The U.S Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday announced a major reshuffling of its leadership and lobbying structure, promoting Suzanne Clark to be the organization’s second-in-command and the new head of its lobbying operations.
Clark is a longtime trusted adviser to Chamber president and chief executive Tom Donohue and was previously the group’s chief operating officer. She takes over the top lobbying job at a time when the business community in Washington, once a dominant force with congressional Republicans, is struggling to fend off the conservative tea party wing of the GOP that has stymied some of its biggest legislative priorities in recent years.
The changes also come as the Chamber prepares for the departure of longtime chief lobbyist Bruce Josten, who’s been with the group 42 years, including 22 as head of the lobbying arm. Josten, somewhat of a legend in Washington lobbying circles, is slated to retire at the end of the year.
“He’s phenomenal,” Donohue said in an interview. “How the hell do you fill that hole? We’re filling it with five people.”
The Chamber is bringing new blood into the organization from GOP establishment circles, hiring Neil Bradley — former deputy chief of staff to House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and his ousted predecessor Eric Cantor — as senior vice president and chief policy officer, a new position. Bradley was most recently with the Conservative Reform Network, formerly known as the Young Guns Network. He will work with Jack Howard, senior vice president for government affairs, who will lead an expanded lobbying effort on Capitol Hill.
The Chamber also tapped prominent Republican economist Doug Holtz-Eakin, former director of the Congressional Budget Office and chief economic policy adviser for Sen. John McCain’s (R-Ariz.) 2008 presidential campaign, as senior policy counselor. Holtz-Eakin is president of the conservative-leaning research group American Action Forum and will work with the Chamber as an outside adviser.
Tom Sullivan, former chief counsel for advocacy at the Small Business Administration, has been hired to replace Giovanni Coratolo, vice president of small business policy, who retired earlier this year. Sullivan will lead an effort to organize the Chamber’s smaller company members in Washington and the states.
Donohue spoke candidly about the prospects of his eventual retirement — not anytime soon, he said — and his excitement about the next Congress and administration. The Chamber aggressively funneled resources into Senate races to preserve the Republican majority, including running attack ads in Indiana against Evan Bayh — despite Bayh working for the Chamber after leaving office — to help elect GOP Rep. Todd C. Young to the Senate, a critical race in preventing Democrats from retaking the Senate majority.
“If you see me laying in a box with flowers around it, I’m thinking about retirement,” Donohue said. “I’m healthy and energetic; there are a whole bunch of reasons I’m staying right now. A, I love this job. B, it’s going to be a new day in this town and a lot of things to do. The third reason is Bruce and I can’t leave at the same time — that’d be crazy.”
Donohue said he is enthusiastic about Donald Trump, saying some of the president-elect’s proposals would benefit the business community.
“I admire some of the things he’s doing now,” he said. “We agree on a slowdown of the regulatory juggernaut that is tying up everyone in this country no matter what business or life’s work you’re in. We agree that we’re going to have to look at the nation’s infrastructure. We agree that we have to look at the tax issues and it’d be helpful to bring home a lot of that money that’s overseas. We agree that we’ve got to get economic growth up.”
Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated Doug Holtz-Eakin is no longer with the American Action Forum. This version has been corrected.