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Chamber of Commerce, Mobilizing State and Local Forces, Strikes Against Boxer

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce launched a multimillion-dollar ad attacking Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) last night as part of its nationwide effort to spend $75 million defeating Democrats. The Chamber is not normally active in U.S. Senate races in California because Democrats like Boxer have appeared nearly invulnerable in past election cycles, but a poll from CNN/Time that was also released yesterday shows that Boxer’s Republican opponent, Carly Fiorina, is trailing in the race by just four percentage points — a statistically insignificant amount.

The ad, which represents the first television commercial of the general election, alleges that Boxer’s water policy decisions saved an endangered fish but hurt the Central Valley’s economy:

“Without water, the Central Valley can’t work,” says a voice-over on the ad, citing Boxer’s support of legislation that “voted to cut water to the Central Valley, killing jobs and driving unemployment as high as 40%.”

It’s a classic Chamber-sponsored hit job. Over the years, the organization has found a niche highlighting efforts to protect local species (the smaller and uglier the better) and then casting them as ridiculous and irresponsible job killing measures. As chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee in the Senate, Boxer is a particularly easy target for this tactic.

Democrats are not sweating too profusely about the race: Boxer enjoys a huge fundraising advantage — she had nearly 12 times as much cash on hand as Fiorina at the end of June. Enough monetary infusions from outside groups like the Chamber, however, might quickly start evening the score.

In addition to sponsoring ads, the Chamber has signaled its intention to influence campaigns in new ways by launching an intricate ground game as well. In California, for instance:

The California Chamber of Commerce does not officially endorse federal candidates. But, says Rob Lapsley, the organization’s vice president of public affairs:

“For the first time we will be stepping out to tell voters which Senate candidate will be best at bringing back the economy.” The California chamber, he said, will be reaching out to 1 million workers, employed by member companies, to educate them about candidates up and down the ballot.

Such efforts will likely dovetail with their “Campaign for Free Enterprise,” a two month campaign effort that the group is announcing today in Washington. In addition to advertising, the Chamber is mobilizing state and local chambers to pellet candidates with five questions about “the free enterprise system and job creation.” Here’s the press release with details about the new campaign’s plans:

With a Series of Events, Ads, and Studies, Campaign for Free Enterprise Hits High Gear Ahead of Elections

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Building on the momentum of July’s Jobs for America: Summit 2010 and leading up to Election Day, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Campaign for Free Enterprise is embarking on a two-month nationwide push through state and local chambers, an online ad campaign, and a series of policy, gubernatorial, and youth events that urges Americans to ask five questions of their political candidates about the free enterprise system and job creation.

“Because this election will be about the economy, the Campaign for Free Enterprise is offering voters a simple plan to see which candidates are focused on free enterprise policies that create jobs,” said Stan Anderson, managing director of the U.S. Chamber’s Campaign for Free Enterprise. “Our message for these events is simply this—if you’re a politician, we want to make sure your top priority is in line with that of the American people. We need to put policies in place that will get our country’s job creators hiring again and turn this economy around.”

The five questions will be delivered to hundreds of state and local chambers nationwide and will be posted online with the ability to click and send immediately to lawmakers. In all, the Campaign for Free Enterprise plans to distribute these five questions to millions of people during the next two months:

  • Do you believe that our free enterprise system is currently threatened?
  • Do you believe that tax increases hurt job creation?
  • Do you think that the growth of government at all levels and the deficits that follow negatively impact job creation?
  • Would you deal with the debt and deficit issues through increasing government revenue or decreasing government spending?
  • Do you believe that the uncertainty resulting from pending tax increases, higher government deficits, and more government regulations will hurt the economy?

These questions are the cornerstone of the Campaign for Free Enterprise’s series of innovative events and programs that will encourage voters to seek answers from their candidates in town halls, debates, and other public forums during the next two months. This initiative includes:

  • Aggressive Nationwide Online Ad Campaign – The Chamber will make a significant investment in online ads that urge voters to submit the five questions to policymakers.
  • Mobile Texting Campaign – The Chamber’s first-ever mobile texting campaign will directly engage citizens as part of a comprehensive mobile outreach strategy.
  • Free Enterprise Backpack – The Campaign for Free Enterprise has created a series of resources that voters can pull from to ask their candidates about free enterprise policies. These include downloadable cards featuring the five questions and an online widget allowing voters to send the questions to their candidates.
  • New Website Launch – The new Campaign for Free Enterprise website – www.FreeEnterprise.com – will actively engage supporters, while further educating voters with critical information on how to reach out to candidates.
  • Free Enterprise Week – October 11-15 will be designated Free Enterprise Week, with special events around the country emphasizing the importance of Chamber members asking their candidates the five questions.
  • State Level Blitz with Policy Makers – The National Chamber Foundation (NCF) will hold events with governors and leading policymakers on the top issues surrounding the elections.
  • Youth Engagement – Through the Extreme Entrepreneurship Tour (EET), the Campaign for Free Enterprise will make a major push to visit more than 20 college campuses in 12 states to spread the campaign’s message.

The Campaign for Free Enterprise is distributing a new video to hundreds of state and local chambers, highlighting the Chamber’s strategy for economic growth and motivating Chamber members to get involved. The video can be viewed here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RBWtfxloikc

The Campaign for Free Enterprise is the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s comprehensive, multiyear campaign to support free enterprise through national advertising; grassroots advocacy; citizen, community, and youth engagement; and research and ideas leadership.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is the world’s largest business federation representing the interests of more than 3 million businesses of all sizes, sectors, and regions, as well as state and local chambers and industry associations.

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