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CEO DATELINE – Report: U.S. Chamber faces many woes under Trump

May 3, 2019
By Walt Williams

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The long-influential U.S. Chamber of Commerce has found the doors of the White House closed to it, leaving some to question the business group’s effectiveness in the current advocacy environment, the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday.

The newspaper recounted an incident from before President Donald Trump’s inauguration in which the president lashed out at a Chamber adviser who tried to introduce himself. (“You guys did everything to try to stop me,” Trump reportedly said.) The relationship hasn’t thawed since then, with the Chamber’s revenue and election spending dipping as the president pursues a populist conservative agenda misaligned with some of the business group’s policy goals.

 “I feel they are not much of a force anymore,” U.S. Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.), a Chamber critic, told the Journal. “I believe in free markets and am against cronyism and corporate welfare, and they support those things.”

The newspaper outlined several woes allegedly plaguing the business group:

  • The Chamber’s recent outreach to Democrats has largely fallen flat after years of backing Republican candidates.
  • The group draws most of its revenue from older industries like tobacco, oil and gas. And the Chamber’s battles against environmental and public health regulations have alienated companies such as Apple and CVS Health Corp.
  • The Chamber’s inability to court the White House has left the door open to rivals like Business Roundtable.
  • Changes under Senior Executive Vice President Suzanne Clark have alienated some employees. The entire media team resigned earlier this year over complaints about management, sources told the Journal.
  • Staff and board members have pressured Chamber CEO Tom Donohue about his retirement plans but he has not given any indication when, or if, he will step down. Former House Speaker Paul Ryan was approached by Chamber officials as a possible successor, but he declined, the Journal reported.

The Chamber shot back at the allegations in a statement to the Journal, saying it is “stronger than ever with the influence, expertise, partnerships, and long-term vision to drive our members’ agenda in every political environment and well into the future.”