If you’ve ever wondered how the wealthiest 1% in this country manage to maintain a stranglehold on Congress while wreaking havoc on the financial and environmental structures that were created to protect the American people, the answer shouldn’t come as a surprise.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce pretends that it has nothing to hide (after all, it does state very clearly on its website that it’s the biggest lobbying group in America, and its headquarters are conspicuously located right across the street from the White House), but if that’s the case, why won’t it disclose who its corporate members are or where its money comes from?
Because it represents the top 1% in America—the corporate and industry executives responsible for our current economic and environmental crises—and because its legitimacy depends on the public not understanding this fact.
In an appalling display of disregard for American public, the Chamber has been on a century-long rampage against government regulation and transparency. It claims to lobby for best interests of small businesses, often scaring the public with the usual rhetoric of “regulation kills jobs”, yet the only people who stand to gain from the Chamber’s policies are the handful of wealthy and corrupt executives who have been making millions in profits at the expense of everyone else.
Even as the new House Supercommittee works to draft a plan that will fix the American economy and put people back to work, it is more than likely that the U.S. Chamber will oppose one of the easiest and most widely approved solutions on the table: ending Big Oil Subsidies. Back in May, ThinkProgress reported that “the chamber’s chief lobbyist, R. Bruce Josten, blasted S. 940, the Close Big Oil Tax Loopholes Act, as ‘punitive taxation‘ that would ‘jeopardize U.S. jobs’ and ‘increase energy costs’” in a letter to the U.S. Senate, even though the American Petroleum Institute’s chief economist has admitted that cutting subsidies for Big Oil would not hurt jobs, but would likely create them. That bill died in its tracks despite overwhelming public support, and this time around we can be sure that when the opportunity arises to put the American people before profits, the U.S. Chamber will once again side with the 1%.
Over that past four weeks, a movement has surfaced—beginning with the #OccupyWallStreet protest and now spreading to hundreds of cities across the country—of everyday people coming together to show that they’re tired of the way the wealthiest 1% do business in this country. These non-violent occupations aren’t just a fluke, or a passing fad. They’re a response to the corporate greed that led to our economic crisis, and to the kinds of rapacious anti-government policies that the U.S. Chamber continues to champion.
The “We are the 99%” slogan is spreading—from the mouths of small business owners, students, and even World War II veterans—to headlines nationwide.
In the midst of the Occupy protests, the U.S. Chamber has been working tirelessly to try and convince that nation that it’s lobbying for what’s in the best interest of the economy, yet public scrutiny continues to mount among small business owners, corporations and local chambers of commerce over a variety of concerns.
Politico’s Morning Tech reported yesterday that Yahoo has decided not to renew it’s membership with the U.S. Chamber over it’s stance on the PROTECT IP Act, adding to the growing list of major corporations that have quit the national organization based on it’s controversial political lobbying.
The number of local chambers that are defecting from the U.S. Chamber continues to grow. In September, the Homer Chamber of Commerce in Alaska announced that it would not be renewing it’s membership because of the U.S. Chamber’s stance on climate change, and the Boulder Chamber of Commerce has signed onto “The U.S. Chamber Doesn’t Speak for Me” campaign. This brings the count of local chambers that have publicly distanced themselves from the U.S. Chamber up to 55!
The U.S. Chamber has recently won two awards that are well deserved. The Center for Biological Diversity just announced that the Chamber is the winner of their Rubber Dodo Award, awarded annually to those who have done the most to push endangered species toward extinction. CBD’s members voted and agreed that when it comes to climate change—one of the biggest threats to endangered and non-endangered species everywhere—no one has done more to get in the way of carbon regulation than the U.S. Chamber. Additionally, the Chamber won the Wall Street Journal’s Corruption Story of the Year award for it’s concerted efforts to weaken the Corrupt Foreign Practices Act.
In a recent Op-Ed by U.S. Chamber President Tom Donohue, he makes several lofty claims about the proposed Keystone XL pipeline that are riddled with exaggerations and falsehoods. With bedfellows like Shell, Valero, ConocoPhillips and Koch Industries set to rake in major profits from the exploitation of Alberta tar sands oil (the second biggest carbon pool on the planet, next to Saudi Arabia), the U.S. Chamber and the American Petroleum Institute (the oil industry’s umbrella lobbying organization) have resorted to flat-out lying and fear-mongering in the interest of drumming up national support for a project that would alter ecosystems, economies, communities and the climate beyond remediation.
Here’s to shedding a little light and transparency on the purported “benefits” of the Keystone XL pipeline:
Myth: According to Donohue and TransCanada (the company overseeing the KXL project), construction of the pipeline would create 20,000 manufacturing and construction jobs, and 119,000 jobs total (indirect and direct).
Fact:Cornell University just released a study finding that the pipeline would create no more than 2,500-4,650 temporary direct construction jobs for two years and that “the industry’s claim that KXL will create 119,000 total jobs is based on a flawed and poorly documented study commissioned by TransCanada (The Perryman Group study).”
At the Global Business Forum in Canada on Saturday, September 24, U.S. Chamber President Tom Donohue told the crowd that he had taken a tour of the “extraordinary” Alberta tar sands oil fields, and that the U.S. had “no choice” but to approve the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, which would carry the highly corrosive and especially dangerous oil from Canada through six Midwestern states to the Gulf of Mexico if the State Department approves the project later this year.
Even as Donohue was touting the supposed merits of a pipeline that would be devastating to sensitive ecosystems, drinking water supplies, indigenous peoples and the climate, hundreds of thousands of people around the world came together for Moving Planet on Saturday in a global demonstration of the need to move beyond fossil fuels. At 2,000 simultaneous events in more than 170 countries, people took to the streets en masse—on bike, on foot, and more—to demand that their governments start leading the planet in a new, fossil fuel-free direction.
Moving Planet was not the first—nor the last—historic day of action to protect communities and economies from runaway climate change. Only a few weeks ago, more than 1,200 peaceful protesters were arrested in front of the White House in the largest act of environmental civil disobedience in history, in order to bring national attention to the dangers of the Keystone XL pipeline. Today, hundreds of protesters have gathered at a similar demonstration in front of Parliament Hill in Ottowa, to demand that the Harper government cease any support of the Keystone XL pipeline.
The timing of Donohue’s speech to the Global Business Forum was very telling—there will always be a small percentage of wealthy corporate elite fighting to protect the status quo and a “Business as Usual” approach to energy development, because their profit margins depend on the system remaining unchanged. But one small speech to one small group of individuals can’t compare to the power of citizens uniting all over the world to demand a change in the way our global economy is powered. The small business community and the world at-large have proven that they are ready to move beyond fossil fuels, and the first step toward winning that fight will be the defeat of the Keystone XL project.
It was announced yesterday that the Homer Chamber of Commerce in Alaska will be dropping its membership with the U.S. Chamber, citing that the national organization’s right-leaning politicking isn’t in line with what local businesses want.
The decision by the Homer Chamber of Commerce is good news for Carri Thurman, co-owner of Two Sisters Bakery in the fishing community of 5,000. A former member, Thurman left the local group out of frustration over its affiliation with the U.S. Chamber, particularly the national organization’s “politicizing” against climate change legislation. Now she’s ready to rejoin her peers.
“I plan on taking them a bouquet of flowers and congratulating them on their choices,” she said.
Monte Davis, Executive Director of the Homer Chamber of Commerce, visited a number of businesses in his community and found that many of the owners felt similarly about the local chamber’s affiliation with the national organization; ultimately, the Board of Directors decided to cancel their membership. “It doesn’t behoove us to be a member of that organization anymore. They certainly do not represent the interests of small towns, small businesses and individuals.”
Although the U.S. Chamber claims to represent 3 million small businesses nationwide, its lobbying and electioneering rarely reflect the needs of the small business community. The Chamber lobbies heavily during elections (it spent as much as $33 million trying to influence midterm 2010 elections, and has announced that it will beat that in 2012), is the biggest blockade to passing effective climate change legislation, and is determined to eradicate federal environmental protections and the EPA, highlighting a partisan right-wing agenda that doesn’t sit well with thousands of business owners across the country.
Dozens of local chambers nationwide are taking note of the disconnect between the Big Business lobbying of the U.S. Chamber and the needs of the small businesses community, and are publicly distancing themselves from the national organization. Click here to read some of their statements about why they decided to quit (and don’t forget to click on the “Local Chambers” tab).
The following article by Lee Fang was cross-posted from ThinkProgress.org, in response to the U.S. Chamber’s newest astroturfing effort to build fake “grassroots” support for the Keystone XL pipeline in Nebraska:
Last week, lobbyists in Washington, DC announced the creation of yet another front group in Nebraska to support the approval of the controversial Keystone XL, a pipeline running through the Midwest from tar sands mining sites in Canada to refineries in Texas. Given its central location underneath the proposed expansion route for the Keystone XL, Nebraska has become a flash point in the debate over approval of the plan.
