US Chamber Ramps Up Campaign Against Its Own Members’ Interests

Yesterday was a banner day for anyone keeping an eye on the US Chamber of Commerce's extraordinary capacity for willful ignorance of its own members' interests on energy and climate issues.

The Chamber announced a $100 million campaign to defend against "anti-business activists" who are attacking America's free enterprise values. (Odd. No word here about defending motherhood and apple pie against all the barbarians at the gate!)  

In the Chamber's news release, President Tom Donohue said: "Many union leaders, some environmentalists, and a growing force of anti-business activists are pushing governments at all levels to close trading markets, lock down capital markets, expand entitlements, and raise taxes and debt to unsustainable levels."

Donohue thus named two out of the three constituencies that historically haven't seen eye-to-eye, but have been aligned on the need to pass federal climate legislation: unions and environmentalists.

But Donohue left out businesses, many of which support federal climate legislation - including, of course, the Chamber's own members such as Alcoa, Caterpillar Inc., Deere & Company, Dow Chemical Company, Duke Energy, Eastman Kodak, Entergy, Fox Entertainment Group, IBM , Lockheed, Nike Inc., PepsiCo, PNM Resources, Rolls Royce North America Inc., Siemens Corporation, Southern Company, The Robertson Foundation, Toyota Motor North America Inc. and Xerox.

Wow Mr. Donohue! Isn't it a bit extreme, calling your own members "anti-business activists" just because they think the Chamber is wrong in its stance on climate change. I guess you better get used to fuming at your own members and more in the business community, given yesterday's other announcements.

The unmentioned backdrop to the Chamber release is that it and National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) are both facing internal rebellions from members who do not want them to keep speaking for them as the Chamber and NAM pursue extremist agendas on climate policy.

As Politico reported

An alliance of 14 organizations that support climate change legislation has sent letters to companies that are members of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers, urging them to demand a refund of any dues being used by the two groups to oppose a cap-and-trade system to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.

The letter urges companies to ask the Chamber and the NAM, which oppose climate legislation currently moving through the House, to return the portion of their dues that fund the pair's climate and energy lobbying activities.

The letter from the alliance, led by the Center for Political Accountability, explains that the refund is "essential to assure that the company is not funding its opponents and undermining its interests through its trade association payments."

The letter was sent to 26 companies, including Xerox, Ford Motor Co., Alcoa, IBM and General Electric.

The Center for Political Accountability says it has received positive responses from Air Products and Chemicals, American Electric Power and Dow Chemical and is in the process of following up with those companies. (emphasis added)

You can read the full text of the letter coordinated by the Center for Political Accountability.   The following is a highlight:

Climate change is not the first time that companies and associations have had major differences. Some companies have handled these differences by requesting that their association: [1] disclose prominently and clearly on its website that the company disagrees with the association's position on an issue; and [2] refund or credit to the company the portion of its payment to the association that is being used on the issue ... As investors, we see (these two steps) as critical to the company being able to achieve its business goals, avoid unnecessary and dangerous reputation and business risks, and bring its expenditures in line with its publicly stated policies and values on an issue it considers important. Moreover, they are essential to assure that the company is not funding its opponents and undermining its interests through its trade association payments. 

As if that wasn't enough, there was the full page ad in today's Wall Street Journal.  Organized by Ceres, the ad can be viewed here.  It reads in part as follows:

We are business leaders from companies of all sizes, many sectors, and from across the country, calling for your leadership to ensure America's prosperous, competitive future. We need you to swiftly enact comprehensive legislation that will cut carbon pollution and create an economy-wide cap and trade program.

We support this legislation for many reasons: because by putting a price on carbon, it will drive investment into cost-saving, energy saving technologies; because it will create the next wave of jobs in the new energy economy; because it will provide the predictability we need to plan for future business success; and because our companies and our economy will be more productive.

The group ad not only departs significantly from the irresponsible hard-line approach of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on climate, but it also is notable for its signers - including such major emitters as Duke Energy, Austin Energy, PG&E and PSEG.  So much for the canard that the only companies differing with the Chamber and NAM are those that don't generate much carbon pollution!