Former Attorney General Bill Barr will help to lead a new group formed by a business lobbying organization that aims to be an alternative to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the massive advocacy group that has fallen out of favor with some Republicans.
Barr will be chair of an advisory board for a project called the Center for Legal Action, he told CNBC in an interview. The group is part of the American Free Enterprise Chamber of Commerce, the business lobbying group that launched last year as a possible rival to the chamber.
The American Free Enterprise Chamber of Commerce boasts of being a business lobbying group that fights “against outdated regulations, future-killing tax policies, and the corporate cronyism and backroom DC deal making that close down our economic future,” according to a memo pitch to potential members.
Barr’s decision to join with the new group comes as some Republicans on Capitol Hill have turned their backs on the Chamber of Commerce after it started to favor endorsing Democrats running for House seats. The business lobbying behemoth moved away from predominantly supporting Republicans in recent years after former president Donald Trump embraced trade protectionism, bashed certain companies for their social stances and tried to overturn the 2020 election.
Barr, for his part, drew the ire of the former president and many of his GOP allies when he said evidence did not back Trump’s claims that fraud cost him the presidential election.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., and House Majority Leader Steve Scalise, R-La., are among the powerful GOP members who have distanced themselves from the original chamber.
In a statement to CNBC provided by the new group, McCarthy said it “is an important tool to ensure regulators operate fairly, efficiently, and without burdening America’s entrepreneurs and small businesses.”
Scalise in a separate statement to CNBC provided by the business lobbying organization said, “The American Free Enterprise Chamber of Commerce creating the Center for Legal Action is welcome news to House Republicans.”
The new group aims aims to challenge — at times in court — regulations put in place by the Biden administration. Barr will chair the project’s advisory board, in support of the chairman Terry Branstad and CEO Gentry Collins.
Branstad was a longtime Iowa governor and Trump’s U.S. ambassador to China. Collins was once a political director for the Republican National Committee.
In his role, Barr will advise the Center for Legal Action on the best litigators to hire, he explained to CNBC. He will also help to develop the organization’s overall legal strategy.
The “CLA will provide congressional testimony, initiate litigation, file amicus briefs, and support lawsuits brought by other parties in important regulatory and constitutional cases,” the American Free Enterprise Chamber of Commerce said in a statement.
Barr would not say who he aims to recruit from the legal community.
He noted that the newly formed project would engage on the Securities and Exchange Commission’s proposed climate-risk disclosure rule. If the rule is enacted, public companies would have to disclose the carbon emissions that are part of their operations, as well as the climate risks their businesses face.
Collins would not say how much the organization is investing into the new project. But he told CNBC that the group has been recruiting business members “at a rate of more than 1,000 a month for almost a year now.”
“As we’ve done that, one of the principal challenges that we hear from businesses of all sizes around the country is regulatory overreach threatening our business, threatening our industries and threatening our overall economy,” Collins said.