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1/22/2005

The Chamber of Commerce, Mehlman & Vogel

It is no surprise that the Chamber is deep in bed with the GOP, but the depth of the penetration is remarkable nonetheless. For instance, the Chamber of Commerce and the ILR hired the lobbying firm Mehlman & Vogel to work on limiting corporate legal liability. Firm co-founder Bruce Mehlman is the brother of RNC Chair Ken Mehlman, who we recently saw trumpeting limiting corporate legal liability as a way to reach out to Latino voters. Bruce Mehlman spent the last week partying it up around town, "spending more time as a brother than as a lobbyist, looking to celebrate with friends with whom I served in the administration, and worry about pushing policy the week after." [NYT] Co-founder Alex Vogel, meanwhile, "helped write the [Class Action Fairness Act] legislation, participated in negotiations on it and knows many of the key players, credentials that led the Chamber of Commerce to hire him for strategic advice to help 'drag it across the finish line.'" [NYT]

The Chamber spent $30 million on lobbying in 2004 and $34 million in 2003. The smaller 2004 figure should be augmented by the $3 million the Chamber spent on the November Fund to attack trial lawyers and the huge organizing effort the Chamber put together to oust Tom Daschle.

Washington business lobbyists made an extraordinary effort to usher Dashcle from power because they said they were frustrated with his role in blocking tax cuts, energy legislation and liability limits.

"It was Tom Daschle the obstructionist who motivated us to stand up publicly and form Team Thune," a coalition of two dozen trade associations and lobbying firms, Van Dongen recalled.

The group was modeled after efforts used in Georgia and Minnesota Senate races in recent years. "We recognized we can take the mechanism of a Washington legislative coalition and reposition it for political purposes," Van Dongen said.

In short order, the coalition raised half a million dollars for Thune from corporate contacts. By election day, it had funneled 200 volunteer lobbyists and lawyers from Washington to South Dakota, matching the labor organizers and Democratic lobbyists supporting Daschle. Similar business teams were organized to support the successful GOP Senate candidates in South Carolina and North Carolina.

 

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