The United States Chamber of Commerce (USCC) is “the world’s largest business federation,” serving as a...
U.S. Chamber of Commerce
The United States Chamber of Commerce (USCC) is “the world’s largest business federation,” serving as a large-scale lobbying and litigation group for American businesses. The Chamber, led by CEO Tom Donohue, promotes largely conservative and libertarian values, particularly a free-market ideology.
The USCC website professes to represent “more than 3 million businesses of all sizes, sectors, and regions” but upon closer inspection it actually has 300,000 members. The Chamber claims that over 90% of its members are small businesses, although its Board of Directors and national policy efforts show its heavy influence from large-scale corporations, especially since Tom Donohue became president and CEO in 1997. Additionally, only 249 of the 7,000 local chambers are members of the USCC, and a third of the Chamber's funding comes from just 19 corporations. Prior to Donohue, the Chamber supported Clinton’s healthcare reform and other projects opposed by the GOP and large corporations. With Donohue in charge, the Chamber rarely strays from the GOP platform and never challenges the policies of its corporate financers.
Stated position on climate change:
The Chamber's position statement on climate change urges continued scientific research on the topic, deferring to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the US Climate Change Science Program. The Chamber warns that US climate policy would be "hugely expensive" but does not defer to scientific institutions or research bodies that have estimated the enormous costs that climate change already imposes on society (estimated at $1.2 trillion per year, worldwide). The Chamber claims that climate model predictions are unreliable, when in fact observations on global climate change have been relatively consistent with what climate scientsts have predicted (if anything, they are often conservative in estimating the degree to which climate change and associated consequences are occurring--see Skeptical Science). The Chamber calls for "global leadership" on climate change despite its consistent opposition to the Kyoto Protocol, the global treaty initiated in 1997 that was never ratified by the United States.
Position on Energy Sources:
The Chamber’s Institute for 21st Century Energy’s “Where We Stand” page makes energy efficiency and investment in clean energy look like a priority, placed above their calls for expanded nuclear power, “clean coal,” coal-to-liquids for transportation fuel, and immediate expansion of domestic oil & gas drilling in the Outer Continental Shelf, the Gulf of Mexico, U.S. oil shale and tar sands extraction, and drilling in the Arctic permafrost. The Chamber has prioritized the promotion of shale oil development and the Keystone XL pipeline, creating websites for both issues (more on Keystone XL below).
Obstruction of climate change policies and promotion of fossil fuels:
Several important corporate members, most notably Apple and utility companies Pacific Gas & Electric, PNM Resources and Exelon, left the Chamber because of Donohue’s position on global warming. Nike, Johnson and Johnson, and others have quit their board member positions and threatened to leave completely if Donohue and the Chamber did not own up to the reality of climate change. The Chamber has consistently blocked attempts at regulating greenhouse gasses and has even called for climate science and the EPA to be put "on trial.”
While Tom Donohue and the Chamber publicly expresses a willingness to address climate change, it has opposed all viable efforts to do so. Following an EPA decision to classify carbon dioxide, as a greenhouse gas, as hazardous to human health, the Chamber submitted comments to the agency claiming that planetary warming would “be beneficial to humans.”
A significant portion of the Chamber's Board of Directors represent companies that produce or burn fossil fuels.
The Chamber's director of the Environment, Technology and Regulatory Affairs division, Bill Kovacs, also head of an oil industry front group called the Consumer Energy Alliance, runs "Project No Project," a program that includes attacks environmental regulations, opposition to the oil and gas industry, and renewable energy development.
Exaggeration of Keystone XL pipeline jobs figures:
Along with TransCanada Corporation and the American Petroleum Institute, the US Chamber of Commerce has falsely stated that the Keystone XL pipeline would create 20,000 jobs (each lasting one year)--a stark contrast to the US State Departments estimate of 7,000 and a Cornell study indicating the project would create less than 5,000 jobs for two years, with a total of 50 permanent positions. A Greenpeace complaint filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission revealed that the TransCanada jobs figure promoted by the US Chamber is unsubstantiated, and that TransCanada's job estimate for the US portion of the pipeline was overstated as compared to what they told the Canadian government for the Canadian portion of the pipeline. Chamber CEO Tom Donohue has claimed that the Keystone XL pipeline would create up to 250,000 jobs over its lifespan--an unsubstantiated figure.
Top federal lobbying spender in the United States:
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce spends more money on federal lobbying than any other entity in the country. Since federal lobbying disclosure became mandatory in 1998, the U.S. Chamber has spent just under $1 billion dollars ($983.7 million)--more than three times that of the next largest lobbying spender, General Electric.The Chamber has spent over $16.7 million on lobbying in the first quarter of 2013. The Chamber's five-year lobbying expenditures (2008-2012) amount to $596,418,500. Portions of this money have been used to influence specific legislative amendments to the U.S. House American Clean Energy and Security Act, and energy-relation provisions of the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act. The Chamber’s Political Action Committee has spent $641,328 on political candidates and committees since the 2008 cycle.
Following the Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling, the Chamber used a $75 million budget to help elect notably conservative candidates in 2010. Over 80 corporations outside of U.S. borders contributed to the Chamber before the election, raising ethical concerns about funneling foreign money for domestic electioneering. The Chamber spent $33 million on disclosed electioneering communications designed to support or oppose target candidates in the 2010 election, and $3 million on disclosed electioneering communications in the 2012 election as part of a $36 million election spending push.
The Chamber spent over $4 million on advertisements relating to energy and the environment in 2010.
Promotion of fossil fuels in U.S. Chamber middle school curriculum:
In cooperation with Scholastic, the US Chamber designed a teaching program on US energy sources for schools that presents information selectively in order to favor the importance of fossil fuel energy such as coal.