How big business lost washington – the washington post gas x extra strength vs ultra strength


“The difficult relationship between business and government is the worst I have ever seen it,” Jeffrey R. Immelt, the longtime chief executive of General Electric, wrote this spring in his annual letter to shareholders. Asked in July if corporate leaders could help end the political dysfunction, Immelt told an interviewer from LinkedIn that the idea of getting 100 CEOs to come to Washington to push some policy is now just “a laugh line.”

“If Congress is not ready to do something, your time working on it is not going to get you much,” said David Cote, chief executive of Honeywell. Cote should know: He was a member of the bipartisan ­Simpson-Bowles budget-balancing commission and later recruited 130 corporate executives to a “Fix the Debt” campaign. Neither effort moved the political needle.

Where big business has lost its political mojo is on the broad issues affecting the whole economy — the budget, immigration gas leak smell, trade, investments in infrastructure and basic research, tax reform, the environment and health care. It is these issues, which require trade-offs between what is good for the company and what is good for the country, that once demanded attention from executives. In their self-appointed role as stewards of the American economy, they would travel to Washington regularly to attend the CEO-only meetings of the Committee on Economic Development or the Business Roundtable or the Business Council, meeting with presidents, Cabinet secretaries and congressional leaders.

Starting in the electricity jeopardy 4th grade 1980s, however, that role of “business statesmen” began to fade. Executives came under increasing pressure to focus ruthlessly on boosting company profits and share prices. Those who didn’t risked losing their jobs or seeing their companies swallowed up in hostile takeovers. Those who did were generously rewarded with bonuses and stock options. And while some chief executives were lionized on Wall Street and on magazine covers for restoring the competitiveness of U.S. industry, ordinary Americans began to associate them with plant closings, layoffs and extravagant pay.

At the turn of the century, their reputation took another hit after the accounting scandals at Enron and WorldCom. And while it was bankers and Wall Street financiers who brought on the financial crisis and recession in 2008, the rest of corporate America got tarred with the same brush. This June, Gallup’s annual survey found that, among all American institutions, only Congress is held in lower esteem than big business.

The relentless pressure from Wall Street also arkansas gas and oil commission eroded the “enlightened self-interest” that made it possible for executives to put the country’s interests first. In his book “The Fracturing of the Corporate Elite,” sociologist Mark Mizruchi of the University of Michigan argues that conflicts within the business community — between globalized companies and domestic ones, energy users and energy consumers, old economy companies and high-tech firms — have made it increasingly difficult for corporate leaders to reach consensus. As a result, big business has been largely missing in action on issues such as health care, climate change and even corporate tax reform.

Political money has also altered the role of business in Washington. It has become an article of faith in the media and among liberal Democrats that the Supreme Court’s decision in the case known as Citizens United unleashed a tidal wave of corporate money into the political system. Not true. The level of political spending by corporations and their political action committees has remained roughly the same. But because of Citizens United, corporate money has been swamped by the enormous sums spent by individual billionaires pushing their personal ideological agendas.

It began with the Republican takeover of the House in 1994, engineered by Newt Gingrich and Tom DeLay, leaders of the party’s conservative wing. In what electricity grid australia became known as “the K Street Project,” DeLay, the new majority leader, assured business lobbyists that their interests would be protected and their access guaranteed — but only if they demonstrated loyalty to the Republican agenda.

No business group was more enthusiastic in taking up the offer than the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which over the next 20 years increasingly aligned its rhetoric, positions and political contributions with the Republican caucuses in Congress — and, beginning in 2001, with the Bush White House. By 2014, only six Democrats were included among the 268 candidates the Chamber endorsed that election cycle, when the Chamber allocated all but $500,000 of its $35.5 million to Republican candidates. In March of that year, the Chamber’s political director told the Lexington (Ky.) Herald-Leader, “The No. 1 priority of the U.S. Chamber’s political program is to make Mitch McConnell the majority leader of the U.S. Senate.”

For a time, it was a winning strategy, dramatically increasing the Chamber’s visibility, influence and financial resources. Other business groups, jealous of its success, also drifted into the Republican orbit. And it worked. The period from 1994 to 2006 was, in many respects, a golden era for business lobbying. Taxes were cut, regulation was reduced and companies won new protections from lawsuits filed by consumers, shareholders and employees. Trade was expanded, and corporate megamergers easily won approval. New rulings made it easier for companies to beat back labor unions.

When business groups pushed for passage of a modest gasoline tax to pay for a long-delayed highway bill, House Republicans refused to consider it. Business leaders watched in horror as Republicans closed down the government and threatened to allow the government to default on its debt. And when some of the country’s biggest companies electricity use, including utilities and oil companies, formed a coalition to push for a market-based solution to climate change, Republicans pressured executives and directors to abandon the effort. Several did, and the coalition collapsed.

Instead of corporations pushing and prodding politicians, politicians were pushing and prodding corporations, a kind of reverse lobbying that sometimes gets pretty rough. In 2009, Republicans were furious when Tauzin, as head of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers Association, struck a deal with the White House to support President Obama’s health reform bill in exchange for a promise not to set controls on drug prices. Tauzin recalls getting a letter from Speaker John A. Boehner “telling me that we were selling out.” Obamacare passed without a single Republican vote — but not before Tauzin had been pressured by some of his members to resign.

In effect, the business lobby had allowed itself to accept ­DeLay’s logic that its first priority was to maintain Republican control of Congress. And before long, big business found itself in the uncomfortable position of supporting a Republican caucus that was increasingly hostile to its agenda while helping to defeat npower gas price reduction moderate, pro-business Democrats who had once been its legislative allies.

“The Republican Party has been free gas guzzler tax to take us for granted for many years, and the business community took the Republican Party for granted,” said Jay Timmons, president of the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM). Timmons said it is bad enough that Republicans no longer support business on issues such as trade, immigration and infrastructure investment. At the same time, major corporations are scrambling to distance themselves from the Republican agenda on social issues — in particular, opposition to gay rights — that are offensive to many of their customers and employees.

Over the past two years, the Chamber has tried to regain influence over the Republican caucus by opposing a few of the more radical tea party candidates in Republican primaries. Under Timmons, once a top Republican aide on Capitol Hill, NAM has helped moderate Democrats retain their seats. Still, the bitter partisanship is now so hard-wired into Washington’s political culture that it will be years before big business can again cobble together the bipartisan centrist coalitions on which it traditionally relied.

“Business chose to ride with the Republicans, and now they have nowhere to go. It’s a very precarious position,” said Thomas A. Daschle, the former Democratic Senate leader whom Republicans defeated in 2004 with strong support from business. Among Democrats, Daschle reports, “there is a lot of resentment that’s built up — disgust even — with the way so much of business migrated so comfortably to the far right.”

Last month, a group of 50 top executives publicly endorsed Hillary Clinton gas water heater reviews 2012. Although many were longtime Democrats, from finance and high tech, the list also included a few die-hard Republicans, such as Hewlett-Packard chief executive Meg Whitman, former General Motors chief Dan Akerson and Jim Cicconi, who served in both the Reagan and Bush White Houses before becoming head of ATT’s Washington office.

At the same time, many chief executives have what one called “deep, residual anxiety” about Hillary Clinton. Those anxieties have only deepened since the Democratic presidential nominee joined hands with Sens. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) and Bernie Sanders (Vt.) — two anti-corporate crusaders — in her effort to consolidate support from the liberal wing of the Democratic Party.