By Dan Dudis, Director of U.S. Chamber Watch
In our first update on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s elections spending in late March, we issued a Chamber of Commerce weather forecast for Capitol Hill: make it rain. Well three weeks later, its flood of campaign spending has continued unabated.
In a mere three weeks, the Chamber dropped an additional $1.7 million on elections spending, bringing its total so far for the 2016 election cycle to more than $5.4 million. This total has pushed it up one place on the list of largest outside spenders to the number eleven spot. It remains the largest outside spender on congressional races and remains the largest outside spender that does not disclose any information about its donors. That’s right, voters have no way of knowing who is behind the deluge of Chamber-funded ads supporting or opposing House and Senate candidates in the nine states in which it has so far been active.
So where has the Chamber been making it rain since we last checked in? The Chamber has flooded the Indiana airwaves with $1 million on behalf of Republican Senate candidate Todd Young. And the Chamber has continued to drown the Ohio airwaves with another $700,000 in spending against Democratic Senate candidate Ted Strickland, bringing the total amount the Chamber has spent against Strickland to just shy of $1.3 million.
The Chamber’s latest shower of money follows its already established pattern of hyper-partisanship. It has still not spent a single cent opposing a Republican candidate or supporting a Democratic candidate. Now some might be tempted to interject that it’s only logical that the Chamber would support Republican candidates since the Republican Party supposedly represents the best interests of business and the Democratic Party doesn’t. This of course would be wrong.
A recent summary of opinion polling reveals that business leaders actually support many Democratic policy proposals, including raising the minimum wage, paid sick leave, and predictive scheduling for employees. And contrary to what the Chamber would have you believe, replacing the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was not as high on business leaders’ list of priorities as was simply keeping healthcare costs low for families. So if business leaders themselves hold nuanced views about policy and indeed support many progressive policy proposals, why then does the Chamber only spend money to help Republican candidates get elected?
The Chamber’s one-sided, overly partisan election spending suggest that instead of representing all American businesses as it claims, the Chamber actually represents the narrow interests of a few industries. Its unwavering opposition to the ACA does not reflect a business consensus to this effect but rather reflects the priorities of the health insurance industry, which reportedly has given the Chamber more than $86 million to oppose the ACA. Similarly, its opposition to an increase in the minimum wage may reflect the opposition of the fast food and retail industries, both of which employ millions of low wage workers. And of course the Chamber’s opposition to legislative and regulatory efforts to fight climate change may be explained by the influence of the fossil fuel industry.
Lost in the Chamber’s flood of partisan political spending are the more nuanced views of the majority of business executives. Likewise, the Chamber’s hyper-partisan outlook also ignores the priorities of small business, green energy, sustainable business, and a whole host of other sectors.
One often hears that April showers bring May flowers, but unfortunately in this case, the Chamber’s torrent of election spending, should it succeed in getting its preferred candidates elected, will only bring about policies that not only hurt everyday Americans, but also run counter the policy priorities of a majority of business leaders. Unfortunately, the weather forecast for Capitol Hill is unlikely to change before the election; the Chamber will continue to make it rain, in the hope that it will be able to drown out the voices of average Americans, and even many of the business leaders it claims to represent.