THE HILL: Chamber looks to support Democratic allies in 2020

Thursday, February 27, 2020 - 10:00am

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce last week endorsed Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) and left the door open to supporting other Democrats in the 2020 election, in a shift for the nation’s most influential pro-business lobby.

The group, historically seen as Republican-leaning, has taken steps to improve its ties with Democrats. Scott Reed, the Chamber’s chief political strategist, told The Hill that the advocacy group is “putting our money where our mouth is,” by backing candidates who supported the group’s agenda regardless of party. 

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In 2019, Chamber CEO Tom Donohue announced a new rating system that would focus on bipartisan achievements when the Chamber endorses lawmakers. “Lawmakers should be rewarded for reaching across the aisle  — not punished,” Donohue said at the time.

He stressed that again at his annual State of American Business address in January. 

“We need to encourage and support lawmakers who are committed to getting things done and help grow their ranks — on Capitol Hill and in the upcoming elections,” Donohue said.

How the Chamber manages these endorsements in 2020 will be closely watched.

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The Chamber is rallying other business groups as well, with the American Bankers Association (ABA) also endorsing Cuellar.

“The left has been doing this for years with unions, we’re now catching up and having a consistent message,” Reed said on building coalitions to back pro-business candidates.

ABA spent on one ad blitz for Cuellar in partnership with the Texas Bankers Association. The 30-second spot notes his support for bills to help families get home loans or to start small businesses.

“We are proud to partner with Texas bankers to shine a spotlight on Henry Cuellar’s strong support of legislation that is critically important to banks and their communities,” ABA president and CEO Rob Nichols said in the endorsement.

Whether the Chamber finds other Democrats it is willing to back remains to be seen. But Reed said the group was eager to aid its allies.

“When Chamber candidates ask for help, we’re going to give them extra assistance,” he said. 

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