by Max Brantley
A reader sends a link to a good article in Washington Monthly about the evil-doing of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Health care. Financial reform. Financial regulation. You can count on the Chamber and point man Tom O'Donohue to be on the wrong side.
The article makes the counter-intuitive argument that, however good the Chamber's lobbying might be for certain multinational giants, it might be bad for many small businesses.
But here's the local angle in how the Chamber shills for partners in the shadows:
It used similar tactics against health care reform, launching a campaign that was even larger and more elaborate. The Chamber recruited local political operatives and had them set up front groups to oppose the House and Senate bills, and it also coordinated a national ad onslaught. In Arkansas’s second district, for instance, the Chamber aired ads directly attacking Democratic Representative Vic Snyder for his support of the House bill. (Vic Snyder has since announced that he won’t seek reelection, such an uphill battle is he now facing.) It also established a branch of a front group, the Campaign for Responsible Health Reform, and hired a Little Rock Republican strategist to run it. The strategist, Bill Vickery, told me that his activities were “backed solely” by the Chamber.
In other words, a large part of what the Chamber sells is political cover. For multibillion-dollar insurers, drug makers, and medical device manufacturers who are too smart and image conscious to make public attacks of their own, the Chamber of Commerce is a friend who will do the dirty work. “I want to give them all the deniability they need,” says Donohue. That deniability is evidently worth a lot. According to a January article in the National Journal, six insurers alone—Aetna, Cigna, Humana, Kaiser Foundation Health Plans, UnitedHealth Group, and Wellpoint—pumped up to $20 million into the Chamber last year.
I admit it. I can't help liking Vickery, the Jerry McGuire of LR political operatives. Once in a while he'll shock you by telling the truth.