One of the nation’s most powerful business groups is targeting U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren — labeling her the Steve Bannon of the left — and signaling it intends to pour tens of millions of dollars into the midterm elections to defeat Warren and other “extreme” candidates.

The declaration by the pro-Republican U.S. Chamber of Commerce is one of the first shots of the 2018 campaign and is likely to trigger the infiltration of millions of dollars from outside organizations into Warren’s re-election battle.

The Chamber spent $29 million nationwide in the 2016 election cycle — second only to the National Rifle Association — and president Thomas Donohue said it will spend more than that this year “to fight back against the extremes in both parties — the Steve Bannons and Elizabeth Warrens of the world — who do not represent the best interests of this country.”

Warren quickly fired back on Twitter, deriding Donohue as a “millionaire lobbyist” and vowing to continue to hold big corporations accountable.

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“Big business lobbyists are so used to running the place that they label anyone willing to stand up to them as extreme,” Warren tweeted. “When Tom Donohue and the @USChamber attack me for standing up to corporate interests, I know I’m doing my job.”

The Chamber has historically backed Republican candidates and this year Warren has three potential GOP opponents — Beth Lindstrom, Rep. Geoff Diehl and John Kingston. All three have also been targeting Warren as a left-wing extremist.

Donohue did not address the Warren race directly, but told reporters his group “will spend a whole lot of money” to defeat not just Democrats, but Republicans who they feel are “more interested in disrupting the process than governing and fixing the process,” according to Bloomberg Politics.

“We need to rebuild the middle in the Congress,” Donohue said in his annual address in Washington. “Pro-growth, pro-business candidates can come from both sides and we want more from both sides.”

This isn’t the first time Warren and the U.S. Chamber have tangled — the two are frequent sparring partners when Warren targets corporations, big banks and lobbyists. Warren last year called Donohue a hired lobbyist for big banks and Donohue decried politicians who “listen to Elizabeth Warren.”

But Donohue’s speech yesterday and his pledge to spend even more than in 2016 is an escalation of his battle with Warren and shows the group intends to make her a major target again in 2018.

Warren herself has a campaign war chest of nearly $13 million, according to the latest reports, but outside groups are likely to at least match that if they feel she is vulnerable this year.

In a poll of Massachusetts voters released by WBUR yesterday, Warren was viewed favorably by 54 percent of voters and unfavorably by 38 percent.

Those numbers are more than 20 points lower than Republican Gov. Charlie Baker’s favorable ratings, and indicate some dissatisfaction with Warren even in heavily Democratic Massachusetts.

But Warren is still the heavy favorite in her re-election race, and hopes to use the campaign to boost her presidential hopes in 2020.


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