The Supreme Court’s string of decisions to open up our elections to corporate control will have vast consequences this year. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a private lobbying association made up of member companies like Wal-Mart and Prudential Financial, intends to use this new campaign finance landscape to elect many more pro-big business lawmakers to Congress. According to reporter Paul Bedard, the Chamber’s war chest will amount to some $80 million in electioneering efforts in 2012:
While the Chamber won’t talk numbers, GOP campaign strategists expect theChamber to spend up to $70-$80 million on the elections, up from $50 million in 2010, then a record. The Chamber does not play in the presidential race. […]
Bruce Josten, the Chamber’s executive vice president for government affairs, added that the organization got involved in races far earlier than ever before and is expanding into social media to reach and educate voters. “There’s a lot of newer activity going on here,” he said.
Donohue suggested that changing control of the Democrat-led Senate is a priority. “There are a lot of opportunities there, particularly if it’s a close presidential election,” he said.
What does the Chamber look for in a congressional candidate? The Chamber’s key vote rubric scores lawmakers if they support the bank bailouts, corporate tax cuts, and a repeal of environmental and consumer safety standards. In recent months, the Chamber lobbied aggressively to kill efforts to reduce student loan interest rates because the bill in Congress would pay for such reductions by eliminating a tax loophole exploited by many businesses.
The Chamber’s ad campaign has been criticized for highly deceptive tactics. In one ad this year promoting Linda Lingle, a Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in Hawaii, the Chamber cites a Lingle for Senate press release as a bona fide news source.
And of course, the Chamber is just one association out of many big business-friendly lobbying groups planning to take advantage of the Citizens United decision to spend freely on electing lawmakers. The American Chemistry Council, which represents companies like Dow Chemical and DuPont, is currently engaged in a multistate ad campaign. Many corporations prefer to hide their identities while engaging in elections, so they use various front groups with innocuous-sounding names to run ads.
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