Published December 07, 2009
Chamber of Commerce CEO Tom Donohue is a wanted man -- at least according to the liberal activist group that's put a de facto bounty on his head.
A network of liberal groups known as Velvet Revolution started an ad campaign offering $200,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the man whose trade organization has become a thorn in the side of the Obama administration and congressional Democrats.
The group is not leveling any specific charges of criminal behavior. Rather, it is casting a wide net, fishing for any whistleblowers from Donohue's past who might come forward with allegations of wrongdoing. The campaign against the Chamber was launched in response to the group's opposition to climate change legislation and health care reform, and its plan to spend $100 million lobbying against these and other initiatives.
"On every issue, the Chamber is kind of the lead corporate advocate for the status quo," said Kevin Zeese, a lawyer who sits on the board for Velvet Revolution, calling Donohue a "knee-jerk reactionary" and the Chamber a "right-wing extremist group."
The Chamber of Commerce, meanwhile, decried the ad campaign and threatened possible legal action.
"The media should be following the money trail behind this scurrilous group instead of giving credence to its outrageous tactics -- and we are considering legal options with the ad," spokesman Eric Wohlschlegel said.
The Chamber has already taken a lot of heat from the White House. Top aides tried to neutralize the group earlier in the year by doing an end-run around the organization and dealing directly with members, as some big companies, like Apple, peeled off from the Chamber due to disagreements over issues like climate change.
The organization was also not invited to Obama's jobs forum in Washington last week.
But Zeese said the White House has nothing to do with the bounty on Donohue.
"It's individual donors. We have no connection to the White House or unions or anything like that," he said.
Velvet Revolution launched the StoptheChamber campaign in October and started offering a bounty for information on Donohue a month later. A $100,000 reward was increased to $200,000 early this month, thanks to what Zeese called a "handful of larger donors" whom he would not identify.
A full-page print ad that looks like a "wanted" poster out of the wild West began to run in the Washington City Paper this week. It features a head shot of Donohue and offers a tip line for "insiders and whistleblowers possessing information not already in the public domain."
The tip line is live. When FoxNews.com called, the operator asked for "criminal" information about Donohue.
Zeese said that a handful of tips have come in which the group is "pursuing."
He said the hope is to forward any damaging information onto the Justice Department or Congress for further investigation.