CHC members criticize Chamber of Commerce

Hispanic House members, who have been embroiled in a controversy over the future of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) for much of this year, directed their anger yesterday at a new target: the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
“I care deeply when the success of Hispanic businesses like the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce is threatened,” Rep. Joe Baca (D-Calif.) said to a packed briefing yesterday in the Rayburn House Office Building.  “They create hope and opportunity, ¿qué no?”

Baca, the chairman of the CHC, spoke on behalf of the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, which filed a trademark application to protect its logos and trademarks in 2001. In 2002, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce filed an objection to the trademark application, claiming that the Hispanic chamber’s application creates “confusion” in the marketplace. 

“This can only mean one thing,” Hispanic chamber Chairman David Lizarraga said. “The U.S. Chamber of Commerce intends to launch a target against Hispanic businesses.”

No other business or ethnic group using the words “Chamber of Commerce” has been targeted, said Frank Lopez, president and CEO of the Hispanic chamber. 

Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.), also a member of the CHC, attributed the trademark challenge to the U.S. Chamber’s fear of Hispanic businesses.

 “I say to the U.S. Chamber of Congress: Thank you very much for publicizing the strength and value of the Hispanic chamber,” Becerra said. “You’re a victim of your own success.”

Resident Commissioner Luis Fortuño (R-Puerto Rico) agreed.

“Almost 2 million businesses in the United States are owned by Hispanics,” he said. “The only way to get ahead is to work hard, and that’s what the U.S. Hispanic chamber stands for.”

Becerra issued a challenge to Thomas Donohue, the president of the U.S. Chamber, which was met with rousing applause.

“Thank you, Tom. Thank you, U.S. Chamber of Commerce,” he said. “Because if you think you can make this a fight, you haven’t seen all the soldiers we have.”

Steven Law, general counsel and chief legal officer of the U.S. Chamber, seemed mystified by the very public battle being waged by the Hispanic chamber. 

“We’ve tried to reach a friendly and mutually beneficial agreement for some time now,” he said. “All we’re saying is they can’t register the name. Call them up and tell them we’ll settle this now for $1.”