Across the country, regional chambers of commerce are distancing themselves from the role being played in the national elections by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
A report on the alt-news website AlterNet found that a number of local chapters have publically disavowed the national chamber's tactics and its heavy-handed support for Republicans. Especially in states where the chamber is advertising, such as neighborhing New Hampshire and upstate New York.
The U.S. Chamber is not advertising in Vermont, but the Lake Champlain Regional Chamber of Commerce has received a number of questions and concerns from its 2500 members about its affiliation with the national group. In response, executive director Tom Torti issued a letter to its members (see below).
"We have heard from members that are unhappy with the positions taken by the U.S. Chamber. Our perspective is that they have a right to weigh in as their organization sees fit based on their process for deciding those things," Torti told Seven Days. "It's important to note that we do not always agree with the U.S. Chamber's views; however, we do remain members in order to access research and publications. We also receive regular updates on what is happening in Washington. The updates are fairly nonpartisan and fact based."Torti pointed to information the local chamber received when it was working with Sen. Patrick Leahy and others to ensure that the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative did not adversely affect Vermont's tourism industry.
That said, the ads that have leaked into the Vermont market from upstate New York have not gone over well with Torti and other members.
"We find the ads we've seen from Clinton County, N.Y., to be light on substance and heavy on D.C.-style negativity. As a business organization, we find these ads to be in bad taste, and that they do little or nothing to inform and educate the electorate. It is the opposite of how the LCRCC conducts our government-affairs work," added Torti. "We believe that an educated electorate will choose the best candidate, regardless of political party."
Earlier this fall, the LCRCC posted the results of a candidate survey it conducted with a number of statewide, House and Senate candidates.
Torti noted in his letter, "Clearly, with a membership of about 2500, we cannot always be aligned with every member’s views. However, we strive to reach consensus under the philosophical umbrella of our mission and operating principles."
Torti letter: Download Our Members chamber