US Chamber's Influence and Credibility on the Decline
Posted October 20, 2009
The US Chamber's Credibility Crisis deepened Monday as the federation's extremist position on climate change further eroded its credibility and influence, made it the object of a prank news event and highlighted the US Chamber's hypocrisy on the climate issue.
The day started with an in-depth Politico report discussing White House plans to
"go around the group and [deal] directly with the CEOs of major U.S. corporations,"
"We prefer the approach - particularly in this climate - where the actual people who are on the front lines, running businesses, trying to create jobs, come and advise us on policy," senior White House adviser Valerie Jarrett told POLITICO in a not-so-subtle effort to portray the Chamber as out of touch with business reality.
What effect is this having on the Chamber's influence? As Politico continues,
"And even some lobbyists are distancing themselves from the business group, opting not to sign on to letters put out by the Chamber or participate in joint advocacy efforts.
"They've taken a real hit this year," said a prominent Democratic lobbyist who spoke on background because he has associates at the group. "In the White House and on the Hill, among the people who run things, they are radioactive."
And its not just businesses. We've raised the question about the US Chamber's representation of local Chamber before. Looks like we're not the only ones. As Politico reported,
"They are totally disconnected from the local chambers in my district," said California Democratic Rep. Brad Sherman. "They're blissfully unaware of any position taken by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce."
Even one of the Chamber's top lobbyists, Bruce Josten, told the Washington post that "he has less real access to Obama's chief aides than he had during any previous administration."
One reason for the Chamber's decline may be the result of what the Chamber's positioning communicates to businesses and lawmakers alike. As Patrick Griffin, a former lobbyist and current director for the Public Affairs and Advocacy Institute in the School of Government at American University told NPR this morning
What the chamber represents and how they do business in Washington [represents] a kind of status quo old style."
In contrast, the identities of the corporations leaving the Chamber and criticizing its position on climate change identities are
"inextricably linked to what's possible through American enterprise as opposed to let's just kind of protect our own."
The Chamber's recalcitrant attitude on climate policy hasn't made it a target only for forward-looking companies, lawmakers and the executive branch. Yesterday an activist group known for staging theatrical stunts to highlight corporate conduct issues staged a fake news conference, pretending to be the US Chamber issuing a mea culpa on climate and stating that would henceforth support the Boxer-Kerry bill starting to work its way through the Senate. TPM, Watthead, GetEnergySmartNow, ThinkProgress HuffPo has the story and some video, including the clash between the fake and real Chamber.
The Chamber's widely-reported statement about the incident sniffed "Public relations hoaxes undermine the genuine effort to find solutions on the challenge of climate change."
That's an odd complaint for the US Chamber to make, since it has a rich history of using misinformation to undermine genuine efforts to find solutions. You don't have to take my word for it - just read the letter PG&E sent to the Chamber decrying its "obstructionist tactics", "extreme rhetoric" and "disingenuous attempts to diminish or distort the reality of these challenges."
PG&E isn't making anything up. For example the US Chamber is guilty of
- Science denial: ThinkProgress posted an excellent run-down of the US Chamber's and local Chamber's efforts to keep the science denial industry alive and well. Hey US Chamber, how does presenting clowns like Glenn Beck and Steven Milloy (who vouched for tobacco before he vouched for climate polluters) and Steven Hayward (who offered $10,000 to IPCC scientists if they would criticize the IPCC's findings) support genuine efforts to find solutions?
- Misinforming local Chambers and members about the impacts of climate policy: In mid-September, members of local Chambers of Commerce were treated to a missive packing just about every piece of misinformation about climate policy into one email. The lead "fact" was the totally fabricated claim that climate legislation will cost American families $1,761 in new taxes, a figure first touted by blogger Declan McCullough. But that claim was subsequently shown to be false by Politifact among others. Nevertheless, the Chamber email asked recipients to "become involved and to voice your opinion on this issue."
Which prompts me to ask of the Chamber, how is spreading misinformation - a hoax, if you will - that contributes to finding solutions?
- Misinforming local businesses and elected officials about the science and implications of climate policy: As I mentioned in an earlier post, the US Chamber has sponsored a lengthy series of "Climate Dialogues" orchestrated through the Chamber front-group Alliance for Energy and Economic Growth. In more than a dozen climate "dialogues" the Chamber events presented questionable presentations on the science as well as on the costs, relying on presenters from NAM and the Heritage Foundation. But these studies tend to be heavily skewed to show poor results - for example, the Heritage Foundation laughable analyses don't even model the legislation that it claims to represent. EDF caved up NAM's most recent economic exaggeration too.
Hey, if the Chamber is saying it is ready to stop using hoaxes, misinformation and deception to wage its war against clean energy for the US, well that would be a big turnaround. One that we'd all like to see. And that's no joke.
US Chamber's Climate Credibilty Crisis Counter:
Quit US Chamber Board over climate: Nike.
* UPDATE 11/12/09: Levi-Strauss informed us that the company did not leave the US Chamber over climate concerns, as Greenwire had reported.