Chamber of Commerce

Yes Men "Mourn" U.S. Chamber's dropped lawsuit against them

The Yes Men outside the US Chamber of Commerce, expressing disappointment over the dropped lawsuit against them.

Crossposted from Greenpeace's The Witness.

Shenanigans at the front door of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce yesterday reveal that the Chamber has dropped its lawsuit against the Yes Men, the activist duo famous for their elaborate prime-time pranks against Dow Chemical, Chevron, the World Trade Organization, and other giant entities known for putting their profit margins before people and the planet.

The Yes Men went to the Chamber yesterday morning in attempts to convince the business front group not to drop the lawsuit. Here's some footage of the announcement and confusion over who does and doesn't work for the Chamber:

That's right. The Yes Men want to be sued by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. According to their press release:

"Just as their case against us was finally heating up again, the Chamber decided to drop it," said former defendant Andy Bichlbaum of the Yes Men. "The Chamber knew this was our chance to challenge their silly claims and, since they claimed we had 'damaged' them, investigate the details of their finances through the discovery process. It's the height of rudeness to deprive us of this great opportunity." "The Chamber's lawsuit represented the only time in 17 years that anyone has been stupid enough to sue us," said former defendant Mike Bonanno. "This was the chance of a lifetime, and we profoundly deplore the Chamber's about-face."

Apparently, revenge isn't a strong enough reason for the Chamber to to cough up information on their secret financial backers or their obstruction on solving the critical issue of global climate change, the issue which sparked the original Yes Men parody press event and ensuing lawsuit. The Chamber sued the Yes Men in 2009 for holding a press conference at the National Press Club on the Chamber's behalf, announcing a reversal on the Chamber's efforts to block climate change legislation. The false event was interrupted by an actual Chamber official named Eric Wohlschlegal, who told attending press, "This guy is a fake! He's lying!" See this video:

The stunt threw the Chamber off balance as it had to clarify it would not stop obstructing national climate change policy. The following lawsuit was unprecedented for Yes Men hijinks. Even Dow Chemical didn't sue them, despite losing $2 billion worth of stock when Yes Man Andy Bichlbaum posed as a Dow official on a live BBC interview and took responsibility for the Bhopal chemical disaster (which Dow still won't own up to despite the death of 20,000 people). Yes Lab has a summary of the announcement at the Chamber's front steps in Washington, DC, including a list of questions the Yes Men wish the lawsuit's discovery process could have answered:

Some of the things we could have asked in court had they not withdrawn their lawsuit:
  • Why does the U.S. Chamber lie even more than the American Petroleum Institute about the number of jobs created by the Keystone XL pipeline?
  • Why did the U.S. Chamber design a teaching program for US schools that favors coal over clean energy sources?
  • And who pays them to lie to children... and adults?
  • Why does the U.S. Chamber expend so much money to call into doubt the most mainstream climate science, and insult the most respected scientific bodies?
  • Why does the U.S. Chamber fight not only unions, but even just shareholder activists?
  • Why do they fight even tiny increases in the federal minimum wage?
  • Why has the U.S. Chamber's law firm hired spies in try to discredit anti-Chamber activists?
  • And finally, why is the U.S. Chamber fighting so hard to keep corporations from having to reveal their political spending?

PolluterWatch has more on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and its anti-environmental practices.

Death Of A Talking Point? Regulations Actually Create Jobs

Written by Farron Cousins, crossposted from DeSmogBlog.

For years, the Republican Party in America has been on a crusade against what they call “job killing regulations.” A quick Google search for the phrase “job killing regulations” returns 368,000 results – many from official Republican Party sources and some others attempting to debunk this talking point.

The phrase “Job killing regulations” has been a consistent battle cry for GOP Congressmembers in their war against workplace safety and environmental protections. True to form, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) echoed this sentiment on Monday with his reference to "job-destroying regulations" in a memo about the Republican plan to further gut the Environmental Protection Agency.

