GOP congressman rips Chamber of Commerce and gives back award

Rep. Kerry Bentivolio (R-Mich.) has a message for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce: I don't need your stinkin' award.

Bentivolio, whose primary challenger is backed by the Chamber, issued a hostile statement Thursday announcing that he returned an award the nation's largest business organization gave him.

"The Chamber of Commerce is beholden to special interests and has long since forgotten the main street businesses that struggle everyday to make payroll and keep their company afloat," said Bentivolio. "It is with great pride that I reject their award, and call on them to stand on the side of America, instead of on the side of China and corporate interests seeking to exploit people for profit."

Bentivolio was one of more than 200 House members who received the Spirit of Enterprise award for supporting "pro-growth, pro-jobs policies."

Bentivolio chief of staff Rob Wasinger used even sharper language to criticize the Chamber.

"The US Chamber is in the pocket of Communist China and big companies seeking cheap labor in the United States," he said in a statement.

Bentivolio criticized the Chamber for supporting the comprehensive immigration bill that passed the Senate last year, which included a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.

The Chamber supports David Trott, an attorney challenging Bentivolio in the Aug. 5 Republican primary.

Bentivolio is one of the unlikeliest members of the Congress. After then-Rep. Thad McCotter (R) failed to qualify for the ballot in 2012, Bentovolio, regarded as a minor opponent, was suddenly left with with the inside track. He defeated a write-in GOP candidate and then a Democrat in the general election.

In response to Bentivolio's statement, Chamber spokeswoman Blair Latoff Holmes said the group  "is proud to have endorsed the next Congressman from MI-11, Dave Trott." Citing a photograph of Bentivolio accepting his award, she said, "In March Mr. Bentivolio seemed very excited to receive our Award. ... Apparently he has changed his mind."

Sean Sullivan has covered national politics for The Washington Post since 2012.

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