The Big Picture or What You Didn't Read in the Washington Post Today
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"The chamber plans to spend at least $50 million on political races and related activities this year, a 40 percent increase from 2008."
The above is from this Washington Post article on the Chamber's planning for the upcoming mid-term political season, and yes, it's true. This year the Chamber will execute our largest voter education program in the history of the organization. We spent $25 million in 2006 and $36 million in 2008 on grassroots and issue advocacy activities. That investment will grow in 2010. Once again, this effort will include issue advocacy; TV, print, online, and radio advertisements; mail and phones; and email as well. We will work with our network of 2,600 local affiliates (not 6,000 as the article states) to educate small business owners and others on issues that directly impact the business community; and to inform them on where members of Congress stand on those issues.
We are quite clear in our key vote letters and annual How They Voted scorecard which positions enhance the business community’s ability to create jobs and economic growth and which positions would cripple the same. Thus, we are not "a reliable base of support for GOP candidates" as the article contends but rather a reliable base of support for issues that promote job creation and economic growth, as well as for lawmakers who want to work with us to achieve those goals.
Beyond their failure to discuss our non-partisan approach to elections, the Washington Post misses another essential fact, the role of labor unions in the process.
The AFL-CIO plans to roll out its biggest political campaign ever, surpassing the $53 million spent in 2008 to help elect President Barack Obama, to try to avert a repeat of the 1994 midterm election when Democrats lost a majority in Congress. (Wall Street Journal)
We spent a fortune to elect Barack Obama — $60.7 million to be exact — and we’re proud of it. (Andy Stern, SEIU)
Given this history of spending, the AFL-CIO's announced plans, and that unions were the big winners in the recent Citizen's United decision the U.S. Chamber will hardly be the biggest "moneyed interests" in this election cycle. Though as Mike Gehrke, spokesman for Change to Win, a coalition of five major labor unions, said of the Chamber "They're going to be bigger, they're going to be more aggressive and they're going to use tactics that progressives and Democrats have not seen a group like the chamber use before."
Tactics labor and progressive know well and use often. So though we will be more active, in the end we are just another participant with them in the marketplace of ideas. Any grousing you hear can be chalked up to their well-documented dislike of competition in any form.