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Chamber’s Donohue Says Obama’s Rules Suffocating U.S.

Chamber of Commerce President Tom Donohue
Tom Donohue, president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Photographer: Joshua Roberts/Bloomberg

President Barack Obama’s administration is imposing regulations that are “suffocating the entrepreneurial spirit,” the head of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce said.

Tom Donohue, president of the largest U.S. business group, said the Chamber is starting a new political campaign today against rules on health care, finance, the environment and labor. The Chamber has said it will spend $75 million backing pro-business candidates in the November elections and has led growing business criticism of Obama in recent months.

“The regulatory impact on the business community is pervasive, insidious, and needs to be exposed,” Donohue said in prepared remarks for a speech in Des Moines, Iowa. “It is suffocating the entrepreneurial spirit.”

Donohue’s efforts contrasted with an initiative today from the AFL-CIO, the largest U.S. labor federation, which published a database of government statistics on 400,000 companies it found are exporting jobs. The competing complaints from business and labor reflected the election-season debate over how to revive the U.S. economy.

Running against free-trade deals and sending jobs abroad is a key to rounding up votes, especially among older women and independent voters, according to a memo issued yesterday by Democratic pollsters Stan Greenberg and James Carville.

“Stopping outsourcing is the solution people are talking about all over the country,” AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka told reporters today. “Working people will now have the ability to separate the economic patriots from the corporate traitors at the ballot box.”

Union, Chamber Websites

Both of the Washington-based organizations said they are starting websites to share their information. The Chamber’s site tracks rules it views as stunting economic growth. The site is:

The Chamber, which will also run advertising on the theme, listed a series of regulations being considered by the Environmental Protection Agency as causing businesses to curtail new investments or expansion plans. Among them were radon rules for drinking water, lead-paint rules in building renovation and revisions to regulations on underground storage tanks.

The business group, which lobbied against Obama’s health-care and financial legislation, cited a study for the Small Business Administration estimating regulations cost $1.75 trillion a year, or $10,600 per employee at a small business.

The study, released last month, is based on data from 2008, during the administration of Republican George W. Bush. The Office of Management and Budget estimates regulations are a benefit, adding $128 billion to $616 billion to the economy in the past decade, at a cost of as much as $55 billion.

Major Rules

The OMB underestimated the costs by counting only a decade of so-called major rules, which the the agency categorizes as “economically significant,” said J.P. Fielder, a Chamber spokesman.

Trumka said that many of the regulations opposed by the Chamber are necessary to reverse a trend of financial deregulation that’s gone on for decades.

“What the last 30 years has shown us is that there is a necessary level of regulation so that Wall Street and the rich can be held in check,” Trumka said. The Chamber’s approach “is what we did and this country went into a financial tailspin.”

The AFL-CIO’s new website is a compilation of state and federal data showing companies that the labor group says are shipping jobs abroad. The site is:

Rewrite Agreements

The union says it wants lawmakers to rewrite trade agreements and raise taxes on companies’ overseas income in order to curb what it says is an accelerating trend of companies shifting production to China and other nations.

Asked about Donohue’s criticism today, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said the Chamber’s failure to disclose the companies donating to its political advertising was his concern.

“The donors that have gone into contributing to those ads, the identity of those individuals or groups should be known,” Gibbs said. “I’m not generally concerned with what he’s saying, no.”

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