Tough times for the Chamber of Commerce

New Jersey Chamber of Commerce officials are worried, and for good reason. The word is that registration for their 73rd annual train trip to Washington, D.C. is way down. Turnout is likely to be affected by the economy, and by the decision of the incoming Christie administration not to attend. Christopher Christie is set to take office the week before, and the new governor wants his team working in New Jersey and not spending two days in Washington.

That’s just part of the story. In recent years, there has been a serious rift between the Chamber of Commerce, a business advocacy organization, and the New Jersey GOP. Chamber of Commerce president Joan Verplanck became closely allied with Gov. Jon Corzine over the last few years. She angered Republican legislative leaders by endorsing Corzine’s toll hike plan, causing some Republicans to call on local businesses to leave the organization. Verplanck was reportedly considered by Corzine as a possible candidate for Lt. Governor.

The Walk to Washington is a chartered train that allows special interests to schmooze with elected officials – “Build Your Contacts During Two Days of Intense Networking,” according to the chamber website. Last year, many top Republicans, including Christie, declined to participate. Verplanck called the GOP protest “stupid.”

This is the third not-too-subtle jab at Verplanck since Election Day: Christie named Debra DiLorenzo, the President of the Southern New Jersey Chamber of Commerce, to his transition team (and not Verplanck or New Jersey Business and Industry Association President Phil Kirshner) and Republicans are holding up her nomination as a Kean University Trustee.

Tough times for the Chamber of Commerce