Barbara Shelly

Rick Perry invite looks bad for Missouri Chamber

The Missouri Chamber of Commerce seems to have lost its compass — or maybe its mind.

Why would the organization whose mission is “to protect and advance Missouri business” be hosting an out-of-state governor who is on record as wanting to poach Missouri jobs?

I speak, of course, of Texan Rick Perry, who is scheduled to speak at a chamber-sponsored event Thursday in St. Louis. Perry is repaying the group’s hospitality by running ads in Missouri urging businesses here to move to Texas.

Note to chamber President Daniel Mehan and company: Abetting a fox is not the way to protect your chicken coop.

The chamber and the Republican governor share a fascination with low- or-non-existent state income taxes. If that means struggling schools, lousy state services, high sales taxes and high college tuition, tough luck. What counts is catering to the “job creators.”

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch is


that Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat who has vetoed a bill which slashes income taxes in Missouri, has sent a letter to members of the state chamber.

“As an organization that purports to represent the interests of Missouri businesses, the Missouri Chamber should support activities that seek to strengthen our economy — not undermine it,” Nixon wrote.

The key word there is “purports.” More and more, the Missouri Chamber of Commerce looks less like a resource for state businesses than a lobbying arm for extreme conservative causes. The same could be said for the Kansas Chamber of Commerce and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. (The Missouri chamber did step away from its hyperpartisan corner last session to urge the legislature to expand Medicaid eligibility. Sadly, it was unsuccessful.)

The increasingly radical stances of the statewide and national chambers stand in contrast with many local chambers of commerce, including the Greater Kansas City Chamber, which are more inclined to actually listen to people in their communities and act accordingly.

As of now, the Missouri chamber shows no signs of backing out of its invitation to Perry. The chamber wants the Missouri General Assembly to override Nixon’s veto of House Bill 253, the controversial tax bill. Apparently its leaders think the governor’s visit will help. Thanks to his ads, though, it may have the opposite effect.