JONATHAN CHAIT DECEMBER 7, 2010
Jeanne Cummings has a really interesting story about local Chambers of Commerce chafing at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's staunch pro-Republican agenda:
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is under fire from some local chambers over its hard-hitting $75 million ad campaign to elect a Republican House, with dozens of hometown groups distancing themselves from the effort and a handful even quitting the national group in protest.
“We were getting pounded. We felt here, in Central Pennsylvania, that the ads they were running were not professional ads,” said David Wise, president of the Chamber of Business and Industry of Centre County, which is considering dropping its national membership. “This was not a unifying event. It was divisive.”
More than 40 local chambers issued statements during the midterms distancing themselves from the U.S. Chamber’s campaign — including nearly every major local Chamber in Iowa and New Hampshire, key states in the presidential campaign.
Other chambers plan to take the extraordinary step of ending their affiliation with the U.S. Chamber, including The Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has been walking a bit of a tightrope. Its lobbying clout derives in large part from the perception that it's simply the national equivalent of the local Chamber of Commerce -- which is to say, the most appealing image of small, practical, non-ideological business. But the Washington organization is primarily run by professional Republicans, and it operates mainly as an arm of the party.
Some businesses withdrew from the Chamber last year in protest of its recalcitrant opposition to any bill to mitigate climate change. (It's not as if unchecked carbon emissions are good for business.) How long the Chamber can continue walking the tightrope of using the credibility of local Chambers of Commerce to leverage a hard right agenda is an interesting question.