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Partisan Fighting for Your Business

By Mary Ann Akers And Paul Kane
Thursday, October 9, 2008

Congressional Democrats and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce are back in that comfortable position they've long enjoyed -- mortal enemies.

After working together last week to pass the $700 billion rescue package for the financial markets, Democrats and the Chamber are now sparring over the work that big business's main lobby is doing in the upcoming House and Senate elections.

Sen. Charles E. Schumer (N.Y.), chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, unveiled a new DSCC study showing that the Chamber has spent $16.3 million on advertising on behalf of GOP Senate candidates in recent months. That dwarfs the $329,000 the Chamber and its affiliates have spent for Democrats; all of that money benefited Sen. Mary Landrieu (La.).

The aid from the Chamber has helped soften the financial disadvantage faced by Schumer's counterpart, the National Republican Senatorial Committee. As of Aug. 31, the DSCC had outraised the NRSC by $103 million to $67.7 million in this election cycle, records show.

Despite their well-heeled campaigns, Democrats have begun complaining to their local corporate executives about the Chamber campaigns, Schumer said. "They never used to be an arm of the NRSC, and now they are," he said.

R. Bruce Josten, the Chamber's top federal lobbyist, said the group backs candidates who want to reduce government spending, cut taxes and support tort reform.

"Last week was a clear example of how the U.S. Chamber, representing over 3 million businesses of all sizes, worked with both Democrats and Republicans to pass the rescue legislation and take an important step toward getting our economy back on track," Josten said. "It's clear that for some that spirit of bipartisanship was quickly lost."

Last week, when the $700 billion legislation was in grave doubt, the Chamber and other business groups came to its aid, asking local affiliates and members to call their senators and House members, urging passage of a deal that Schumer helped negotiate.

Interestingly, two of the three largest beneficiaries of Chamber advertising are opponents of the legislation it trumpeted last week, according to the DSCC data. Former representative Robert W. Schaffer, a Republican running for the open Senate seat in Colorado, has benefited from $3.1 million worth of Chamber-funded advertising. And Sen. Elizabeth Dole (R-N.C.), who called the $700 billion plan a "government takeover of our economy," has benefited from $2.2 million in advertising from the Chamber and its affiliates.

Friends of Fannie?

The mudslinging of the presidential campaign has oozed its way down the ballot to several important House and Senate races, and Washington's most infamous couple -- Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac -- have become the object of scorn everywhere.

One House candidate in particular, Democrat Kay Barnes, is having trouble escaping Fannie's grasp, thanks to Republicans who are bent on stopping her from unseating one of their own. Barnes, who is running a spirited race to unseat four-term Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.), was appointed by beleaguered former Fannie Mae chief executive Franklin Raines to serve on Fannie's National Advisory Board from March 2002 to October 2003.

"While Barnes has failed to come clean about her role in the current financial crisis, it's clear that she played an important role by dispensing bad advice and pushed a reckless agenda that eventually led to catastrophe," reads Wednesday's release by the National Republican Congressional Committee.

Barnes, likewise, is attacking Graves for his congressional voting record on affordable housing and oversight of Fannie Mae. Her campaign says the GOP assertion that Barnes is somehow to blame for the nation's economic calamity is "laughable."

"Her role on the advisory board would be like blaming a passenger on the Titanic for the failure of the captain to miss the iceberg," says Steven Glorioso, Barnes's campaign director.

Doing One's Civic Duty

Guess where Franklin Raines spent the better part of his day Wednesday? Hint: not in front of a congressional committee, where many lawmakers, especially Republicans, would love to grill him for his role in the financial nightmare.

Raines was in the D.C. Courthouse for most of the day, but not because of the alleged accounting irregularities that marked his tenure at Fannie Mae. He had jury duty, like any Joe Six-Pack.

Raines quietly read the newspapers in his "expensive blue blazer and a nice pair of slacks," according to one top Senate aide and regular On the Hill informant, while he awaited his fate on jury duty.

"Can't tell if he has noticed yet that both President Bush yesterday and then John McCain last night basically blamed the current economic crisis on Fannie and Freddie and by extension, on him," our snarky tipster e-mailed from the courthouse.

We caught up with Raines via e-mail to see if he was chosen for jury duty and whether he'd like to respond to McCain's attacks. He had no comment on the latter, but he did let us know he was off the hook for jury duty.

"Today was my biennial jury service day," replied Raines, who now sits on the board of Steve Case's Revolution Health company. "I was placed on a jury selection panel but not picked to serve. Murder case. I will be back to the court house in two years."

Rogues' Gallery

It's closing time for half the reporters in the Senate's Daily Press Gallery up here on the third floor of the Capitol. Major renovations are underway, temporarily shuttering the end of the gallery where The Washington Post, Reuters, the Associated Press, the Los Angeles Times and the Wall Street Journal set up shop.

A host of us scribes and gallery staff have dug through decades of old files to decide what gets tossed in the trash and what's a newfound keepsake. Here's a rundown of some of the best finds so far:

· A Tandy 200 portable computer, built in 1985 (trashed).

· "The Packwood Report: The Senate Ethics Counsel on Senator Robert Packwood, Including the Explosive Testimony and Diary Entries." This is the 1995 Random House paperback edition of the ethics committee's report on allegations of sexual misconduct by the former senator, with a foreword by our late colleague Helen Dewar (keepsake for The Post).

· Copies of the official Congressional Record version of the Packwood report, including interviews with the senator (definite keepsake for the AP).

· Copies of the official Congressional Record version of the 1999 interview conducted by House impeachment managers of Monica S. Lewinsky (major keepsake for the AP).

· An undated pair of old socks found in the desk above The Post's workspace (definitely trashed).

· An early-1980s photo of the entire Senate. There's no date on the photo, but seated in their chairs are the late senators John Stennis (D-Miss.), who retired in 1988, and Barry Goldwater (R-Ariz.), who retired in 1986 (keepsake for press gallery staff).

· A 1991 list of The Post's national desk staff. Some things never change -- Dan Balz was covering politics -- and some things do: Al Kamen hadn't yet started his "In the Loop" column and was covering immigration.

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