The U.S. Chamber of Commerce reviewed cell phone records and ended a contract with a top consultant after the Wall Street Journal detailed the pricey perks enjoyed by chief executive Tom Donohue and reported that the business lobby group had lost influence in recent years, according to four people familiar with the matter.
In mid-May, the Chamber ended its contract with Tom Collamore, who was the Chamber’s longtime communications chief and more recently a consultant with an office in the organization’s building near the White House, these people said.
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The lobby group canceled Collamore’s contract after checking his cell phone records and determining that he had spoken to a Wall Street Journal reporter, according to the sources, who were briefed on the situation. The contract had been due to expire at the end of the year.
One of the people said that during a phone call with Chamber lawyers about his contract termination, Collamore was not formally accused of leaking Donohue’s calendar, which was referenced in the Journal stories, to the newspaper. He told POLITICO that he did not do so.
“I’m not interested in commenting on this story, but any characterization suggesting I would share confidential information is patently false,” Collamore said in a written statement.
The Chamber did not dispute that Collamore’s contract was terminated or that it came after a review of cell phone records, but the group would not comment on the situation further.
“The release of internal information and schedules raised concerns, as it would in any organization,” spokesman Eric Wohlschlegel said. “There was no investigation. We quickly resolved the matter as the source was easy to discern. The Chamber never comments on specific personnel matters out of respect for our current and former employees and their privacy.”
Brody Mullins, who was the lead reporter of the Journal stories, declined to comment. A Journal spokesman also declined to comment, saying the publication does not discuss sourcing.
The Journal published two stories recently that set Washington buzzing about one of its best-known lobbying groups. The first, which detailed tensions with the Trump administration over trade and other issues, also noted that Donohue was the highest-paid leader of any Washington trade group and said he used the Chamber’s private jet service to fly to his Florida home on weekends, citing his calendar. The Chamber told the Journal that Donohue either reimbursed it or claimed such perks as income.
A subsequent story said Donohue went to Greece last month with his girlfriend and another couple on a Chamber-funded private jet flight, followed by stops in China and Japan for business meetings. The full trip cost at least $600,000, according to estimates that the Journal gathered.
The Chamber announced shortly before the second story published that Donohue, who is 80 years old, would be retiring in three years. Suzanne Clark, who was previously the Chamber’s senior executive vice president, was promoted as president of the organization, and the Chamber said it will embark on a “global search” for its next CEO in 2022.
A person aligned with the Chamber said that only a few people had access to Donohue’s schedule. Chamber officials looked at cell phone records for Collamore, whose phone was paid for by the Chamber, and determined that he had spoken to the Journal, according to a person familiar with the matter.
Collamore — who last year founded Collamore Consulting Group, which advises corporate, nonprofit and association executives on strategic initiatives and communications — worked full-time for the Chamber for 11 years and had been friends with Donohue for much longer. He had spoken to Mullins several times, according to a person familiar with the matter, but he tried to give Mullins information that would be favorable to the Chamber.
One of the people familiar with the matter, who is close to Collamore, said he had stopped receiving Donohue’s schedule in December, so he did not have the details of the Greece trip that were published in the Journal.
One Chamber official spoke to Donohue recently and told POLITICO that Donohue told the official he did not think Collamore was the source of the calendar leak.
Chamber spokesman Wohlschlegel said Donohue “stands behind all personnel and contract decisions.”