The US Chamber of Commerce, the American Medical Association, and several drugmakers have separately stepped out in the past week and voiced their opposition to several of President Barack Obama's plans for healthcare, energy, and business reform.
Since his inauguration, few groups have publicly announced they oppose any of Obama's proposals. But this week – the same week that major banks announced they would begin repaying their TARP funds and issued “hands-off” warnings to the government – all that changed.
On June 10, the Chamber said it was preparing to launch a multimillion-dollar integrated campaign to remind the US public about the value of the free enterprise system, says Tita Freeman, VP of communications for the Washington-based Chamber.
Concerns for the Chamber and its constituency include the federal budget, government-sponsored healthcare, an "emboldened activist" labor movement, tax increases, and changes in environmental regulations, Freeman notes.
“We felt it time to come out and lay a stake in the ground,” she adds.
The campaign, which will include advertising, education, political activities, new media, and grassroots organizing, will kick off later this summer. It is the largest communications effort that the chamber has done in its 100-year history, Freeman says.
Audiences will start to see organizations refine their messages to align with business and industry goals, notes Gil Bashe, EVP in the health practice at Makovsky and Company.
While a grace period usually follows an incoming administration, this year will require more strategic thinking on the part of the opponents that have stayed quiet in recent months, says Gene Grabowski, SVP for Levick Strategic Communications.
“Groups are facing a myriad of challenges, including the economic challenges, an extremely popular president, and expansive legislation and reform,” he adds.
Some of the voices coming from the business community are suggesting an overlying concern about the government's new influence in the banking and automotive industries, and how that might affect other sectors.
“There [have] been increasingly public efforts to erode the private enterprise system that has been the very foundation of our country's prosperity,” Freeman says.
Groups with a vested interest in healthcare – a major priority for the Obama administration right now – are also increasing their communications efforts and tailoring their messages to face off with Obama's proposal.
The American Medical Association recently released a statement saying it opposes certain forms of a government-sponsored insurance plan, while executives at Merck and Eli Lilly also said this week that the companies opposed a public plan.
“I think that people are going to start to organize and are going to start to give tremendous, focused pushback towards certain [policies],” says Bashe. “Not because they object, but because they want alternative viewpoints.”