Friday, July 24, 2009

SWAC Chamber of Commerce criticized by Dem chair

Waynesboro Democrat Chairman and Augusta Free Press owner Chris Graham has a beef with the Greater Augusta Regional Chamber of Commerce ... but I think he's mixing apples and oranges.

He writes about a memo sent out by the Chamber that encouraged employers to comply with the new federal minimum wage increase that takes effect today despite sobering unemployment statistics since the last minimum wage increase.

His complaint? He quotes the memo:
The “sobering statistics” were a look at how unemployment has doubled since the May 2007 passage of legislation raising the minimum wage from $6.55 an hour to $7.25 an hour.

“The federal minimum wage increase comes amid an ongoing recession and disagreements among economists and political commentators about what effect, if any, the hike will have on the unemployment rate,” the Chamber memo reads. And yet we get nothing indicating the disagreements among economists and political commentators about the impact, if any. Just the one side of the story. That a minimum-wage increase is bad because the Chamber of Commerce says it’s bad.
Mr. Graham apparently has his own reasons why unemployment has increased. But then Mr. Graham goes further to makes some back-handed accusations against the Chamber:
This same Chamber of Commerce, supposedly a nonprofit barred from engaging in partisan political activity as a condition of maintaining its nonprofit status, has advocated partisan Republican positions on the Employee Free Choice Act and local conservative bloc partisan positions on proposed stormwater utility fees in Waynesboro.
Mr. Graham concludes by saying:
There’s a reason why Augusta Free Press Publishing is not renewing its membership with the Chamber this year.
Some facts need to be put in place for Mr. Graham the reporter who should be separate from Mr. Graham the Democrat Chairman. I know ... the sound you hear is the howl of those who are laughing hysterically at my use of "Chris Graham" and "reporter" in the same sentence. (Sorry, Chris ... had to take a dig back after your "Del. SWAC Girl?" post.)

The Greater Augusta Regional Chamber of Commerce is a 501(c)(6) organization which means they are allowed by law to endorse issues and candidates. The local Chamber's Board of Directors chooses not to endorse candidates but they do take a stand on free enterprise issues so they are perfectly within their 501(c)(6) rights. Mr. Graham is casting doubt where none should be cast. Our local Chamber works with legislators on issues that have a positive or negative impact on the business community.

Besides Chambers of Commerce, other organizations that fall under the 501(c)(6) catetory include Business Leagues and Real Estate Boards.

Chambers of Commerce are in the business of promoting and protecting the free enterprise system. Businesses prosper most with lower business taxes, fewer burdensome regulations, and when government gets out of the way to allow the free enterprise system to work.

Mr. Graham's mixing of apples and oranges is in blaming the Chamber for politics when it is actually promoting the free enterprise system. And who believes the most in free enterprise?Republicans. I can see where a Democrat chairman could get confused. He's mixing business and politics.

But, still, kind of a weak excuse for not rejoining the Chamber.

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