Chamber of Commerce hires odd couple Evan Bayh and Andy Card for anti-regs roadshow

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Former U.S. Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Ind.

Kevin Sanders/AP

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has enlisted former Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh and ex-White House chief of staff Andy Card for a “road show” to promote a bipartisan blitz against what it deems excessive and costly government regulations.

In a seven-page June 2 memo from Chamber president Tom Donohue to its board of directors, Donohue said that Card and Bayh will be doing “speeches, events and media appearances at local venues.”

Card has been an outside adviser to Donohue for a few years. But Bayh is new to the Chamber team as an outside adviser.

These high-profile tasks are just one sign of the Chamber’s regulatory advocacy drive which Donohue said will include building a nationwide grassroots movement for reforms and relief. The grassroots drive will include mobilizing small and large businesses and many local Chambers.

Tom Collamore, who is handling communications for the regulatory advocacy drive told IWatch News that Bayh and Card will participate in a conference call next week with a few hundred members of the Chamber’s grassroots network to discuss plans and messaging. Collamore added that on June 22, the Chamber will formally announce the Bayh and Card road show and then “we’ll fly these guys around.”

For the Chamber, the team of Bayh and Card is a big catch: it could help gin up pressure on moderate Democrats in Congress for regulatory relief.

“We don’t see this effort as an ‘us versus them’ issue,” said Collamore. “Having a Democrat of his stature gives the effort more heft and an important perspective.”

When he left Congress Bayh became a partner at McGuire Woods, a powerhouse law firm, and signed up as a senior adviser to a large private equity firm, Apollo Management Group. He also works for Fox News as a commentator.

When Bayh announced he would not seek a third time, the moderate Democrat decried excessive partisanship as one of his reasons for leaving Congress.

At its annual small business summit last month in Washington, Card talked to about 500 or 600 small business leaders about regulatory relief and reforms. Card “got the troops fired up," before they visited Capitol Hill offices to lobby on business issues, Collamore said.

Later this year, Collamore said the Chamber is considering an advertising blitz on regulatory issues as “an important tactical piece of any comprehensive communications plan.”

The Chamber’s expanded effort for regulatory relief and reform, which began last fall, is aimed across all agencies of government. Donohue’s memo cites several choice targets including: the Environmental Protection Agency, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the newly created Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Donohue explained in his new memo that business supports “sensible regulations…But we’ve gone too far. America is sinking under the weight of an ever expanding regulatory state.”

iWatch News reported last December that the Chamber was soliciting millions of dollars in new funds from energy, Wall Street and health care interests to expand regulatory advocacy. 

In his memo, Donohue cited some recent accomplishments including: delaying and potentially new rules governing ozone, coal ash and boiler emissions; delaying an SEC rule proxy access that would allow shareholders to nominate directors; delaying a new rule that would require companies to “disclose the use of so called conflict minerals from the Congo in the products they make or distribute.”

Donohue’s missive also noted that the group has beefed up its legal team by hiring two veteran lawyers with government experience, Rachel Brand and Kate Comerford Todd.

Brand, who served as an Assistant Attorney General at the Justice Department under George W. Bush and also worked in the White House’s counsel office, will be chief counsel for regulatory litigation at the National Chamber Litigation Center.

Todd, who was an associate general counsel in President Bush’s White House, will be the chief counsel for appellate litigation for the Litigation Center.

In other new moves, Donohue said that the Chamber recently hired Ron Bird, an economist who specializes in analyzing the “costs and benefits of regulation.” Bird did a stint in the Labor Department during the George W. Bush administration.

Last month, the Obama administration announced a series of measures to curb excessive regulations that it said would save businesses hundreds of millions this year and billions in coming years. Collamore said the Chamber viewed the White House initiative as first step, but stressed that much more needs to be done to meet business demands.