The nation's biggest business lobbies are putting big bucks into a TV campaign to re-elect GOP Rep. Dave Reichert and fend off his formidable Democratic challenger, former Microsoft manager Darcy Burner.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce goes up Monday with a $156,000 TV buy -- anticipate ads that will smear Burner as a tax raiser -- on top of a previous $40,000 radio campaign against the Democratic challenger.
Next week, the National Federation of Independent Business begins a $219,000 television buy to boost Reichert.
Despite its august status, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has earned a sleazy, secretive and ham-handed reputation for its recent political interventions in the Evergreen State.
It used a front group -- the "Voter Education Project" -- to air $1.5 million worth of TV spots denouncing Deborah Senn when the ex-insurance commissioner ran for state attorney general in 2004. The Chamber has refused to say who contributed the money for the anti-Senn campaign.
In 2004, Westcoast Hotels CEO Don Barbieri was about to begin a term as president of the Greater Spokane Chamber of Commerce. Barbieri bowed out, choosing to run (unsuccessfully) as a Democrat for a vacant seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.
The U.S. Chamber launched an anti-Barbieri campaign on Spokane television, without first bothering to consult with anybody from the Spokane Chamber. It depicted Barbieri, a longtime Inland Empire business leader, as a dangerous liberal who did not share local values.
The chamber's $40,000 radio buy was used to argue, falsely, that Burner would raise taxes on families with children.
A more basic question can be asked: After the Wall Street meltdown -- caused by deregulation measures that it supported -- what business does the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have telling us how to vote?
The U.S. Chamber has been given millions to fight against transparency, accountability and oversight of America's largest financial firms according to a report yesterday by the American Association for Accountability, a trial lawyers group.
In its brief, the association reports that the insurance giant American International Group (AIG) paid $23 million to the U.S. Chamber between 2001 and 2005. As it was going under last month, AIG was balied out by the Treasury Department -- e.g. the country's taxpayers.
The U.S. Chamber is not the biggest business spender in a Washington congressional race.
A secretive group called Americans for Job Security -- with roots in the insurance industry -- spent more than $750,000 in the 2000 Slade Gorton-Maria Cantwell U.S. Senate race.
It boosted Gorton with Eastern Washington TV spots early in the campaign, but launched a $600,000 anti-Cantwell campaign on the day after the primary.