Chamber launches 'free enterprise' defense

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce will launch an educational and advocacy program called the "Campaign for Free Enterprise" seeking to promote free market values.

The campaign comes after a 2008 campaign cycle saw Democrats accused the business group of becoming an arm of the Republican Party.

The new campaign will include "aggressive issue advocacy" ahead of the 2010 elections, and will include paid advertising campaigns, new media blitzes, and grassroots organizing.

The business group's leader said no less was at stake than the preservation of capitalism.

"Supporters and critics alike agree that capitalism is at a crossroads," Chamber President and CEO Thomas J. Donohue said in a statement announcing the campaign. "It's time to remind all Americans that it was a free enterprise system based on the values of individual initiative, hard work, risk, innovation, and profit that built our great country."

The emphasis on supporting "free enterprise," a policy position typically embraced by conservative Republicans, comes after last fall's accusation from then-Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) Chairman Charles Schumer's (D-N.Y.) accusation that the Chamber had become a "wing" of the GOP.

Schumer said the Chamber is "supposed to be nonpartisan, and they've turned themselves into a wing of the NRSC [National Republican Senatorial Committee]. They're running attack ads on issues unrelated to the issues the Chamber stands for, they're taking partisan stands, and their ads almost dovetail with the campaign ads of the NRSC -- in some cases, they use the exact same slogan."