Longform

How the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Became the Greatest Enemy of America

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These days, the Chamber looks like an organization with buyer's remorse. In the 2012 election, it spent tens of millions tarring Democrats, only to find its message too archaic for modern sensibilities. Most of these Democrats were re-elected.

It spent millions more electing jihadists like Cruz, people who don't seem to care how many fights they pick — or how often they lose — as long as their heroics are nationally televised.

These train wrecks have led the Chamber to undergo a reluctant self-examination.

"The Tea Party has become so radical and so polarizing that the Chamber doesn't want to be seen looking like that," says the AFL-CIO's Silvers.

This new self-reflection was evident in November, when another mutant appeared on the horizon. His name was Dean Young. He was a real estate developer running in the Republican primary for the congressional seat in Mobile, Alabama.

Only a year before, Young would have been the ideal Chamber candidate: a gay-baiting, shutdown-backing conservative who still believed Barack Obama was born in Kenya.

But this time, the Chamber dumped $200,000 on his mild-mannered opponent, lawyer Bradley Byrne, who won.

After a century of playing with gasoline, it seems the Chamber has finally discovered that moderation is less prone to accidental explosion.

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Pete Kotz
Contact: Pete Kotz