The U.S. Chamber of Commerce plans more spending and activism in the primaries during this year's midterm, its chief executive said Wednesday, as a wave of retirements and poor generic polling confronts the Republican majority.
There is "going to be a lot more activity in the primaries because of retirements," Chamber CEO Thomas Donohue said at a press conference.
In 2016, the business group spent nearly $30 million on House and Senate races.
But Donohue said that spending was just one measure of the group's influence. He said the Chamber can also influence races by working with state and local chambers of commerce, and by getting individual companies to help turn out votes.
In his annual "state of business" speech delivered Wednesday morning, Donohue said the Chamber aims to fight populists on the left and right, such as Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Steve Bannon, the former Trump adviser and former Breitbart News executive.
"We’re going to spent a whole lot of money when we have an unsafe seat and a candidate who is more interested in disrupting” government than in passing legislation, he said.
Preserving Republican majorities in the House and Senate is a priority for the Chamber, Donohue suggested. But he also said the Chamber would be willing to back pro-business Democratic candidates for Senate, or at least stay out of races featuring populist Republicans.
By staying out of the Alabama special election pitting Republican Roy Moore against Democrat Doug Jones, he suggested, the Chamber helped tip the race to Jones.