You are hereLA Times: White House confronts the U.S. Chamber of Commerce

LA Times: White House confronts the U.S. Chamber of Commerce


The group has long had friendly ties in high places in Washington. But the Obama White House is critical of the group's positions and seeks to develop its own pipeline to the business world.

October 25, 2009- The Obama White House, stepping in where other Democrats feared to tread, has launched a potentially risky fight with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce -- attempting to bypass the nation's most powerful business organization and develop independent ties to corporate America.

In recent weeks, President Obama, his Energy secretary and one of his other most senior advisors have begun criticizing the chamber publicly, casting it as a profligate lobbying organization at odds with its members in opposing the administration on such issues as consumer protection and climate change.

At the same time, the administration has been meeting privately with prominent corporate leaders -- more than 60 of them since June -- in an effort to develop its own pipeline to the business community.

The White House also has gone out of its way to cultivate another corporate group, the Business Roundtable, which is much smaller than the chamber but represents chief executives of many of the nation's largest corporations.

"Our strategy is to reach out directly to the business community," said Valerie Jarrett, the president's liaison to the corporate world. "This is a shift. Previously, the chamber had served as the sole intermediary for business. That's not our approach."

Jarrett praised the Business Roundtable, saying that it brings member CEOs to White House meetings in addition to Washington lobbyists.

In an indirect dig at the chamber, Jarrett said the roundtable meetings were more substantive and valuable because they included not just a trade association leader but someone who actually runs a business.

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