By Paul Gable
Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce CEO Karen Riordan was considerably less than forthright when she described the affiliation between the Chamber and the Grand Strand Business Alliance to county council last week.
Riordan told council, “When people send in their membership dues, they elect if they would like to take 18% of their membership dues and voluntarily have that contributed to the GSBA.”
Riordan added, “The GSBA is a separate organization but it is affiliated with the Chamber and it’s voluntary for businesses to contribute that money (18% of Chamber membership dues to the GSBA.)”
Actually, there is nothing voluntary about the 18% contribution. A statement on the Chamber billing document for member dues states, “The Grand Strand Business Alliance (GSBA) which advocates for business through legal and political policies and practices throughout the Grand Strand will receive 18% of the dues collected.”
It’s the Chamber that elects to give 18% of the membership dues to the GSBA, not the enrolling member. There is an opt out provision which requires any member business, not desiring to have 18% of their dues sent to the GSBA, to call the Chamber and specifically invoke the opt out provision. The statement goes on to say opting out of having 18% sent to the GSBA does not lower the dues billed.
The statement goes on to say Chamber members “will receive correspondence from the GSBA regarding contributing to a Political Action Committee (PAC) to help support legislators who work to promote the critical interests and funding the Grand Strand.”
Not only does the Chamber send 18% of membership dues to the GSBA, unless individual members specifically tell it not to, but it urges members not only not to opt out but also to contribute further to the GSBA.
Riordan told county council members “the Chamber does absolutely no political work.” I submit just the opposite is true as the Chamber’s own invoices urge contributions to a specific politically active organization (GSBA) and the PACs it uses to support legislators under the influence of the GSBA and Chamber.
Riordan did correctly say the money that goes to the GSBA is not part of the public funding the Chamber receives each year. However, I contend that amount of public money ($51 million in 2020) allows the Chamber to collect more private money than it otherwise would without the public funding.
Why did Riordan attempt such subterfuge in her comments to county council when it is easily proven what the Chamber is actually doing to fund the GSBA?
Does the Chamber believe the voters are so ill-informed that they will not discover what the Chamber is actually doing?
Is the Chamber worried admitting its funding ties to the GSBA will cost them public funding in the future?
The citizenry is becoming increasingly dissatisfied with a Chamber that works in the interests of the large hoteliers and restaurateurs and the politicians who work in their interests only.
Picture of Chamber statement: