Originally created 02/11/99

Senator wins surprising kudos from chamber



WASHINGTON -- Last summer, when Sen. Ernest "Fritz " Hollings, D-S.C., was locked in a bitter and possibly losing re-election campaign, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce strongly endorsed his opponent, then-Rep. Bob Inglis, Republican.

Why the move, made over the state chamber's bitter objections? Because, as a national chamber spokesman said, Mr. Hollings' voting record on business matters "is absolutely dismal." Mr. Hollings supported business only 20 percent of the time in 1997, and Mr. Inglis hit 90 percent. Getting Mr. Hollings out was a top priority for the national chamber, the spokesman said.

So imagine how surprised Mr. Hollings must have been last week to receive a letter congratulating him for earning "the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's `Spirit of Enterprise' Award for his ... strong support of business issues."

Don't get too excited. There are 286 other "winners," probably every Republican and a smattering of Democrats. To get the award, you have to have a 70 percent or better pro-business voting record. Mr. Hollings last year eked out 71 percent, so he wins.

Endorsements, on the other hand, are based on lifetime service to business interests. The difference is simple, spokesman Frank Coleman explained: "You can make it to the All-Star game one year, but that won't get you into the Hall of Fame."