The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a longtime supporter of immigration reform, has poured money into primary races to support GOP establishment candidates, but the public outcry about the influx of illegal immigrants has suddenly put the group at odds with the party faithful.
According to Salon
, the problem appeared to present itself in the final weeks of the highly contested Georgia Senate GOP primary runoff earlier this month. The Chamber had spent millions on ads supporting Rep. Jack Kingston who was ultimately defeated in a very tight race against tea party favorite David Purdue.
Despite a string of successes in the primaries in North Carolina, Kentucky, Iowa, South Carolina, and Mississippi, among others, the Chamber's setback came when Perdue's campaign ran ads implying the Chamber's support of immigration reform equated to support for amnesty, and therefore since Kingston is tight with the Chamber, he too would back amnesty.
"That message resonated," RedState's Erick Erickson, a Georgian and a Kingston supporter, said, according to Salon.
With growing ire among grassroots Republicans about the immigration crisis, any association with the immigration issue appears to be backfiring for the Chamber and, by extension, GOP candidates associated with the organization.
The latest case in point came on Thursday when Michigan GOP Rep. Kerry Bentivolio, who is two-weeks out from a primary against attorney Dave Trott, suddenly returned the "Spirit of Enterprise" award he had happily received from the Chamber just months earlier.
Bentivolio announced that "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."
"The U.S. Chamber is in the pocket of Communist China and big companies seeking cheap labor in the United States," said Bentivolio's chief of staff, according to Salon.
Meanwhile, the toxicity of the immigration issue for Republicans has effectively eliminated the issue from the House leadership's political agenda during this election cycle.
"The Chamber is fortunate that its right-wing vilification didn't reach this sort of status until late in the primary calendar, after it had already catalogued an impressive number of victories," Salon said.
"But it may want to keep its opinions to itself, for a while, at least. Because if we're not there yet, we're nearing the bizarre reality where the Chamber's endorsement, of candidates or legislation, is a kiss of death — among Republicans."
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