Chamber's shift out of neutral gets mileage

Thomas Donohue, president of the US Chamber of Commerce, issued a pretty grave threat against the Democratic Party last week.

Thomas Donohue, president of the US Chamber of Commerce, issued a pretty grave threat against the Democratic Party last week.

He warned that if John Edwards - a trial lawyer and no friend of Big Business - were chosen as John Kerry's running mate, the chamber would abandon its customary "neutrality" and campaign against the Democrats. Except that the chamber was threatening to abandon something it never really had. Even a routine look at 2000 campaign coverage shows what passes for neutrality with Donohue. In April 2000, he said that Al Gore's stance on the environment was "extraordinary and bizarre," whereas George W. Bush "is going to want to be seen as someone who is sensitive and caring about the environment." Or regarding Gore's populist speeches: "The business community is not going to forget it. And I'm not going to forget it." Or in September 2000, when he praised Dick Cheney as a running mate for Bush, saying it "excites" the chamber to see a man on the ticket who "knows what it takes to meet a payroll." And then there was his October 2000 op-ed in The Washington Post, in which he blasted Gore for "poisoning the atmosphere" by campaigning against Big Business. But the chamber has been around long enough to know that the political press has a memory second in brevity only to a trout. Sure enough, the story made headlines around the US, contributing to the many examinations of Edwards' liabilities as a candidate. Donohue became a major force in defining the new guy by threatening to do something he's always done, namely campaign against the less corporate-friendly ticket. That's what we call taking care of business. PR PLAY OF THE WEEK:
  • Douglas Quenqua writes PR Play of the Week. He is PRWeek's Washington, DC, bureau chief. Ratings: 1. Clueless 2. Ill-advised 3. On the right track 4. Savvy 5. Ingenious

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