Sunday, March 14, 2010

Business Lobby Develops Grassroots Operation

From the Los Angeles Times

U.S. Chamber of Commerce grows into a political force
A swelling tide of money could put the business group in a better position to sway elections.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is building a large-scale grass-roots political operation that has begun to rival those of the major political parties, funded by record-setting amounts of money raised from corporations and wealthy individuals.

The chamber has signed up some 6 million individuals who are not chamber members and has begun asking them to help with lobbying and, soon, with get-out-the-vote efforts in upcoming congressional campaigns.

The chamber's expansion into grass-roots organizing -- coupled with a large and growing fundraising apparatus that got a lift from Supreme Court rulings -- is part of a trend in which the traditional parties are losing ground to well-financed and increasingly assertive outside groups. The chamber is certainly better positioned than ever to be a major force on the issues and elections it focuses on each year, analysts think.

The new grass-roots program, the brainchild of chamber political director Bill Miller, is concentrating on 22 states. Among them are Colorado, where incumbent Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet is vulnerable; Arkansas, where Democratic Sen. Blanche Lincoln faces an uphill reelection battle; and Ohio, where the chamber sees opportunities in numerous House races and an open Senate seat.

The network, called Friends of the U.S. Chamber, has been used to generate more than a million letters and e-mails to members of Congress, 700,000 of them in opposition to the Democratic healthcare plan. That is an increase from 40,000 congressional contacts generated in 2008.

Full article here.

I took a look at their web site's "About" section to find out what they are about:

Friends of the U.S. Chamber believes that American prosperity depends on lower taxes and less regulation, not more burdensome paperwork and bureaucracy. It believes in access to affordable health care, not a government mandated solution. It believes America's energy supply needs to be diverse and secure, not legislated by special interests. It believes in allowing employees the right to secret ballot elections, not suppressing workers' rights with a union leader power-grab to further regulate the workplace. And Friends of the U.S. Chamber believes in helping companies grow jobs, not threatening their existence with the risk of frivolous lawsuits.

Lots of cash and resources on hand, all the legal parameters to spread it widely in support of legislation and politicians that support its agenda, the most sophisticated public relations and communications operation that money can buy equals a potentially formidable force for the corporate right wing.

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