To counteract the broad opposition to the pipeline, oil lobbyists have paid special attention to Nebraska. As ThinkProgress reported, the American Petroleum Institute, an oil lobbying federation that counts many foreign oil companies as paying members, has set up fake citizens groups to support the pipeline (a version for Nebraska, called the “Nebraska Energy Forum,” can be found here). Now, the U.S. Chamber, a lobbying association funded by oil companies and other fossil fuel polluters, has announced its own astroturf effort in Nebraska:
LINCOLN — The U.S. Chamber’s Institute for 21st Century Energy and key Nebraska business leaders today launched the “Partnership to Fuel America,” (www.fuelingus.org) in Nebraska, a major new initiative designed to build a stronger foundation for the U.S. – Canadian energy relationship. [...]
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is the world’s largest business federation representing the interests of more than 3 million businesses of all sizes, sectors, and regions, as well as state and local chambers and industry associations.
The press release for “Partnership to Fuel America” is filled with falsehoods. For one thing, the Chamber has already admitted that its claim of representing 3 million businesses is a lie. Second, the new group isn’t even managed from Lincoln, Nebraska. In fact, ThinkProgress has learned that the group is orchestrated by a Minnesota-based lobbying firm called Public Affairs Company. A call to the firm confirmed that Stacy Thompson, a Minneapolis-based Republican consultant, is really behind the Nebraska pipeline fake citizens group. Moreover, though the release claims the pipeline will help the local economy, a single spill could forever doom Nebraska’s agricultural industry by poisoning the water supply.
Backlash to the pipeline is growing every day. Conservative Gov. Dave Heineman (R-NE) even fired of a letter on Aug. 31 to administration officials broadcasting his opposition to the current plan. Reacting to a groundswell of opposition, Heineman, ordinarily no friend of the environmental movement, stated blunted: “I am opposed to the proposed route of this pipeline … 254 miles of the pipeline would come through Nebraska and be situated directly over the Ogallala Aquifer.” Gov. Peter Shumlin (D-VT) and former Vice President Al Gore have also spoken out against the pipeline. But when even a conservative Republican governor leans against the pipeline, it’s no wonder oil companies are working to make multiple political groups to give the appearance of public support for the project.
UPDATE: Joining Heineman, Nebraska Sens. Mike Johanns (R) and Ben Nelson (D) also urged Obama to reject the pipeline proposal. Nebraska Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R) also opposes the pipeline and urges “a comprehensive environmental review.”
It was just announced that Green America’s Green Business Network and the Green Chamber of Commerce, two of our nation’s leading sustainable business networks, have written to President Obama on behalf of their members asking him not to approve the Keystone XL—a dangerous new pipeline that would transport tar sands crude oil from Alberta, Canada to the Gulf of Mexico if approved later this year.
Protesters and sustainable business groups alike are creatively and publicly opposing the project to counteract the pressure that President Obama is feeling from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Oil Industry. Just yesterday, the Chamber announced that it’s “Partnership to Fuel America,” a pro-Keystone XL propaganda and astroturf campaign, will now be focusing its attention on Nebraska—a state crossed by the proposed route of the pipeline, where both Senators have said that they’re opposed to the project—in the hopes of leaning on the business community for additional support. Many Nebraskan business owners, citizens, farmers and politicians are concerned about the impacts of the pipeline on their state, and in the face of increasing public resistance, the Chamber and its friends are scaling up their efforts.
The letter from Green America and the Green Chamber of Commerce could not have come at a more important time. Thousands of protesters from diverse backgrounds continue to participate in creative civil disobedience in front of the White House (recent arrests from the sit-in include our nation’s leading climate scientist, NASA’s James Hansen, and actress Daryl Hannah) to bring national media attention to the issue, and business owners across the nation are stepping forward to tell the President that the Keystone XL is not in the best interest of our economy, our climate or our nation as a whole.
Click the Read More link below to read the letter to President Obama from Green America and the Green Chamber of Commerce.
Earlier today, the State Department released a report claiming that the Keystone XL pipeline would have a “minimal impact” on the environment. While this was not an entirely unexpected move, the environmental community has condemned the report, and the Sierra Club sent out a press release stating, “The U.S. State Department’s final report on the Keystone XL today is an insult to anyone who expects government to work for the interests of the American people.”
