Kansas Chamber cuts ties with U.S. Chamber of Commerce over Sharice Davids endorsement

·3 min read

The Kansas Chamber of Commerce has cut ties with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce after the national business group endorsed Democratic Rep. Sharice Davids last year.

The U.S. Chamber’s decision to endorse Davids—along with 22 other freshman House Democrats—caught Kansas business leaders by surprise last year.

Davids’ Republican opponent in the 3rd Congressional District, long-time Cerner executive Amanda Adkins, had served on the board of the state chamber for 12 years.

The U.S. Chamber’s endorsement of Davids and other Democrats represented a strategic shift intended to curry favor with Democrats in anticipation that they would maintain their House majority.

It also came after years of tension with then-President Donald Trump’s administration on trade policy, which put a strain on the decades-long alliance between Republicans and the business community.

But the move has resulted in the Kansas Chamber’s decision not to renew its membership in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce after Kansas officials complained their input was ignored during the process.

“We’d love to be a partner, but you’ve got to treat us as a partner and that just didn’t occur,” said Alan Cobb, the president of the Kansas Chamber of Commerce, who had urged the national chamber to remain neutral in the Kansas race.

Healthcare IT giant Cerner, where Adkins served in high-level roles from 2005 to 2020, is a “Cornerstone” member of the Kansas Chamber, a term used for businesses that invest at least $5,000 in the group annually.

Adkins, a former Kansas Republican chair, is launching another run for the seat in 2022 after losing to Davids by 10 points in the fall. Adkins’ campaign did not immediately comment on the break between the state and national chambers.

Ellie Turner, a spokeswoman for Davids’ campaign, said the Kansas Democrat “fights tirelessly for small businesses, voted to pass a strong trade deal to create good Kansas jobs, and continues to advance pro-growth policies to rebuild the economy even better than it was before the pandemic--and will continue to work with anyone who wants to help get that done.”

Despite giving a boost to Democrats in House races last year, the national chamber still backed Republicans in U.S. Senate races, including Kansas Republican Roger Marshall, who benefited from more than $300,000 in spending by the chamber.

However, Cobb, a former lobbyist for Wichita-based Koch Industries who served as an adviser on Trump’s 2016 campaign, said the national chamber’s endorsement of Davids sparked frustration in Kansas members. The U.S. Chamber declined to comment on the matter.

The Kansas group’s decision to part ways with the national chamber was first reported Monday by The Washington Post as part of a broader piece about ongoing tension between congressional Republicans and the nation’s largest business lobby group in the wake of the 2020 endorsements.

The state chamber does not make endorsements in federal races but in state elections it typically supports Kansas Republicans who align with the chamber on tax cuts and deregulation. The group will likely spend heavily in support of Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly’s Republican opponent in 2022.

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