Battle ready

  @FortuneMagazine March 21, 2013: 6:58 AM ET
FIR08 claire mccaskill

Sen. Claire McCaskill

(Fortune)

Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill was walking through the Capitol when she stopped to have a word with the man who had recently tried to get her tossed from the building. Last summer U.S. Chamber of Commerce president Tom Donohue, arguably the nation's most powerful business lobbyist, had signed off on $3 million worth of ads against McCaskill. Donohue's group dropped its campaign when her Republican challenger, Todd Akin, made his infamous rape comments. McCaskill viewed Donohue's incursion as more than an attack -- it was a troubling rightward lurch by the Chamber of Commerce. Now, having secured reelection as a red-state Democrat, she spoke up: "I said to him, 'You know, I'd love to have some time with your board to talk about ROI and the importance of moderation around here,'" she recalls, referencing the roughly $31 million in federally reported funds that the Chamber spent in the 2012 election, only 7% of which went to successful candidates. McCaskill isn't holding her breath for that meeting. Under Donohue's stewardship, she says, the 101-year-old group has become a partisan outfit, and is in fact undermining the very business interests it is meant to protect by preserving government-crippling polarization.

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