Big business spending millions to stop Democrats: WSJ

October 25th, 2008 - 10:09 am ICT by IANS  

Washington, Oct 25 (IANS) America’s largest business lobby is pouring millions of dollars into an advertising push to prevent Democrats from winning dominance in the Senate, the Wall Street Journal says.The US Chamber of Commerce says it has raised enough money this year from corporations to spend about $35 million on the election, double its budget for House and Senate races in the 2006 election.

In what it called a final blitz of Senate battleground states before Election Day, the Chamber has also launched a VoteForBusiness bus tour on a five-day, 10-state campaign to “educate voters about pro-business issues that will create jobs and stimulate the economy.”

“Because of the current state of the economy and the issues Congress could take up next year, the results of this election will have an enormous impact on our country’s businesses and workers,” said Bill Miller, the Chamber’s senior vice president for political affairs.

“For America’s businesses, there is a lot at stake in this election, notably in these battleground Senate states,” he said without indicating support for either of the two major parties.

But the Journal said the group is supporting pro-business candidates, almost exclusively Republicans, in contested Senate races provoking a backlash from Senate Democrats.

Business executives fear that Democrats, buoyed by heavy spending from organized labour, could gain enough muscle in the Senate to spark policies favouring increased unionisation, higher taxes, more restrictions on trade and more regulation on the financial services and housing sectors, it said.

Democrats currently control 51 Senate seats and are expected to add more. Should US voters give Democrats a 60-seat majority in the Senate and elect Barack Obama president, the party would be able to thwart Republican filibusters and other procedural motions to enact sweeping policy changes.

The House of Representatives is controlled by a 235-199 Democratic majority, which already allows the party to push most of its agenda through the House. Non-partisan election analysts project Democrats will gain at least 10 House seats Nov 4.

It is unusual for senior lawmakers to tell corporations how to conduct their political activity, the Journal said. But many have recently called Chamber leaders and business executives to urge them not to contribute to the campaign, saying the Chamber has come to resemble an arm of the Republican Party.

“The whole caucus is upset at what the Chamber has done,” New York Senator Charles Schumer, who leads campaign operations for Senate Democrats, told the Journal.

The Chamber has spent $10 million on advertising on behalf of pro-business candidates in tight races since the end of August plans to spend millions more in the final weeks of the campaign. No other single organization has spent more on Senate races, according to data collected by the Federal Election Commission.

The Washington-based Chamber representing three million US business and most of the thousands of local chambers of commerce from around the country, says it doesn’t favour either party, but backs “pro-business candidates” from both.

Overall, US businesses tend to contribute similar amounts to Democrats and Republicans in their direct giving to candidates and political parties. Through Sep 30, companies and their political action committees donated $129.6 million to Democrats and $132.6 million to Republicans.

To maintain its tax-exempt status, the Chamber can’t spend a majority of its funding on advertisements that specifically ask people to vote for or against candidates. But there is no restriction on ads that tell voters where candidates stand on issues.

The Chamber’s ads in New Hampshire, for example, refer to Democratic candidate Jeanne Shaheen as “The Taxing Machine,” but don’t explicitly tell voters to oppose her.

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