BEND, OR -- Bend Mayor Jim Clinton had harsh words about the Chamber of Commerce, last week. He convinced a majority of the Council to discontinue the city's membership in the Chamber over its increasing political activity. Clinton argued they shouldn't pay dues to a group that sometimes works against them. He insinuated the Chamber's political action committee (PAC) isn't separated enough from the main non-profit organization, even implying it could be breaking the law.
Chamber Board President Brian Fratzke refutes those claims. "We are a 501(c)(6), not a 501(c)(3). A 501(c)(6) is a non-profit mutual benefit corporation in Oregon, and it's a business league under IRS rules. It means the Chamber is organized for the benefit of its defined membership." He tells KBND News, "We are one of the few Chambers in the state of Oregon that receives no governmental funding and I do want to say we're very proud of that."
Fratzke acknowledges the Chamber's mission statement, and that of its political arm, recently changed. "The PAC's single objective is to make certain it supports intelligent thinkers that are focused on supporting business in Bend; that is their single mission statement. Where as the Chamber has a responsibility for providing the resources and the opportunities for its members' success, for quality of life, engagement and meaningful impact. And, the vision is really to gather, equip and mobilize our business community."
Some Councilors took issue with a scorecard recently published in the Bend Business Journal, rating each Councilor's vote on business-related issues. Fratzke says it was the first time for the scorecard and says the PAC plans to continue the rating system.