On November 24th, members of the Chamber of Commerce, the largest business federation, spoke at the Heritage Foundation’s conservative Blogger’s Briefing in defense of the interests of their more than three million organizations and businesses.
Thomas Collamore, senior vice president of Communications and Strategy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, addressed the recent media attacks of the Chamber. He said that Moveon.org and other groups have engaged in “an orchestrated campaign… to harass the Chamber and its members.” Groups such as the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and the Center for American Progress (CAP) have mischaracterized a number of Chamber positions and have even gone so far as “to intimidate, harass, and threaten [the Chamber’s] allies,” claimed Collamore. This fall, a small handful of chamber members resigned over climate change stance, around the same time that the YesMen staged a hoax press conference claiming the chamber reversed its stance on climate change. Such reports, which Collamore said were “of dubious accuracy,” are reported as facts by blogs like the Huffington Post and then it is taken up by more mainstream media like the Washington Post.
Despite these smear campaigns, the Chamber of Commerce is “trying to stay on the high road,” and stay focused on their agenda “to get jobs growing” and “put the unemployed back to work” said Collamore. The Chamber of Commerce has a goal that 20 million jobs be created in ten years, but Collamore made it clear that this can only be achieved by “a strong sector powered by free enterprise” that “nobody can attack or tax, regulate, or sue our way to those jobs.”
Steven Law, chief legal officer and general counsel at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said that “organized labor has become the muscle and the money for the emerging liberal left coalition.” Organized labor has also become a tremendously influential presence in Washington, he said, explaining that in the last election, organized labor spent $450 billion on the election. Andrew Stern, head of the SEIU delisted himself as a certified lobbyist “before becoming the number one visitor to the White House,” an act that violates “the spirit, and perhaps the letter, of the lobbying disclosure act,” contested Law.
Finally, Randel Johnson, Senior Vice President of Labor, Immigration, and Employee Benefits at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, addressed business-related aspects of the health care bills. The Senate bill, he pointed out has a “free rider penalty,” a “backdoor mandate” if you will, that would require the employer to pay 60% of the value of a plan, and even the slightest failure to do so would result in heavy fines. The Chamber’s “press release did not say we oppose the bill,” he said, rather they are “seeking improvements in it.”