Not surprisingly, the U.S. Chamber and it’s friends in the oil industry are thrilled at the State Departments “findings.” Matt Koch (of Koch Industries, the multi-billion dollar chemical and petroleum conglomerate) is vice president at the U.S. Chamber’s Energy Institute, which recently created the “Partnership to Fuel America” in order to promote the Keystone XL pipeline as a clean and smart economic move for our country. If this smells fishy, that’s because it is.
The Partnership to Fuel America is clever ploy by the U.S. Chamber and it’s wealthiest corporate members from the oil industry to distort the truth about the Keystone XL pipeline. Under the guise of “creating jobs” and promoting “economic security,” they are lobbying tirelessly to get this pipeline approved, which—for the price of a few thousand jobs and a minimal effect on national gasoline prices—would threaten the drinking water of millions of Americans, traverse sensitive ecosystems, displace indigenous communities and end all hope of slowing catastrophic climate change.
Why would the U.S. Chamber be lobbying for a project that could wreak havoc on our economy and people? Because it’s wealthiest oil-industry members are set to rake in huge profits if the pipeline is approved, and that, in turn, means a huge spike in profits for the U.S. Chamber.
Public debate over the proposed Keystone XL pipeline is gaining momentum and media coverage across the country. The fossil fuel industry and U.S. Chamber claim that the pipeline will bring economic growth and energy security to the United States, but are coming up against a hard line of opposition comprised of journalists, scholars, scientists, teachers, celebrities, well-respected institutions and news sources—including the New York Times—who aren’t falling for the industry’s sweet-sounding talking points.
In a recent editorial, the NY Times comes out against the Keystone XL pipeline, stating “this [Editorial] page opposes the building of a 1,700-mile pipeline called the Keystone XL, which would carry diluted bitumen — an acidic crude oil — from Canada’s Alberta tar sands to the Texas Gulf Coast. We have two main concerns: the risk of oil spills along the pipeline, which would traverse highly sensitive terrain, and the fact that the extraction of petroleum from the tar sands creates far more greenhouse emissions than conventional production does.”
The U.S. Chamber wasn’t pleased with the NY Time announcement, and countered with its own blog post:
What would stopping the Keystone XL pipeline accomplish? Do they not want the ten of thousands of jobs directly and indirectly created from the pipeline? Would they rather have the U.S. be less energy secure? Do they want to be on the side of anti-growth, anti-energy protesters?
Not only do the Chamber’s claims that the pipeline would bring economic and energy security fall far short of a convincing argument, but its insinuation that anyone against the Keystone XL pipeline is an anti-energy, anti-growth “green activist” is, simply put, not true.
The people opposed to the Keystone XL pipeline represent a wide range of backgrounds and interests. Right now, thousands of American citizens—including Nebraskan farmers, members of the Tea Party and others who would typically fall on the conservative side of the political spectrum—are gathering in Washington DC to protest the Keystone XL pipeline.
Over the next two weeks, people who may never have had reason to come together before have traveled hundreds of miles to unite in front of the White House and ask Obama to stop the Keystone XL, and they’re using the only currency they have available: their bodies and spirit. Already, 160 people have been arrested for non-violent civil disobedience in front of the White House, and more people are being arrested every day to draw attention to the fact that the pipeline would be devastating for America’s people, economy and environment.
The U.S. Chamber has proven that it is unabashedly determined to do whatever it takes to discredit its critics, regardless of the legality or morality of the tactics being considered.
Earlier this year, ThinkProgress reported that the U.S. Chamber had solicited “private security” companies to investigate its political opponents. Their tactics included planting false documents, creating fake personas, and creepily stalking opponents’ families and children.
Lee Fang, an investigative journalist for ThinkProgress, just released this article providing additional information about the Chamber’s insidious plot:
“As HBGary Federal executive Aaron Barr described in several emails, his firm could work with partner companies Palantir and Berico Technologies to manipulate fake online identities, using networks like Facebook, to gain access to private information from his targets.”
The Chamber only backed away from the deal after the hacktivist group Anonymous exposed 75,000 e-mails detailing its conversations with the the private firms. Considering the amount of powerful, wealthy friends that the U.S. Chamber has, it’s shocking to see the organization stoop so low, but it also highlights one important fact: it’s vulnerable. The Chamber knows that it has a wide range of opponents—from journalists to business owners to everyday citizens and union workers—who are working every day to keep its dirty money and dangerous politicking out of Washington DC, and we’re making it nervous.