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Chamber ups its stakes in midterm election

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce will add to its pledged $75 million in campaign expenditures with a nationwide online advertising and text-messaging campaign.

Stan Anderson, who manages the Chamber’s Campaign for Free Enterprise, said Thursday the effort would more than rival the group’s TV spending.

{mosads}Anderson wouldn’t give a specific dollar amount, but said the Free Enterprise campaign, which is separate from the political arm funding independent expenditure ads, is on track to spend some $100 million over the next five years.

The Chamber, an influential business lobbying group, will also conduct a series of high-profile events with governors and other lawmakers across the country to promote its initiative.

The group’s greatest political impact this cycle will likely come in a handful of contested congressional contests where it intends to pour millions into ad campaigns.

 Despite a political environment that heavily favors Republicans, national Democrats still boast a cash advantage, which the party hopes can help stem losses in 2010.

But massive spending by outside groups like the Chamber of Commerce and other third-party groups supporting Republican candidates aims to erase that edge.

The Chamber has already run ads in targeted Senate contests, including in Illinois, Pennsylvania and Ohio. On Wednesday, the Chamber jumped into California’s Senate race, launching an ad campaign against Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) with what it says is a “multi-million” dollar effort.

As part of its Campaign for Free Enterprise, the group will encourage voters to pepper candidates with a series of questions that form the core of the Chamber’s 2010 message, according to officials. The questions will be distributed through local Chambers across the country and through an extensive online advertising campaign.

The Chamber will distribute cards encouraging voters to ask five questions, including “Do you believe our free enterprise system is currently threatened?” and “Would you deal with the debt and deficit issues through increasing government revenue or decreasing government spending?”

The group is also planning a series of what it terms “bipartisan events” with governors across the country, including Govs. Mitch Daniels (R-Ind.) and Chris Christie (R-N.J.).

The campaign plans to engage members of Congress and candidates at town halls and other events during the second week of October, when Congress adjourns ahead of the November elections. It has designated Oct. 11-15 “free enterprise week.”

The Chamber has played a leading role in just about every major legislative Congress has taken on. The pro-business group spent millions lobbying against the healthcare bill, the Disclose Act, the union organizing bill known as “card check” and financial reform.

Later Thursday the Chamber is expected to announce a strategy aimed at bucking up “pro-business” congressional candidates across the country.

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