Business Fights Back

His organization under attack by the White House, the president of the Chamber of Commerce stands by his defense of free enterprise.

The Wall Street Journal
October 23, 2009

“One thing I can tell you: They can go out and chase me and chase the Chamber and put stuff in the newspaper. It only . . . drives more and more support. . . . You think we are going to blink because a couple of people are out shooting at us? Tell ’em to put their damn helmets on.”

Them’s fighting words, all the more so when delivered in the feisty, New York accent of U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Tom Donohue. The 71-year-old was recruited 12 years ago in order to revitalize a drifting business lobby. And the gregarious chief hasn’t disappointed: He’s grown the Chamber’s membership, tripled its budget, transformed its lobby shop, and increasingly thrust it into the political fray. Most recently he’s ginned up opposition to union “card check,” the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) plans to regulate carbon emissions, and parts of the proposed financial overhaul.

The Obama administration’s response has been to treat the Chamber like it has Fox News Channel: with brass knuckles. It has launched a campaign to undermine the organization by making CEOs think twice about associating with it. President Obama has openly criticized the Chamber, while adviser Valerie Jarrett has dismissed it as “old school” and acknowledged that the White House is bypassing it to work individually with CEOs.

When several major companies—including Exelon, Apple and Nike—ostentatiously quit the Chamber several weeks ago, provoking a flurry of unflattering headlines, it seemed no coincidence. Mr. Obama’s allies in the unions, the trial bar and green lobbies have targeted the Chamber, some of its members, and Mr. Donohue personally…

…Going after the Chamber is nonetheless a risk. The lobby works with a lot of Congressional Democrats from swing districts. Those pols face tough races next year, and Chamber support can help them raise money and protect against GOP attacks. The White House campaign gives GOP candidates an opening to point out how much Democrats dislike business.

The Obama team has already had one bruising experience with the Chamber’s power over card check, Big Labor’s priority of getting rid of secret ballots in union elections. The Chamber launched a full-scale campaign against the union-backed bill with the Orwellian name, the “Employee Free Choice Act.”

Mr. Donohue is blunt, singling out the SEIU, the Teamsters and other unions: “What they are trying to do is change the rules.” Why? “They want a hell of a lot more members, so they can have a hell of a lot more political influence, so they can change the way this country runs.”…

Read the entire article at WSJ.

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