LOBBYING:

U.S. Chamber launches $100M 'Campaign for Free Enterprise'

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce launched a $100 million campaign today to create 20 million domestic jobs during the next decade by supporting open capital markets and free trade while opposing excessive taxation and regulation.

The "Campaign for Free Enterprise" will span more than five years and include national advertising, political lobbying and grass-roots education efforts to mobilize the business association's more than 3 million members.

"This is not just another one-shot Washington campaign," chamber President and CEO Tom Donohue vowed at the association's Washington headquarters. "This is a serious, long-term and positive effort to preserve and strengthen the economic system."

The chamber headquarters -- which was draped with a massive "free enterprise" banner facing the White House -- will house an operations center that will deploy polling data, economic studies and campaign operatives.

Chamber executives underscored that the campaign is not aimed at supporting or opposing the political policies of any one political party. Rather, the campaign will focus on beating back what they consider "protectionist" trade policies and "excessive" regulation and taxation.

"We want every policymaker to think about free enterprise and the key role it plays in our economic growth and the creation of jobs," explained Tom Bell, vice chairman of the chamber's board of directors and former CEO of Atlanta-based Cousins Properties Inc.

The campaign, which will include slick television advertisements, will focus on doubling exports in five years and creating jobs within small businesses. It will also deal with thorny issues such as reforming health care and mitigating climate change.

In recent weeks, Apple Inc. and several other high-profile companies have left the chamber or announced plans to do so because of the business association's stance on regulating greenhouse gas emissions. In response, Donohue underscored last week that his organization opposes EPA regulation of greenhouse gas emissions via the Clean Air Act but supports U.S. legislation on climate change at "the earliest possible time" (E&ENews PM, Oct. 8).

Addressing the issue today, Donohue insisted that economic recovery from the deepest recession since the 1930s -- and a strong free-enterprise system -- must accompany climate regulation.

"It's a fundamental reality -- if you don't have a strong economy, you don't have high employment," Donohue added. "You do not have the resources or political will to pursue an active and aggressive climate program."

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