Top business groups vow more involvement in primaries

Business groups are vowing to ramp up their involvement in next year's primaries in an effort to get candidates elected who support their views.

The groups are searching for pro-business Republicans in particular in the era of the Tea Party and a gridlocked Congress.

ADVERTISEMENT
The National Retail Federation and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce say the deeper reach into politics is prompted by the influence of the Tea Party and its ability to derail major issues, including immigration reform and the smooth passage of a debt ceiling increase.

Business groups saying they’ll get more involved in primaries want to counter groups like the Club for Growth and Heritage Action seen as more influenced by ideology.

David French, a senior director of government relations with the National Retail Federation, said his group fears business groups aren’t as effective with GOP lawmakers as the Tea Party.

“There's a growing awareness that there's an anti-establishment bent to some of the ideological donors," he said.

“There's collateral damage, so we're trying to reassert some sort of rational world order to get our agenda across the finish line.”

French argued that his group's PAC is modest, deploying tens of thousands of dollars into primary races, meaning he can't place big bets on 25 races.

This time around, French expects that retailers will take a closer at a couple of races that may not have been on the radar in the past, all in response to the "changing environment on Capitol Hill" that has contributed to what he called "the three-ring circus that has transfixed Washington."

French emphasized that it is "significant" that his group needs to get involved in GOP primaries because most business PACs have not done it before.

The Chamber is taking a similar tack and plans to get going early next year to steer elections toward their preferred candidates.

Thomas Donohue, president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said his group would dole out campaign contributions in "10s" of primaries, up from two last year because the conflicts over fiscal issues and immigration, among others, will continue into the primaries next year.

"You've got to go into the primaries not just to affect this race or that but to send a message on who we are and what we believe," Donohue said during a recent C-SPAN interview.

"We want to get a better result for the American people and get people there who give the arguments a fair shake." Even though Donohue said the Chamber would back Republicans and Democrats, the pick up in primary involvement is meant to have a "more governable Republican party."

"I think that some of the people on the far right of the Republican party have created an agenda that is detrimental to Republicans who are trying to make this economy stronger and trying to help the business community get economic growth up over 3-3.5 percent so we can start to hire people," he said.

"We're just trying to get to people who have some sense of what we're trying to do on the economy and business."

Donohue said the group has plenty of assets and would spend those on the push for comprehensive immigration reform on the debt and deficit and "we sure as hell will use them in the election."