U.S. Chamber of Commerce has its own base problems

U.S. CHAMBER OF COMMERCE HAS ITS OWN BASE PROBLEMS…. I haven’t seen any polling on this, but if I had to guess, I suspect most Americans have a certain mental impression when they think of the “Chamber of Commerce.” The image is one of a local group of businesses which play a positive role in the community.

But as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce at the national level becomes more of a hardball political operation, focused heavily on being a partisan ally to the Republican Party, that creates a problem for local folks who organize under a similar name.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is under fire from some local chambers over its hard-hitting $75 million ad campaign to elect a Republican House, with dozens of groups distancing themselves from the effort and a handful even quitting the national group in protest.

“We were getting pounded. We felt here, in central Pennsylvania, that the ads they were running were not professional ads,” said David Wise, president of the Chamber of Business and Industry of Centre County, which is considering dropping its national membership. “This was not a unifying event. It was divisive.”

More than 40 local chambers issued statements during the midterms distancing themselves from the U.S. Chamber’s campaign — including nearly every major local chamber in Iowa and New Hampshire, key states for the presidential campaign.

Other chambers plan to take the extraordinary step of ending their affiliation with the U.S. Chamber, including the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce in Pennsylvania. Its leaders reported being inundated with angry — and sometimes profanity-laced — telephone calls from people objecting to the U.S. Chamber-backed ads.

The next question is probably what the national Chamber intends to do about this, if anything. The national entity actually finds itself in something of a bind — if the U.S. Chamber of Commerce remains a GOP attack dog, it’ll keep losing local members. If it moderates, it’s likely to lose large, deep-pocketed members that ultimately keep the Chamber flush with cash.

Something to keep an eye on.