Chamber chief has really crossed the line now

The WSJ had an interesting piece about how Thomas Donohue, the president and chief executive of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, has been trying to climb to the top of the Obama “enemies list” (move over, FoxNews) lately with his adamant opposition to the administration’s positions on global warming, health care and bank oversight.

Some of his comments have been immoderate enough to alienate some prominent Chamber members, such as Apple, Nike and Duke Energy. And when you’re not progressive enough on climate change for Duke (Donohue’s Chamber has said of global warming that warmer temperatures could help by reducing deaths related to cold weather), you may have a problem.

But what really struck me was this:

Through a spokesman, Mr. Donohue declined to be interviewed for this article.

Whoa. I can see the POTUS wanting to cold-shoulder Fox, but the head of the Chamber of Commerce not wanting to talk to The Wall Street Journal? It may be time for the Chamber board to consider whether this is the right guy to be heading up their effort. When a business leader won’t talk to the Journal, something is amiss.

Oh, and about the “enemies list” thing — I was just using that as a way of bringing up my old friend Lamar Alexander, whom I covered in the 70s when he was a pup. I broke bread with him numerous times while traveling with his gubernatorial campaign. I even went out with him and some campaign staffers to a disco in a black neighborhood in Nashville, and witnessed the improbable spectacle of this Pat Boone near-clone taking the dance floor, which is one of the odder things I’ve seen in my career of covering politics. (Back in those days, we COVERED campaigns.)

Where did that come from? Oh… Kathryn gave me a hard time for name-dropping back on this thread, and I didn’t want to disappoint her.

10 thoughts on “Chamber chief has really crossed the line now

  1. Burl Burlingame

    Oh, for chrissakes, the Chamber of Commerce is a lobbying organization. They stick up for what they see is in the best interest of their members. Being right or wrong or house-divided or simply being stupid is beside the point.
    It’s like when the Air Force Association torpedoed the Smithsonian Enola Gay exhibition. They deliberately spread misinformation and lied about the planned exhibit, and stupid congressmen (and a number of editorial page editors) swallowed it whole because they were the Air Force Association. So? The AFA exists to make the Air Force look good, not to make sure that Air Force history is accurate and honest. You can’t blame them for that — but you have to understand why they do what they do. Same for the Chamber of Commerce. Everyone’s got an angle.

  2. Kathryn Fenner

    My, how jaded you’ve become, or how naive I’ve managed to remain. Does *everyone* have to have an angle? Can’t an organization just stand up for what it really thinks is best or the truth, etc.–or at least remain silent?

    I know lawyers get a huge bad rap, but we can’t suborn perjury. If our client wants to get on the stand and lie, and we know about it, there’s a whole procedure we have to follow. We sure can’t put any other witness on the stand who we know is lying. We can’t file lawsuits we know to be baseless in fact or law, or we face sanctions.

  3. Thy Bard

    Brad, I enjoy reading of your journey into nano-space.

    The Chamber’s lobby is full of the interests of the Board. Understand?

    And their you find the entrenched interests and who they call master.

    Follow the money back to Congress.

  4. Doug Ross

    “We sure can’t put any other witness on the stand who we know is lying. We can’t file lawsuits we know to be baseless in fact or law, or we face sanctions.”

    Can’t or shouldn’t?

    There may be good lawyers but there are plenty of others to balance them out.

  5. Kathryn Fenner


    I stand corrected:

    “are not permitted to or we lose our licenses” so I should have said “may not.”

    –and unless one is one of the apparently above-the-law elite in this state, one will most assuredly be grieved for suborning perjury or filing a frivolous suit. The strength of the advocacy system is that there are people on the other side standing ready to call foul quite eagerly. Lawyers even have an ethical duty to call a foul on one another and can be themselves grieved for failing to do so.

    “good” can mean a lot of things. If you mean “naturally virtuous,” of course, law is no more likely to attract saints than sinners, but as I pointed out, there are plenty of enforcement mechanisms. There’s money or liberty at stake, so fouls get called far more often than are found to be justified, in fact.

    –and only in Lake Wobegon are all the children above average. Half the lawyers graduating are in the bottom half of their class. It’s like the old joke “What do you call the guy who graduated in the bottom of his medical school class?” “Doctor.”

    Usually you get what you pay for. There are indeed lawyers who have trouble bringing themselves to charge what they are worth–usually women domestic relations practitioners-there’s a bargain-hunting tip (although there are also plenty of simply sub-par women lawyers practicing DR, so caveat emptor). Otherwise, the top lawyers command the top fees–there’s a pretty close correlation, especially in the business world.

  6. Burl Burlingame

    Everyone’s got an angle, yeah, if their existence is based on lobbying!
    Lawyers (and journalists and doctors) have codes of ethics that even the worst of them are supposed to pay attention to. Tain’t so with lobbyists. What they have are legal limits.

  7. Kathryn Fenner

    A non-rhetorical question–
    Is it possible to be a lobbyist or a marketing person or an advertising person and still have personal integrity–to only shill for what you actually personally believe is right?

  8. Bart Rogers

    Kathryn, Robin Tallon was and as far as I know, still is a lobbyist for big tobacco after he voluntarily stepped aside as the representative from his district to avoid any conflict within the party after redistricting.

    Robin grew up in Dillon, in the middle of an agricultural community, never lived on a farm as far as I know, had his success as a men’s clothing store owner, and is a non-smoker.

    Unless he smoked on the side, away from everyone, I never saw him smoke a cigarette. Yet, he lobbied for the tobacco industry.

    Robin was the consummate politician and still is. Don’t take me the wrong way. Robin is a decent person and like everyone else, has his faults, but overall, a good guy. He is also a lifelong, dedicated Democrat.

    Ethical, opportunistic, or pragmatic?


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