Having concluded that free enterprise, such as it is, is under siege -- with the government seemingly ready to capitulate to "many union leaders, some environmentalists, and a growing force of anti-business activists" -- the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is gearing up for a multi-million dollar defense.
"Dire economic circumstances have certainly justified some out-of-the-ordinary remedial actions by government," said Tom Donohue, the Chamber's president and CEO, in a statement. "But enough is enough. If we don't stop the rapidly growing influence of government over private sector activity, we will squander America's unmatched capacity to innovate and create a standard of living and free society that are the envy of the world."
At a Chamber Board meeting today, Donohue unveiled the Campaign for Free Enterprise, a battle to be waged over several years and on many fronts. The effort will rally "the Chamber's broad network of business and professional associations, state and local chambers, small business members, and local advocates." It will deploy advertising across media, including an "an aggressive issue advocacy program" tied to the 2010 mid-term elections. It will don its tasseled loafers and pound the marble corridors of power to lobby for "pro-growth" legislation. And if all else fails, the Chamber will go to court.
All this will cost tens of millions of dollar a year, according to the Chamber. Politico puts the total expenditure at up to $100 million.
The Chamber is no stranger to writing big checks to advance its agenda. In 2008, the organization promised an ambitious effort to elect Republicans, and spent $36 million to little visible effect.
Notwithstanding the tenor of the times, the Agenda suspects that capitalism will do just fine in the coming years. Still, Donohue insisted that, "Given the unprecedented challenges facing our economy, the Campaign for Free Enterprise is one of the most important and necessary initiatives in the Chamber's nearly 100-year history."
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