While this talking point is used to berate a lot of different government protections, from checks and balances applied to Wall Street, to product safety laws, to measures safeguarding consumers from dangerous chemicals in food and pharmaceuticals, and so forth.

But most often, the perjorative "job-killing regulations" talking point is used to describe the actions of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA.) And it has resonated extremely well among an American public that is currently suffering from a severe lack of jobs. As of July 2011, we have an unemployment rate of 9.1%, resulting in almost 14 million Americans looking, but unable to find, a job. For a populace that desperately wants to work but is unable to do so, scapegoating “regulations” has been a very powerful and effective narrative.

Unfortunately for the Republican Party, these “job killing regulations” are a myth. There is no empirical data to back up their claims, but there is a wealth of information available showing that regulations – all regulations – actually promote job growth and put Americans back to work. A new report by Northeast States for Coordinated Air Use Management (NESCAUM) delivers the latest blow to this popular talking point, demonstrating a direct correlation between environmental regulations and job growth. NESCAUM looked at the Northeast and found that by enacting stricter fuel economy standards and pursuing cleaner forms of energy, more Americans would be put back to work.

From the NESCAUM study:

Employment increases by 9,490 to 50,700 jobs.

Gross regional product, a measure of the states’ economic output, increases by 2.1 billion to 4.9 billion.

Household disposable income increases by 1 billion to 3.3 billion.

Gasoline and diesel demand drops 12 to 29 percent.

Carbon pollution from transportation is cut by 5 to 9 percent.
 

And this is just for eleven states in the Northeast. A similar trend has been verified in California, where the standards set forth by NESCAUM are already in place.

But in the "Republicans Against Science" age, one study is certainly not enough to undo the damage that this “job killing regulation” GOP talking point has done to America, even when there are numerous other studies to back it up. Increased fuel economy standards already led to the creation of more than 155,000 U.S. jobs, according to the United Auto Workers union.

Last year, while Senate Democrats worked to pass sweeping environmental protection legislation, reports showed that the proposed efforts to protect the environment and invest in green technologies would have provided a boost to the economy by creating several hundred thousand much-needed jobs for out of work Americans.

But even though some of this information has been available to the public for years, many people still believe that any form of environmental protection will come at the expense of American jobs. The reason behind this mass ignorance once again lies with the GOP, which has deployed one of the most powerful echo chambers on the planet, consistently repeating the lie about “job killing regulations” over and over again. Unchallenged in their Fox News and right wing radio echo chambers, Republicans work to convince Americans that they have to choose between protecting the environment or the economy. They are aided by a network of industry front groups funded by polluting companies like ExxonMobil, Koch Industries and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

During a recent GOP presidential debate, candidate Michelle Bachmann expressed her disdain for the EPA:

“I would begin with the EPA, because there is no other agency like the EPA. It should really be renamed the job-killing organization of America.”

See how she used the “job killing” catchphrase? That was not an accident. Frank Luntz would be proud of the message discipline.

Another GOP presidential hopeful, Newt Gingrich, has said that he would completely do away with the EPA, a sentiment echoed by numerous GOP elected officials. The New York Times recently ran a headline declaring that bashing the EPA was the new “theme” of the 2012 GOP presidential race.

But it isn’t just elected GOP officials and big corporations repeating the talking point. So-called “independent” bloggers and reporters have taken up the mantle of attacking environmental protection as well. A recent piece cross-posted on BigHealthReport.com read: “Obama’s EPA Is Killing More Jobs than Economy Can Create.”

Here are a few comments from that article showing that this talking point is resonating quite well with some Americans:

Rudloph
August 27, 2011 at 5:14 pm
The ENVIRONMENTAL POLLUTION AGENCY is useless, it just makes our economy worse. Their whole existence depends on pollution and bad mouthing it.

Carolyn Kane
August 27, 2011 at 10:45 am
I am always amazed at how much power the E.P.A. has gained in the U.S.A. none of these people were ever voted in yet they control every part of our lives. I think it is time for people to start looking at everything that they do and if it is even legal.

