Chamber Gearing Up To Spend Like Never Before On Midterms

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March 17, 2010 1:40 p.m.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce — already a major force in fighting the Obama administration’s big-ticket domestic agenda items — is set to play an out-sized role in this fall’s midterms.

The business lobby plans to spend at least $50 million in a bid to sway around 10 Senate up to 40 House races on behalf of “pro-business” candidates, primarily Republicans, reports the Washington Post. To do so, it has built a grassroots machine, Friends of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, with a member list of 6 million names. The effort is based in part on the much-praised field operation for Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign.The planned spending represents a 40 percent increase from 2008, and rivals that of the two major parties. And thanks to the recent Citizens Uniteed decision by the Supreme Court, the Chamber can run ads that directly urge voters to support or oppose specific candidates — potentially making the effort all the more effective.

The Chamber spent $1 million to help Republican Scott Brown to an upset win in the U.S. Senate race in Massachusetts in January.

The group’s top lobbyist, Bruce Josten, told the Post that the Chamber and its members are responding to the threat from the Obama administration. “The business community has begun to get concerned that suddenly you’re seeing an attempt at fundamental restructuring and reorganization of broad swaths of the U.S. economy,” said Josten.

The campaign will be “the most aggressive voter-education and issue-advocacy effort in our nearly hundred-year history,” Chamber CEO Tom Donohue has said.

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