Published October 26, 2009
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is on track to exceed last year's fundraising by more than $10 million, thanks in part to the Obama administration's decision to target the pro-business group, according to the organization's president.
President Tom Donohue told Politico.com that even though a few companies have left the chamber over its opposition to President Obama's domestic policies, the organization is actually benefiting from its place in the White House crosshairs.
"There are some longstanding members that wanted to step up and help more," he told Politico.com. The public friction with the White House comes in the midst of a $100 million fundraising campaign for the chamber.
The White House, while claiming that it hasn't tried to encourage any business to part ways with the chamber, has been cutting the business group out of the loop by dealing directly with member executives. Obama and his aides have criticized the group publicly for its opposition to legislation dealing with climate change, health care and financial regulation.
Attacks on the chamber coincide with White House criticism toward Fox News, the health insurance lobby and other individuals and organizations administration aides say are unfairly disrupting their agenda.
Chamber Vice President Bruce Josten told "Fox News Sunday" that the administration is trying to keep a tight grip on debate.
However, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel has agreed to address a dinner for Chamber leaders on Nov. 4.
"We appreciate the chamber reaching out to the White House," said White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki in a written statement Saturday. "While we have big disagreements on issues like energy and financial regulatory reform, we want to work together on areas where there is agreement like creating jobs."
Josten said he was glad Emanuel accepted the invitation to speak and said the address will give him the chance to "hear back" from chamber members.
The speaking engagement marks a bold move for Emanuel, who has referred to the chamber as one of his biggest fears in Washington.
Emanuel told journalist Naftali Bendavid in August 2006 that he was worried about the organization's heaping war chest and influence on political races.
"The thing that is scaring the (expletive) out of me is the Chamber of Commerce ads," Emanuel said, according to the book "The Thumpin': How Rahm Emanuel and the Democrats Learned to Be Ruthless and Ended the Republican Revolution." "I can beat the (National Republican Congressional Committee), and our individual candidates can beat their individual candidates. What the chamber is trying to do is what I am trying to do -- take competitive races and alter them."
John Podesta, former chief of staff to President Clinton and head of the Center for American Progress, told ABC's "This Week" on Sunday that Emanuel's scheduled visit is a sign the White House is not trying to silence the Chamber.
"I'm sure he's going to give them a piece of his mind when he goes and does it. But that's the normal give-and-take in Washington," Podesta said.
Meanwhile, the Chamber has attracted critics as well as donors in the wake of the spat. Politico.com reported Monday that the Service Employees International Union wrote a letter to House lawmakers urging them not to be "misled" by the group and to reject Chamber-supported amendments to financial reform legislation.