Gary
August 27, 2011 at 12:13 pm
No surprise here. Does anybody really believe that Obama is serious on creating jobs. He is intent on destroying everything possible. Part of the Muslim plan.

Higgs
August 26, 2011 at 10:24 pm
Uh, the EPA and their regulations didn’t clean up the enviroment, advances in technology caused the decrease of pollutants released into our air and water. Now, the EPA is becoming to the “regulation world” as what unions have become to the working world. Both were needed in the beginning, but now they both are one part of the “big government” ideal of the socialists in Washington.
 

The list could go on and on. But not only were these commenters going after the EPA, they also re-hashed numerous other GOP talking points from the last few years. You’ll notice that they discuss the “Socialists in Washington” and one even makes the claim that Obama is a Muslim.

This shows just how powerful the GOP’s echo chamber is in American politics, and how selective people are when it comes to picking news sources. After all, there is plenty of credible, easily-accessible information to debunk “job killing regulations” and other talking points.

But if people don’t actively search out the facts after watching Fox or listening to Americans For Prosperity, the echo chamber has done its job misleading the American people. It's immoral and unethical behavior, and that's the only job we ought to be killing off.

Citizens United v. FEC leads to more corporate power in government

Ever notice how people seem to listen to you more if you have a bag full of cash?  Tom Donohue of the US Chamber of Commerce sure has.  Politicians and corporations have as well.  But it used to be, prior to 2010, that giant multinational corporations couldn’t use their equally giant bags of cash to directly influence how people voted in elections.  Unfair for corporations you say? A travesty of justice perhaps?  Luckily for our favorite corporate interests the Supreme Court overturned hundreds of years of pesky electioneering laws in the 2010 landmark court case Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission.  The court ruled that corporations, because they are considered individuals under the law like you and me, are fully protected by the first amendment of the constitution, and therefore should be able to spend as much as they want on political attack ads during elections.  Now we all have free speech.  You have free speech, I have free speech, Monsanto has free speech, all are equal- just like the writers of first amendment intended hundreds of years ago.  And we can all freely spend our billions of dollars on political ads that support our own politics, thus bringing balance to the system.

But under this system it seems like some “individuals” have more free speech than others.  ExxonMobil for example made $30.46 billion dollars in profit in 2010.  That is a big bag of cash and thus, a lot of free speech.  And now, if a politician does something Exxon doesn’t like (forcing them to clean up an oil spill or curb carbon emissions for example), Exxon can bankroll millions of dollars in political ads in support of an opponent.  Most non-corporate “individuals” can’t do that.  Does that sound like a government for the people and by the people to you?

 

Speaking of Tom Donohue of the Chamber of Commerce, he represents an important facet of the hazardous fallout from Citizens United.  It may be that Exxon doesn’t want to alienate consumers by picking sides in a contentious political match.  Instead, they funnel money to trade and advocacy groups, like Donohue’s Chamber or Tim Phillips' Americans for Prosperity, who can then attack an offending candidate in any manner they choose, without impugning ExxonMobil’s good name.  In fact one of the most insidious and corrosive of all of the Citizen’s United case’s effects is to increase the funding (and therefore importance) of corporate front groups like Americans for Prosperity and the Chamber of Commerce, who do not reveal their funding and are not accountable to the public. 

In all seriousness the Citizens United v. FEC court case erodes the foundations of democracy in America. The decision has made it much easier for private interests with enormous wealth – like the now infamous Koch brothers – to use their riches to align public policy with their business ideologies, to the detriment of social, economic, and environmental justice.

On August 11, 2011, The Story of Stuff Project has planned an online day of protest against the landmark Supreme Court Case Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission.  To mark the occasion, the 11th has been named “the Day when $$ equals speech."  Check out the short film explaining Citizens United and add your voice to ours and tell our government that it serves real people, not corporations.

 

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