U.S. Chamber Plays Hardball Against Democrats

Last Updated Oct 24, 2008 1:11 PM EDT

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is annoying Democrats by pumping millions of dollars into advertising to keep them from winning the U.S. Senate.

The charge is being led by Chamber President and CEO Thomas Donohue who is no shrinking violet when it comes to political battle.

thomas_donohue.jpg"While there are many pro-business lawmakers serving in Washington, collectively this Congress gets a failing grade when it comes to addressing fundamental challenges to American competitiveness and prosperity," Donohue wrote in his orgnization's magazine this month.

What bothers Donohue even more than the present Senate is what it could look like after November elections. Democrats now control 51 of 100 seats and might gain 60 seats if Barack Obama becomes president.

Chamber types fear that if that happens, the U.S. is in for a swath of regulation or re-regulation and not just in the devastated financial sector. They are scared it could lead to more restrictions on trade and protectionist policies, more unionization and higher taxes.

The Chamber is spending $10 million on advertisements that push pro-business candidates. It has raise enough from members to spend $35 million, which is twice what it spent on House and Senate races in 2006.

Even so, the amount pales compared to the $300 million that labor unions are spending.

What miffs leading Democrats is that in general business is fairly even-handed in contributing to Deomcrats and Republicans. Indeed, Obama, who has raised twice as much campaign money as Republican candidate John McCain, gets a hefty $28 million from lawyers and another $11 million from the securities industry. Despite GOP efforts to paint him as a traditional tax and spend liberal, Obama tries to cast himself as business-savvy.

Yet it is clear where many CEOs stand. A recent poll showed that they back McCain by a margin of four to one. Donohue's in-your-face stances play well in C-Suites, also.

(Thomas Donahue image courtesy U.S. Chamber of Commerce)