogers wrote in The Nation, "[The Roundtable] is more powerful than the small-enterprise-dominated National Association of Manufacturers and U.S. Chamber of Commerce, more visible and broadly active than the Business Council, more capable of mounting a far-reaching program of Big Business demands than any of the flourishing single-issue groups."

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