- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The head of the nation’s largest business lobby Tuesday announced a stepped-up plan to fight a wave of new federal regulations coming in the wake of President Obama’s health care, banking and environmental reforms.

U.S. Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Thomas J. Donohue said in a policy address that the Washington-based group will create special new unit to highlight the burden for big and small businesses from excessive regulation and promised “even greater activism” by the Chamber’s legal arm to fend off new regulations in court.

“The biggest single threat to job creation facing us today is a regulatory tsunami of unprecedented force,” Mr. Donohue said, noting that Mr. Obama’s health care overhaul law alone creates 183 new agencies and federal bodies, while the financial, regulatory overhaul approved earlier this year “has 320 required rulemakings, another 220 suggested rulemakings and over 170 reports and studies.”

Speaking with reporters after the morning address, the Chamber president said the uncertainty caused by the coming regulatory blitz was the primary reason cash-flush U.s. businesses remain reluctant to invest and hire as a way to spur new economic growth.

“We’re not messaging against all regulations,” he said. “We’re messaging against regulations that represent overkill, that are unclear or unnecessary.”

On another front, Mr. Donohue gave a forceful defense of the Chamber’s high-profile activism and spending in the recent congressional elections. The Chamber’s spending was heavily tilted toward Republicans and President Obama singled out the Chamber for criticism of its campaign cash in the weeks before the midterm elections.

Congressional Democrats have been pressing for tougher disclosure laws on corporate political contributions in the wake of a Supreme Court decision early this year striking down many of the country’s previous campaign finance restrictions on giving by business, labor and independent groups.

Mr. Donohue dismissed “disclosure” as “the rallying cry of those seeking to silence the business community — but their real purpose is to find out all they can about our supporters and then target them for intimidation and harassment.”

“They want to drive business out of our elections and policy debates, but guess what? It ain’t going to happen,” he added.

But despite the very public clash with Mr. Obama, Mr. Donohue said the Chamber would stick to its traditional policy of not endorsing a candidate for the 2012 presidential election. He said the Chamber’s varied agenda requires it to be able to work with the executive branch on issues such as trade and intellectual property rights.

“We have to work with the president of the United States all the time,” he said after his address. “It is not in our interest to get involved in presidential politics.”

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