Officials at trade associations, which tend to be more bipartisan than other interest groups, say they’re glad to be doing things differently.
“We feel that there’s a need for some positive discussion in Washington about some of the leadership that’s been shown there,” said Anne Kolton, a spokeswoman for the chemistry council. “There’s value in highlighting good work on important issues.”
In Upton’s case, supplying the margin of victory may not have been the objective as much as winning favor with the 12-term incumbent. Upton is chairman of the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee, which has oversight over vast swaths of the economy.
In fact, he didn’t need much support: His campaign outspent his challenger’s by 20 to 1 and he received twice as many votes in the primary. The roughly $200,000 spent by the trade groups was less than one-tenth of Upton’s campaign spending.
Political spending by industry associations has shot up — $8 million was spent through September, with all of it going for positive ads, according to documents filed with the Federal Election Commission. That is double the figure in each of the previous two campaigns and 10 times the 2006 spending.
The trade associations are spending more following a landmark 2010 Supreme Court decision and other rulings easing restrictions on corporate political spending.
The behemoth U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which serves as an umbrella group for business interests, also has spent heavily on the election, but mainly on attacks against Democratic lawmakers. And most of the spending by interest groups and super PACS that have formed to support candidates from both parties has been on negative ads.
There was not a hint of negativity when the American Chemistry Council, which represents large chemical manufacturers, ran an ad supporting Upton in the primary.
“From the shores of Lake Michigan to our factories and family farms, hard work is a way of life,” a narrator says. “And in Washington, Congressman Fred Upton is working hard for us to cut red tape and government regulation.”
The group, which has pledged to spend several million dollars on ads for its favored lawmakers, praised in a news release Upton’s support of “a comprehensive energy policy, pro-growth tax policies and rational science-based regulation.”
Jamie Gregory, chief deputy lobbyist for the National Association of Realtors, said his group doesn’t spend on a race if the help is not needed. “We get involved in races to make a difference, not to just wave a flag and make somebody feel good,” Gregory said.