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October 15th, 2009 4:18 pm
Spitz-ing in the Wind

Eliot Spitzer doesn’t know when to quit. Laboring on the sidelines of political combat, the former New York Governor is out today with a plan to destroy the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Why? Because the corporate executives in its ranks disagree with Spitzer’s views on deregulation, tax and fiscal policy, global warming and environmental enforcement, consumer protection, health care reform, and probably just about everything else.

Of course, it would be one thing if Spitzer was just vying for a hyperlink to The Huffington Post with a screed against Wall Street. Unfortunately, he’s a got a plan to silence corporate America’s voice in Washington. Spitzer’s litigation strategy runs like this. The members of the Chamber are corporations (usually) owned by the public. Some of the most influential public stockholders are state government pension funds controlled by a state’s comptroller. In an effort to get publicly owned companies “out of politics,” Spitzer advises that when a state comptroller concludes that “the Chamber of Commerce has a distorted view of both economic and political policy” the comptroller should demand that every company in which the pension fund owns stock drop its membership in the Chamber. And if the CEO doesn’t agree? Pressure the board to drop the Chamber membership.

Just one problem. With the economy in a recession, and state pension funds trying to deliver on outrageous union contracts, does Spitzer really believe that an elected official like a comptroller would “demand” a series of actions specifically designed to weaken a corporation’s ability to make money? Surely Spitzer realizes that the primary motivation for most of the Chamber of Commerce’s policy positions is a desire to increase profits, and thereby dividends? No doubt there is at least one state elected official willing to apply Spitzer’s litigation strategy to grab headlines and perhaps a higher political perch. As usual, though, the people worst effected by such a move would be the same folks for whom Spitzer claims he’s suing to empower.

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