Chambers of Commerce Try to Purge Non-Cronies (Again)

[This is not an endorsement of any of the members discussed below.]

VP Cheney: Photo Op and Remarks to the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber.

Dick Cheney hosted by the Cincinnati Chamber.

Congressman Justin Amash just beat his primary opponent in a race that would not have happened had it not been for campaign money poured into the anti-Amash camp by the US Chamber of Commerce, the Grand Rapids Chamber, and the Michigan Chamber. Amash, who, as a politician has committed his fair share of political crimes, at least has had the decency to oppose a variety of crony capitalist measures and refused to fund a variety of bailouts and special favors for business interests.  So, naturally, while claiming to be “pro-free-market,” the US Chamber of Commerce has gone after him for not spending enough government money. This is not surprising. Business groups like Chambers of Commerce are not free-market organizations at all, but are just rent-seeking lobbying groups looking for government favors.

There’s nothing new here. When Ron Paul was in Congress, the US Chamber ranked him as one of the worst members, giving him the lowest score of any Republican. In Chamber-speak, being “free-market” means voting for things like TARP and various bailouts and No Child Left Behind. Given the Chamber’s crusade against Amash (and this Chamber-funded political ad), being pro-business also apparently means being in favor of NSA spying.

Amash was just one of the Chamber’s targets in recent years. The Daily Caller notes:

Business won an under-the-radar victory in May when the Georgia Chamber of Commerce and companies such as Delta Airlines, Georgia Power, and AT&T suddenly set up a Georgia Coalition for Job Growth and managed to defeat a Republican legislator, Rep. Charles Gregory, who was just too libertarian for them.

Gregory, a big fan of former presidential candidate Ron Paul, wasn’t trying to legalize drugs or bring the troops home from Afghanistan. No, the ads and the special website that the Georgia Coalition set up accused him of voting against education spending and against an intrusive measure to require drug testing for food stamp applicants.

The real issue was probably that he wouldn’t go along with pork-barrel projects that benefit business, such as taxpayer funding to help the Atlanta Braves move to Cobb County.

One lobbyist involved in the business effort told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “We’re not going to let liberty Republicans throw business out of the Republican Party.”

It seems unlikely that a free-marketer like Gregory wanted to “throw business out.” But he did want to persuade the GOP to stop supporting subsidies and sweetheart deals for $700 million businesses like the Braves.

Business operatives ran into trouble early on in Kentucky, where they lobbied hard though unsuccessfully to persuade the head of the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce to run against Rep. Thomas Massie, a frequent ally of Amash. Massie, a businessman himself, is a strong fiscal conservative, but some local business leaders don’t like what they see as his stand-off approach.

And in California’s June primary Rep. Tom McClintock, a crusader against earmarks, turned back a challenge from Washington business consultant Art Moore, who “thinks representatives should deliver for folks back home,” in the words of a local reporter.

Actual advocates for free markets have long known that being for free markets does not mean being for big business. Perhaps the confusion arose from Ayn Rand’s laughable assertion that big business is a “persecuted minority” but the connection has stuck, and for whatever reason, many seem to think that free-market advocates are fine with subsidies and government favors as long as they go to big corporations.


3:05 pm on August 6, 2014