How Google and Amazon bankrolled a ‘grassroots’ activist group of small business owners to lobby against Big Tech oversight

CNBC:

Clay Montgomery owns a small blacksmith shop called “Arrow M Enterprises” outside of Mingus, Texas, where he manufactures hand-forged metal works and grilling tools. He also sells a spicy barbeque sauce and a meat rub called “Bite My Butt.”

In recent years, Montgomery’s blacksmith shop has been listed as a member of a Washington, D.C.-based trade group called the “Connected Commerce Council” that claims to lobby on behalf of small businesses. On its website, the council describes itself as a non-profit membership organization with a single goal: “to promote small businesses’ access to essential digital technologies and tools.”

The group, which campaigns against aggressive regulation of big tech companies, also says it wants to ensure “policymakers understand the essential intersection of technology and small business,” according to its website.

But there’s just one problem: Montgomery says he’s not a member and, in fact, has never heard of the Connected Commerce Council. The blacksmith told CNBC he would never join a tech lobbying group in Washington. “Technology is not exactly my forte,” he said.

Montgomery isn’t the only small business owner bewildered to find their names listed as a member of the Connected Commerce Council, which also goes by “3C.” More than 20 other “members” contacted by CNBC said they similarly had never heard of the council and did not know why they were on their membership list.

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