Chamber of Commerce Bucks Tradition, Announces Host of Democrat Endorsements

August 31, 2020 by Reece Nations
Rep. Elaine Luria, D-Va., is among the freshman Democrats being endorsed for re-election by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has been a top lobbying group for decades, with the lion’s share of the organization’s support going to conservative candidates. However, in a surprising change from convention, the chamber is now prepared to endorse nearly two dozen freshmen House Democrats for reelection.

Despite the endorsements earning the approval of chamber President Suzanne Clark, the chamber’s executive Vice President, Neil Bradley, and chamber CEO Tom Donohue, they have drawn the ire of some of the group’s influential donors and members.

Although plagued by internal division, the 2020 slate of endorsements is expected to be finalized by a chamber committee vote. Reps. Elaine Luria, D-Va., Andy Kim, D-N.J., Joe Cunningham, D-S.C. and Kendra Horn, D-Okla., were among the candidates on the brink of receiving the chamber’s endorsement that currently hold seats being contested by Republican opposition. 

Each legislative session, the chamber issues legislative scorecards to congressional members based on bipartisan engagement, the amount of chamber-endorsed bills members sponsor or co-sponsor, and voting for initiatives that “advance pro-business policies while simultaneously encouraging members to reach the compromises necessary for effective governing,” according to the chamber’s website.

In order to secure an endorsement from the chamber, lawmakers must receive at least a 70% grade on their legislative scorecard. Although the Democrats poised for the chamber’s endorsement each have a favorable record based on these metrics alone, several of them said they would support a federal minimum wage increase to $15 per hour, which many of the chamber’s donors and members oppose.

While endorsing Democrats is nothing new for the chamber, which was founded in 1912, it is rare for the organization to back so many at once. It is even more out of the ordinary for the chamber to favor freshmen members of congress in their first bids for reelection.

The Chamber is by far the largest lobbying force in the nation, spending over $1.6 billion on federal government lobbying over the past two decades, according to OpenSecrets.org. The group, a 501(c) organization that is not required to disclose its donors, has spent over $150 million since 2008 on congressional races alone.

In comparison, the next largest lobbying group in America, the National Association of Realtors, has spent roughly $613 million in the same span of time. No other political advocacy group spends as much on elections as the Chamber of Commerce.

Even in the face of resistance from within, the chamber is expected to move forward with its 2020 endorsements as planned. 

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