Business groups make push for House to vote against Disclose Act

Business groups are using a variety of tactics to pressure House members to vote against campaign finance legislation.

One of those tactics is offering their endorsement ahead of the vote.

The Chamber of Commerce announced Wednesday it’s supporting Rep. Dan Boren (D-Okla.) for reelection — one of only a handful of Democrats it has backed this cycle.

“On issues ranging from competition in the healthcare industry to lowering taxes to reducing energy costs, Oklahoma’s businesses and workers have a tireless advocate in Dan Boren,” Bill Miller, the Chamber’s political director, said in statement.

The statement of support didn’t note Boren’s position on the Disclose Act, the legislation that would bolster disclosure requirements for corporate and union spending. But observers saw it as a sign the Chamber is using the offer of an endorsement to get members to vote against the bill.

Boren is expected to vote against the legislation.

A spokesman for the powerful lobbying group said the act is one piece of legislation that it considered during its endorsement process.

“We weigh a variety of factors when considering endorsements of candidates,” J.P. Fielder, a Chamber spokesman, told The Ballot Box. “The unconstitutional Disclose Act is certainly going to be one of them.” He noted the group also considers a member’s positions on issues like healthcare reform and cap-and-trade legislation.

Boren, through his spokesman, declined to comment on the endorsement.

A senior Democratic leadership aide described the business group’s tactics as “borderline thuggish.”

“The Chamber has threatened [multiple vulnerable members] with ads against them if they vote for the bill,” the aide said. “The tactics have been borderline thuggish.”

Fielder declined to discuss the characterization but noted the group is only up with a print ad in the Washington area and has not started airing TV spots against the Disclose Act or specific members.

Meanwhile, the Chamber and a coalition of 305 business organizations sent members a letter Wednesday expressing their opposition to the bill.

“The legislation places onerous restrictions on corporate free speech while ignoring unions’ immense political influence,” the letter stated. “Like the ‘card check’ bill, this legislation changes election rules to give one side the upper hand.”

The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) sent a similar letter on Tuesday.

“A vote against final passage of H.R. 5175 may be considered an NFIB key vote for the 111th Congress,” their note stated.

A “key vote” means the group will factor the member’s vote into its decision on whether to endorse. The Chamber will also score the vote.

The Disclose Act is the Democrats’ answer to the Supreme Court’s decision in the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission case. The court’s ruling removed campaign finance restrictions for business groups and labor organizations.

House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) told reporters on Wednesday that the legislation would be voted on this week, possibly as early as Thursday. A source in the leadership said the “whip count is looking really good,” meaning they are confident of passage.

— S.J.M.

For DeMint, Colorado Senate race is the next target

As conservative activists begin shifting their focus from Tuesday’s Utah Republican Senate primary to Colorado’s upcoming one, so will Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) and his Senate Conservatives Fund.
DeMint, a popular conservative, is backing Weld County prosecutor Ken Buck against former Lt. Gov. Jane Norton. Just as it was in Utah, his backing is likely to be an issue in the race.

In the Utah race, GOP candidate Tim Bridgewater’s campaign sent out a mailer hitting DeMint’s support of Republican candidate Mike Lee. The mailer also accused DeMint of wanting to use Utah as a “dumping ground” for nuclear waste.

Lee won the nomination over Bridgewater, who was considered the party’s favored candidate.

In Colorado, Norton has been taking serious fire from conservatives, as has the National Republican Senatorial Committee. Committee Chairman John Cornyn (Texas) is holding a joint fundraiser with Norton on June 25.

Despite recent poll numbers that have Buck ahead of Norton by double digits, Norton’s candidacy offers a somewhat tougher test for conservative activists. Norton has plenty of money and some serious consulting heft behind her bid.

DeMint has donated to Buck’s campaign.

The Republican primary is Aug. 10.

— Shane D’Aprile