Is The U.S. Chamber Of Commerce Planning A Landrieu Endorsement?

That’s what it sounds like.

From a New York Times column by Joe Nocera Saturday

As the 2014 midterms near, that seems to be the approach the Chamber of Commerce is taking. It has gotten involved in Republican primaries, siding with the more moderate Republican in a race — though perhaps it is more accurate to say the less radical Republican. At the most recent Committee of 100 meeting, Rob Engstrom, the chamber’s national political director, told the group that the chamber planned to support Mary Landrieu, the Louisiana Democrat who is running for re-election to the Senate.

Engstrom told The Hill’s Alexandra Jaffe yesterday that the Chamber’s verdict on the Louisiana Senate race was still out.

“No decisions ‎have been made in the LA Senate race,” he said.

Meaning that in the smoke-filled rooms they’re talking about endorsing Landrieu. For public consumption they’d rather not have a decision people can chew on.

The U.S. Chamber is becoming toxic in American politics, largely because it’s so brazen in its demands not for the freedom to do business without government overreach but for free stuff from the government. Chamber president Tom Donohue’s statement in May that if the GOP doesn’t pass an amnesty bill this year they might as well not even run a presidential candidate in 2016 was one of the dumbest utterances in recent political history, and then Donohue ran down to Cuba to break bread with the Castro regime because they’re allowing some private businesses to operate under government direction and sufferance. Which is a little like the crony capitalism people accuse the Chamber of promoting here.

Eric Cantor was the U.S. Chamber’s favorite congressman, and they killed him with their support. And last week in Georgia, the Chamber’s endorsement – plus $2.3 million in advertising dollars – of Jack Kingston proved fatal against David Perdue – who is a corporate CEO.

And yet Donohue and Engstrom have done everything they can to make Republicans in DC believe their support is crucial if those Republicans are going to win races. This despite one of the worst records of electoral horse-picking imaginable in 2012. The U.S. Chamber backed 15 Senate candidates that cycle – and lost 13 of those races. They backed 22 House candidates in 2012, and all but four of them lost.

Nobody believes these guys are in it for anything other than themselves. And that’s not reflective of a public that has endorsed communism, or rejected free enterprise. The Chamber is losing their ability to claim that they’re the gold standard where “pro-business” is concerned. They’re becoming seen as “pro-crony capitalism.” The opposition to which is shared by both the Hard Left and the Hard Right.

So – if the Chamber goes through with an endorsement of Landrieu, what happens then?

First of all, the Bill Cassidy campaign is going to begin bashing the Chamber – or at least it ought to. Cassidy has a lifetime rating of 93 according to the Chamber’s scorecard, while Landrieu’s rating is only a 68. Why the Chamber would go with a 68 over a 93 is a real question, and Cassidy ought to ask it. He might supply his own answer, which might sound a lot like “Mary got that endorsement because she’s more easily bought by crooked lobbyists who’ll do business with her husband, the Real Estate Agent To The Political Stars, and I never had a chance at it despite a pro-business record I’m proud of because I don’t have a $2 million house on Capitol Hill and I’m not part of the Beltway daisy chain.”

Not to mention Cassidy can say this is about amnesty, and the fact he’s not for flooding the market with cheap Third World labor and thus screwing Louisiana workers out of jobs or raises is what cost him the Chamber’s endorsement. And he can say “Y’know, Mary’s all about that amnesty. Those Chamber people would rather have a 68 with amnesty than a 93 without it. Think about that and decide whether you’re going to be influenced by that endorsement.”

And then there’s the Export-Import Bank, the ultimate in crony-capitalist enterprises. Naturally, Mary supports it. Cassidy voted for it in the past before it started to become a political issue and he’s now calling for major reforms before he’d support reauthorization.

Second of all, the state of Louisiana’s chamber of commerce, the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, is not going to follow the U.S. Chamber into endorsing Landrieu. LABI has never made endorsements in federal races, and they’re certainly not going to start now. The guess here is that Stephen Waguespack, LABI’s president and a former chief of staff for Gov. Bobby Jindal, isn’t going to make a public statement if the U.S. Chamber endorses – and his silence is going to be deafening. He’ll make just as much noise if he says that LABI is not endorsing a candidate in the Senate race.

LABI not following the U.S. Chamber into an endorsement of Landrieu will make the endorsement look pretty lousy. What it will say is that Landrieu has all the crony-capitalist K Street people behind her, but not the folks back home. LABI doesn’t have to endorse Cassidy to make that loud and clear. And just like when Bollinger Shipyards CEO Boysie Bollinger did a TV ad in favor of Landrieu saying that the business community loves her only to have a major blowback about Bollinger’s government contracts and the pay-for-play stench of the whole thing, the U.S. Chamber’s endorsement will only strengthen the narrative of DC deal-making and crony capitalism where she’s concerned.

After all, Louisiana is a lot like Georgia, politically. And if the U.S. Chamber and their $2.3 million couldn’t help Kingston in a Republican primary there, one wouldn’t expect them to do a whole lot for Landrieu here.

Not that Landrieu couldn’t use $2.3 million in ads touting how business-friendly she is. But if the public perceives those ads as promoting a crooked faux-capitalism in place of free enterprise, she might not be too happy with that endorsement after all.

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