Wednesday, 23 May 2012

From PBS Newshour Politics


The U.S. Chamber of Commerce figures to be a big player in the 2012 fundraising arms race, with plans to spend in excess of $50 million and by targeting specific congressional races. As far as how that money will be spent, most questions remain unanswered, NewsHour politics desk assistant Alex Bruns reports.

"We don't disclose where we get our money and we don't tell people how much we spend," Chamber President Tom Donohue told reporters Monday at a breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor.

In April, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled that groups, including the Chamber of Commerce, participating in "electioneering communications" must disclose their donors. As a tax-exempt group, the Chamber of Commerce was not previously mandated to disclose its contributors.

"[Disclosure] is all about intimidation...they want to be able to intimidate people to not put their money into the electoral process," Donohue said. "We will have a vigorous...election program. These cases do not change that."

Donohue said it is in the chamber's best interest to avoid disclosure, because he knows a half-dozen "well-known business people" who were "fundamentally attacked" by the Obama campaign for their contributions to Republican groups.

The Chamber of Commerce spent $33 million in the 2010 midterm elections and is on pace to blow past that quickly. According to the chamber's executive vice president for government affairs, Bruce Josten, the chamber began spending for this cycle last November, the earliest it has ever ramped up.

Chamber officials said the group is ready to take some members of Congress to task for votes seen as unfriendly to the business community on the transportation bill and the Export Import Bank reauthorization. They said the group plans to spread its endorsements like "peanut butter," but the money will flow to the most competitive, chamber-friendly candidates.

"We endorse lots and lots of people, that doesn't mean we're going to spend any money on them. We're going to put the money in the races that are up for grabs," Donohue said.

"It's not just ads, which everybody fixates on, there is a lot of activity on the ground," Josten said.

The Washington Post has a related story Tuesday, looking at a fight that "has been unfolding this spring at annual corporate meetings, where shareholders are mounting an intensifying effort to push companies to disclose the money they spend on lobbying and political campaigns."