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Friday, October 23, 2009

Chamber of Commerce President Fights Back Against the Whitehouse

The Obama administration's response has been to treat the Chamber like it has Fox News Channel: with brass knuckles. It has launched a campaign to undermine the organization by making CEOs think twice about associating with it. President Obama has openly criticized the Chamber, while adviser Valerie Jarrett has dismissed it as "old school" and acknowledged that the White House is bypassing it to work individually with CEOs.

Mr. Donohue, who spent 13 years at the head of the American Trucking Association, also points out that the Chamber has done plenty to help the current administration. It supported last year's bailout funds ("we had to stabilize the banks"); the stimulus ("we could have gone into a real depression if there wasn't some confidence, some belief we could get over the next hump"); the auto bailouts ("this was a bellwether of the American company"), and even cash for clunkers.

Going after the Chamber is nonetheless a risk. The lobby works with a lot of Congressional Democrats from swing districts. Those pols face tough races next year, and Chamber support can help them raise money and protect against GOP attacks. The White House campaign gives GOP candidates an opening to point out how much Democrats dislike business.

"We want to encourage and promote and educate and get a bunch of enthusiasm behind . . . the free enterprise system with free capital markets and free trade and the ability to fail and fall right on your ass and get up and do it again!" he says.

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