Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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December 7, 2010

U.S. CHAMBER OF COMMERCE HAS ITS OWN BASE PROBLEMS.... I haven't seen any polling on this, but if I had to guess, I suspect most Americans have a certain mental impression when they think of the "Chamber of Commerce." The image is one of a local group of businesses which play a positive role in the community.

But as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce at the national level becomes more of a hardball political operation, focused heavily on being a partisan ally to the Republican Party, that creates a problem for local folks who organize under a similar name.

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 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 for 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 in Pennsylvania. Its leaders reported being inundated with angry -- and sometimes profanity-laced -- telephone calls from people objecting to the U.S. Chamber-backed ads.

The next question is probably what the national Chamber intends to do about this, if anything. The national entity actually finds itself in something of a bind -- if the U.S. Chamber of Commerce remains a GOP attack dog, it'll keep losing local members. If it moderates, it's likely to lose large, deep-pocketed members that ultimately keep the Chamber flush with cash.

Something to keep an eye on.

Steve Benen 3:40 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (12)

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["The next question is probably what the national Chamber intends to do about this, if anything. The national entity actually finds itself in something of a bind -- if the U.S. Chamber of Commerce remains a GOP attack dog, it'll keep losing local members. If it moderates, it's likely to lose large, deep-pocketed members that ultimately keep the Chamber flush with cash."]

That's your question? Here's the answer: they'll go with the cash. With right-wingers like them, that's always the answer.

Posted by: Shade Tail on December 7, 2010 at 3:43 PM | PERMALINK

Of course it is about the cash. Any Democrat with a brain should be trying to de-legitimize the national Chamber. That is, undermine support by local chambers, raising the profile of alternative business groups, and refusing to publicly meet with their leaders.

This means that Obama will go to the Chamber in January and pay fealty.

Posted by: square1 on December 7, 2010 at 3:49 PM | PERMALINK

This is exactly why I left my COC. Part of my membership dues went straight to the USCOC, which resulted on my comapny's name being on their roster and us recieving mailings from them. I requested not to be part of the USCOC and they said it was impossible. When asked if they were planning to continue their realtionship with such a partisan organization they simply said "yes". This is one of the largest COC's in the southeast, btw.

Obviously I removed the company from the COC. They didn't do much for us anyhow, as we weren't part of the "old boy" network, which is how business gets done in the south. If you dont go the right fundraisers and join the right private clubs you can forget getting the big referrals. The COC's sponsored events are just a way of buying yourself into the club- if you are prepared to sponser big enough (read expensive enough) events to draw the "old boys".

This COC might as well be an arm of the local GOP. But thats how business gets done in the south.

Posted by: Kevin on December 7, 2010 at 3:51 PM | PERMALINK

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is not an economically productive part of our nation's above-board economy!

It is a vampire of the most laissez-faire type!

If the Chamber had its way, government wouldn't even be able to fill the pot holes in your neighborhood street! All those car repairs would be yours for driving on an unsafe road in the first place - or so goes the argument from the anti-societal entity known as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce! -Kevo

Posted by: kevo on December 7, 2010 at 3:55 PM | PERMALINK

Correction: it NOT the U.S. Chamber anymore...it is the Global Chamber of Commerce.

Posted by: Evergreen2U on December 7, 2010 at 3:58 PM | PERMALINK

I imagine that the US Chamber gets a small portion of their funding from the locals. Probably nothing more than Kevin's predicament; a relationship like my bank has with all the companies that therefore are allowed to mail me junk. Sooo, business as usual for them.

Posted by: ComradeAnon on December 7, 2010 at 4:13 PM | PERMALINK

"If you dont go the right fundraisers and join the right private clubs you can forget getting the big referrals. The COC's sponsored events are just a way of buying yourself into the club- if you are prepared to sponser big enough (read expensive enough) events to draw the "old boys".

This COC might as well be an arm of the local GOP. But thats how business gets done in the south."

You should see how things are done up here north of the Mason-Dixon. Rep. Frank can tell you quite a bit.

Posted by: 1st Class on December 7, 2010 at 4:24 PM | PERMALINK

The national and local Chambers have very different constituencies and interests. The national tends to reflect the priorities of big business. Local Chambers are largely made up of authentic small businesses. A lot of these folks are Republicans, to be sure. But there are quite a few issues where the interests of small and large business are directly opposed.

Not to mention that local businesspeople actually have to be responsive to their customers, instead of maintaining massive anonymous call centers.

Posted by: jvwalt on December 7, 2010 at 5:04 PM | PERMALINK

The Chamber will side with the big money, wherever it is. I suspect that's with the large national donors and not with local Chambers.


Posted by: Bob on December 7, 2010 at 5:19 PM | PERMALINK

The next question is probably what the national Chamber intends to do about this, if anything.

Why, they'll copyright the word "chamber"---and sue anyone who uses it into the stone age.

Movin' on now....

Posted by: S. Waybright on December 7, 2010 at 6:57 PM | PERMALINK

This is the same Chamber that funds its political attack campaign out of its general account, which solicits foreign funding. It's so wonderful to know that good ol' American votes are being bought, and K Street's palms are being greased, by oil money from Bahrain and who knows where else.

The chamber practices the principle of one oil minister, one vote.

Posted by: pj in jesusland on December 7, 2010 at 7:26 PM | PERMALINK

Sounds like a ripe opportunity for some center-left folks to create a new competitor to the Chamber. Or do we just sit around and complain? Hello? Anyone on the left got the nuts and talent to actually do something more than stand on street corners with a clipboard harassing passerbys for donations? How about providing a center-left business organization to challenge the Chamber? You could get a lot of BIG members really fast, if you can convince them you are a grown up.

Posted by: Jon on December 7, 2010 at 11:32 PM | PERMALINK
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