Mazie Hirono last week accused Linda Lingle and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce of being “two peas in a pod” for opposing President Barack Obama’s priorities.

In a detailed press release, Hirono, the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate, links to news clip after news clip — including several from Civil Beat — chronicling what it suggests are unfortunate ties between the Chamber and the Republican candidate.

Hirono’s political broadside aside, there is no question that Lingle, the former Hawaii governor and the Chamber, self-billed as “the world’s largest business organization representing the interests of more than 3 million businesses,” have a shared goal: electing Lingle to the U.S. Senate.

While Hirono has backers like the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and EMILY’s List issuing attacks on her opponents and helping fund her campaign, Lingle and the Chamber often read from the same script and practically march lockstep.

Jobs, Economy, Tourism, Bipartisan

Consider the Lingle-Chamber pas de deux over the past seven months:

• On Jan. 2, Lingle released a video on jobs and tourism. The press release included this statement:

In the issue-focused video, Gov. Lingle cites U.S. Chamber of Commerce statistics that show a return to tourism levels of 2000 would create 1.3 million more jobs for Americans.

• On Jan. 19, Lingle released a press statement applauding President Barack Obama’s call to boost tourism and travel. It included this quote:

According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, if tourism in the United States could be restored to the year 2000 levels of visitors to the country, 1.3 million jobs would be created.

• On Feb. 2, the Lingle camp released a video extolling the candidate’s bipartisanship. The press release includes this quote:

It is absolutely critical that our next U.S. Senator have the experience and leadership to break through the partisan gridlock and find solutions to create more jobs and stimulate the economy.

• On Feb. 9, the U.S. Chamber bought two weeks of television advertising backing Lingle. The ad touted Lingle “as a bipartisan leader who can help increase tourism,” according to the Maui News.

• On Feb. 11, Lingle’s campaign manager, Bob Lee, defended the Chamber from an attack by the Mazie Hirono campaign that called the Chamber a “Republican-leaning … mainland special interest group.” Excerpt:

“The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, whose single mission is ‘to strengthen the competitiveness of the U.S. economy,” said Lee in a statement, “is far from a special interest group. Their advocacy for legislation and candidates is representative of diverse political interests.”

Lee aded that the Chamber has supported bipartisan-sponsored legislation including the 2011 VISIT USA Act, which attempts to “ease travel restrictions to the United States, and promote tourism.

• On March 28, Lingle commended the Chamber’s president, Tom Donohue, for providing tourism-focused testimony to Congress.

• On May 9, Lingle officially acknowledged the Chamber‘s endorsement of her campaign. The press release included this quote from Lingle:

Like me, the U.S. Chamber recognizes that the time for partisan bickering is over. We must work together to establish bipartisan solutions that will help boost our economy. For Hawaii, these bipartisan solutions must start with a plan to increase tourism, which will grow our local economy and create jobs for our residents.

The endorsement acknowledgement came on the same day it was reported that the Chamber had launched a second ad for Lingle, this one stating that Lingle has a bipartisan plan to increase tourism to create jobs to improve Hawaii’s economy.

• On June 24, in a press release for an ad about jobs and the economy, the Lingle campaign pointed out that Lingle had been endorsed by the U.S. Chamber.

• On July 17, the U.S. Chamber launched its third Hawaii television spot on behalf of Lingle. It praises the candidate for her bipartisan record in growing jobs and the economy.

That same day, in Kihei, Maui, the Chamber held the first of three Hawaii events on behalf of Lingle, who was present along with Darlene Miller, a member of the U.S. Chamber Board of Directors and president and CEO of Permac Industries of Minnesota. Events were also held July 19 in Kailua-Kona on the Big Island and July 20 in Lihue, Kauai.

• On July 22 — Sunday — Lingle issued a press release saying her campaign wrapped up what it called its U.S. Chamber Endorsement Tour. The release included this statement from Lingle:

I am honored to have the U.S. Chamber‘s confidence and endorsement. The current state of our economy has left many small businesses in our state and across the country struggling to keep their doors open, and provide for their families. Hawaii’s businesses — as well as all the people of Hawaii — have my personal commitment that I will work to grow the private sector and expand opportunities for small businesses to thrive, because they are the foundation that provides jobs for our community.

The press release also noted that Lingle had launched a new TV spot, this one about tourism and how it can create jobs and grow the economy.

The U.S Chamber has spent more than $500,000 so far on its “independent” ads supporting Lingle. Federal law prohibits the business group and Lingle from coordinating on those ads.

And while the recent neighbor island tour, coming at the same time the Chamber’s latest TV spots hit, may seem more than coincidental, federal election officials say it doesn’t break the rules.

Inquiries to the Chamber’s press office in Washington, D.C., were not immediately returned.

Asked about the Lingle-Chamber tour, Bob Lee told Civil Beat Monday, “There was no coordination on the U.S. Chamber activities. The Chamber hosted events on each island which they requested Governor Lingle to attend. Our scheduling team simply ensured that she attended the events.” 

About two hours later, Lee responded to Civil Beat’s request for a response to a new attack on Lingle by the DSCC. The attack was over Lingle opposition to the so-called Warren Buffett tax on millionaires.

You can read Lee’s full comments here. Among other things, Lee points out that his boss has received the endorsement of — drum roll, please — the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

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