Big business blitz: It's all about jobs
U.S. Chamber of Commerce pledges millions on a big media and public campaign about policies that promote free enterprise and jobs - a major political flash point.
WASHINGTON (CNNMoney.com) -- The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, in an effort sure to rankle Democrats, is launching a multi-million dollar media blitz to promote job growth and raise alarm bells at what it sees as dangerous economic policies.
The "Campaign for Free Enterprise" will aim to get lawmakers, companies and voters to support policies the Chamber says will create 20 million new jobs over the next 10 years.
The Chamber, one of the most powerful business lobby in Washington, is calling the effort its biggest campaign yet. TV ads will start running on cable networks, including CNN, as early as Wednesday morning, the Chamber said.
The new campaign will also involve town hall type forums at universities and other locations, as well as outreach with state and local chambers of commerce.
The group says the effort is not partisan, but the campaign could take aim at a lot of Obama administration efforts.
Over the past several months, the chamber has declared several top Obama proposals, including a new consumer agency and a cap on greenhouse gas emissions, a threat to free enterprise.
The focus on job creation is a particular sore spot with the Obama administration, which has been bombarded with Republican criticism that billions in stimulus spending isn't working. With the unemployment rate expected to remain high through next year, job growth is expected to be a major issue in the 2010 congressional campaign cycle.
Tita Freeman, the Chamber's vice president of communications, said the campaign will have a positive message and is not intended to declare a war on Democrats.
Yet she did acknowledge that the campaign will broadly address debt, deficits and overall reach and size of government, in addition to job creation -- all of which have erupted as political flash points in recent months.
"There's a pervasive concern with the direction of our country and the policies that will help create the jobs and strengthen us for the long run," Freeman said.
Freeman wouldn't give a figure on how much would be spent on the campaign other than to say it would be in the tens of millions and last through 2012. Chamber President Tom Donohue told U.S. News last month that it would aim to spend $25 million a year on the campaign for several years.
Freeman said the new campaign won't fund or oppose congressional candidates in the 2010 election. Yet, it will play a role in future elections.
"We'll look to create a new political dynamic in this country whereby each time an elected official of either party casts a vote or introduces a proposal, he or she stops to think about the impact on the economy and jobs," she said.
The Chamber's critics are skeptical.
Richard Clayton, a research director for an investment arm of Change to Win, a liberal group funded by unions, said he expects the Chamber to use "publicly appealing rhetoric" to disguise efforts to oppose things like greater transparency for shareholders and stronger accounting rules.
"We don't believe this is about free enterprise," Clayton said. "We don't think anything they're doing would create 20 million jobs in 100 years let alone in the timeframe they give."
The Chamber, which represents more than 3 million businesses, made headlines in recent weeks for some high-profile membership defections. Apple (AAPL, Fortune 500) and Pacific Gas & Electric Co. (PCG, Fortune 500) have dropped their membership because they were at odds with the Chamber's opposition to legislation capping greenhouse gas emissions.
The Chamber has tapped Bush administration officials to lead and work with the campaign, including Brian Gunderson, former chief of staff to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and former Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings.