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Chamber of Commerce seeks to dominate Republican politics

Cochran is supported by the Chamber of Commerce
Cochran is supported by the Chamber of Commerce
Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

The United States Chamber of Commerce has been traditionally viewed as the lobbyists in Washington for Big Business. Now they are increasing getting involved in politics, taking sides on behalf of establishment-supported Republican candidates, and using their extensive financial resources to win most of their battles. In the battle between Senator Thad Cochran and Chris McDaniel for the Republican nomination for senate in Mississippi, after Cochran has failed to get 50 percent to avoid a runoff, and the Karl Rove-backed American Crossroads had announced it was pulling out of the race after supporting Cochran, the Chambers of Commerce maintained it's strong support for Cochran.

A conservative candidates supported by TEA party groups and a variety of free market-oriented groups like The Club for Growth and Freedomworks challenge more progressive establishment Republicans, the Chamber of Commerce has increasingly become more involved in the political process, siding with and supporting the Republican candidates associated with the Republican establishment, the candidates many conservative activists refer to as Republicans In Name Only or “RINOs.”

A recent article about the Chamber's more active and aggressive political involvement reported their hiring of two experienced Republican political consultants, Scott Reed and Rob Engstrom, to head up their political efforts. Reed, who worked for Robert Dole's campaign for president in 1996, is the Senior Political Strategist for the Chamber. At the same time, Engstrom, who has worked for the RNC and the Florida recount team for President-elect George W. Bush, was promoted to the position of Senior Vice President of Political Affairs and Federation Relations.

The CNN story reported, “"We knew the clock was ticking," Reed recalls. "Our strategy was to grow the electorate. It was the only way to win. We knew if it was a closed primary, we would have lost. So we made a play for Reagan Democrats. Bubba.” Perhaps this is where the initial idea for appealing to Democrats to vote for Thad Cochran began, before it turned into something very different by the time it was implemented.

Perhaps the idea of expanding the electorate for Cochran by getting votes of “Reagan Democrats” was how it started, but by 2014 most Reagan Democrats in Mississippi have long since become registered Republicans and consistently already vote for Democrats. The Cochran campaign, and it's allies in the Haley Barbour-created PAC Mississippi Conservatives, instead sought the votes of African-American Democrats by convincing them that the TEA party (and Chris McDaniel) were racist and wanted to prevent them from voting, and accusing them of suppressing African-American votes, and therefore they should vote for Cochran to stop the alleged racist agenda of Chris McDaniel and the TEA party movement. Appealing to African-Americans for their votes by telling them blatant and racist lies about the other Republican candidate is hardly an appeal to “Reagan Democrats.”

The strategy worked, and Cochran won about 40,000 votes from Democrats voters, likely just about all of them were African-American voters they solicited with the racist fliers and rockfalls accusing McDaniel of being against civil rights and for suppressing the votes of African-Americans. Those 40,000 voters reversed a close loss by Cochran in the June 3 primary to a 7667 vote margin of victory in the June 24 runoff.

“The Mississippi runoff was a signal moment for the Chamber in what's quickly becoming the most aggressive political cycle in its 102-year history,” CNN reported.

The same article noted that the Chamber of Commerce spent $74 million on lobbying efforts in 2013, citing the source as the Center for Responsive Politics, while they have so far this year spent $17 million on the House and Senate races they supported Republican candidates in those races.

“In doing so, the Chamber has planted itself firmly on the front line of the GOP establishment's push to extinguish tea party ideologues wherever they threaten business-backed candidates — in Mississippi, Alabama, Ohio, Kentucky, and elsewhere,” CNN reports on the Chamber's political activities.

The Chamber is focusing it's political activities and support almost exclusively for establishment Republicans and against Democrats. This at times has them at odds with conservative and TEA party groups that are supporting candidates challenging those establishment Republicans. CNN reported, “That means going in hard for allies like Cochran and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, the kind of Republicans who don't recoil at terms like "appropriations" and "earmarks" — federal spending that economic developers depend on. It also means savaging enemy Democrats, like North Carolina Sen. Kay Hagan and Alaska Sen. Mark Begich, earlier than ever before.”

The Chamber has also stepped up its political activities on issues, such as it's strong support for comprehensive amnesty reform that will allow the businesses it represents to hire cheaper labor among illegal immigrant employees. The Chamber threatened to withdraw support for Republicans if the House didn't pass comprehensive amnesty reform.

“When Donohue issued yet another call for an immigration package earlier this year, saying that Republicans should give up hope of winning the 2016 presidential race if they don't act now, conservatives erupted, accusing the Chamber of supporting amnesty to line the pockets of big business, CNN reported, “Radio talk show host Mark Levin fulminated at length on his show about the "Chamber of Crony Capitalism," calling Donohue a "jerk."”

As the more ideological agenda of the TEA party movement, that includes support for eliminating corporate welfare, becomes increasingly at odds with the agenda of the Chambers of Commerce, we can only expect to see increased political activism by the Chamber to both preserve and expand their agenda in Congress. The Chamber's political activities are sure to raise many questions among citizens about the extensive corporate involvement in politics and government in Washington D.C.

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