When Neil Bradley got his start in politics working for conservative Rep. Tom Coburn (R-OK), he was known as a sort of whiz-kid exposing the left’s hypocrisy. Today, political insiders credit him for wrecking the United States Chamber of Commerce’s political arm.
The recent endorsement of 23 House Democrats in swing districts by the Chamber of Commerce is bringing newfound scrutiny to the business group, especially from top Republican lawmakers.
Bradley, the Chamber’s executive vice president and chief policy officer, is said to be behind the string of Democrat endorsements — a move that would have been considered unheard of more than two decades ago.
In 1994, Coburn had been elected as part of the Republican Revolution, regarded in a similar light to today’s Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), that is, a thorn in the side of the Democrats and, oftentimes, the Republican establishment. Bradley became a part of that well-oiled machine.
Bradley eventually went on to work as the director for the Republican Study Committee, as well as for House Republican leadership members like Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) and Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA).
In those days, the Chamber served as a serious business lobbying arm to the Republican Party that promoted the interests mostly of small businesses. When the Chamber endorsed a piece of legislation, it was almost guaranteed 200 Republican votes.
That influence in the GOP has long dwindled.
A Chamber endorsement for legislation, an insider said, would likely only move about 20 Republican votes. And that was before the group finalized their support for Democrats.
“The Chamber’s political apparatus has been destroyed,” an insider told Breitbart News. “Donors are fleeing, no one trusts them anymore.”
It is not just a dwindling influence with Republican lawmakers. The number of small businesses paying dues with the Chamber is well below its heyday. At its peak, the Chamber had about 130,000 small businesses, according to an insider with knowledge. Now, there are less than 7,000 small businesses with the Chamber.
Due to the shrinking number of small businesses with the Chamber, wealthy CEOs and big businesses have grown immensely in influence over the group’s decisions. An insider credits that changed power dynamic inside the Chamber for the move to endorse Democrats, an attempt to seem above the political fray.
“It’s becoming more of an elitist organization,” an insider said.
On Thursday, it was reported that the Chamber has started laying off staff.
Increasingly at odds with President Trump’s transformation of the Republican Party back to its populist, worker-focused roots, the Chamber had already become a pariah in populist right circles.