Waning influence of corporate
giants is a surprise, but real
U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Thomas Donohue. Losing clout! Click image to enlarge.
IT IS CONVENTIONAL WISDOM in the U.S. that the Republican Party is “the party of big business.”
Time and again, GOP members of Congress do the bidding of the business lobby without blushing.
Or, so we thought.
This myth was effectively debunked in a thoroughly researched and fully reported column by Eduardo Porter in The New York Times on Wednesday.
He is not the only one.
The conservative leaning National Journal has reached the same conclusion. So have two eminent pundits on the Huffington Post.
It seems like the flood of corporate cash unleashed by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision in 2010 is having unintended consequences: it is actually reducing the influence of big business on federal policy, not increasing it.
WRTING IN THE ECONOMIC SCENE column on Wednesday headlined Business Losing Clout in a G.O.P. Moving Right, Porter begins with a startling assertion:
“How did corporate America lose control of the Republican Party?”
The assumption, of course, is that it once had control of the GOP.
Eduardo Porter’s insightful and thoroughly researched column in The New York Times of Sept. 4. Click image to enlarge.
“From overhauling immigration laws to increasing spending on the nation’s aging infrastructure, big business leaders have seemed relatively powerless lately as the uncompromising Republicans they helped elect have steadfastly opposed some of their core legislative priorities.”
Porter then explains why this is extraordinary.
“The rift is not only unusual in light of the tight historical alignment between the business community and the G.O.P., but it is also outright incomprehensible after the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, which allowed companies to spend unlimited amounts from their corporate treasuries on the 2010 and 2012 elections.”
Porter was not the first to note the widening gulf between what business wants from Congress and what it gets.
On Aug. 19, the right-leaning National Journal published a story headlined Business Tries to Tame Tea-Party Conservatives It Helped Elect.
Jill Lawrence writes:
“As Washington heads toward an autumn of fiscal deadlines, government-shutdown threats, and the specter of default, the business community is reaping the whirlwind.
The National Journal story about how the Tea Party is sabotaging the GOP’s relationship with big business. Click image to enlarge.
“Dozens of House and Senate conservatives, many of them tea-party populists, have been elected since 2010 with help from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Federation of Independent Business, and other business interests.
“Now these same lawmakers … are a chief reason for holdups and breakdowns on bills that traditionally are bipartisan, as well as on big issues where deals may be within reach.
“All of which puts the business sector in an interesting squeeze: fighting many Obama policies tooth and nail, but also bemused and in some cases frustrated by the way some presumed congressional allies are handling their jobs.”
Lawrence then quotes a very inside-the-beltway source.
“You don’t really know what they’re going to do or why,” says NSBA President Todd McCracken, a 20-year Washington veteran. “It used to be there were not many rewards for obstruction. Now there are no consequences.”
So what is going on here?
Lawrence clues us in with another quote: “McCracken says businesses have wound up “getting caught up in the culture of Washington, setting aside those things that seem to be politically difficult.”
IF THIS IS INSUFFICIENT evidence, then turn to the Huffington Post story Lawmakers Backed By Chamber Of Commerce Spending Stall Business Lobby’s Legislative Priorities
On Aug. 18, Sabrina Siddiqui and Paul Blumental, both credible pundits, wrote:
The web site of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. It is losing clout on Capitol Hill. Click image to enlarge.
“The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is a political powerhouse that tops spending on lobbying in Washington year after year. In the past two elections, the pro-business group doled out $69.5 million to send candidates to Congress.
“The checks, however, have not always translated into legislative success.”
The authors then list the number of legislative losses the Chamber has suffered over the past four years.
“Health care and Wall Street reform laws were enacted and face little threat of repeal. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau finally has an appointed director and Democratic members of the National Labor Relations Board were approved by the Senate.”
They then note a startling conclusion – buttressed by Porter’s column on Wednesday.
“More significantly, the chamber’s big spending in 2010 to elect a House GOP majority appears to have backfired. Many of the conservative lawmakers the chamber helped elect are now an impediment to the business lobby’s legislative priorities, either by contributing to Congress’ dysfunction or by actively opposing chamber-backed measures.”
Wrapping it up, they pose a key question: whether chamber-supported candidates have yielded a sufficient return on investment.
“Despite a few successes, the chamber has enjoyed few major legislative victories from its lobbying and campaign muscle in the Obama era. If anything, the lobbying group has incurred major setbacks in its mission to boost business by electing lawmakers who have been counterproductive to that cause.”
I can just hear the chorus of working Americans yelling: “Hooray!”
Back in 2010 everyone feared the nine justices on the Supreme Court had tilted the political playing field in the U.S. significantly in favor of giant corporate interests.
Seems like the evidence is mounting that these fears were unjustified.
What appears to be happening is just the opposite: the influence of the business lobby on Capitol Hill is actually declining.
This couldn’t come at a better time with major issues like a minimum wage increase and the debt ceiling on the agenda – after we punish Syria, that is.
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