Will the Real Chamber of Commerce Please Stand Up?
Business as usual; Chamber is its own parody
at the National Press Club today, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce reversed
its position on climate change policy, and promised to immediately
cease lobbying against the Kerry-Boxer bill.
Within minutes of the Chamber's dramatic announcement, it was
revealed that the "Chamber spokesperson" was an impostor, and the press
conference an elaborate hoax designed by activists to draw attention to
the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's "troglodytic" fight against climate
change legislation. At the close of the news conference, a visibly
rattled Chamber of Commerce spokesperson (Eric Wohlschlegel) barged
into the room and declared the event a fraud. (Video here.)
The stunt was pulled off by the Yes Men, the activists best known for
posing as corporate executives in order to reveal how corporate greed
negatively influences public policy. Recently, the Yes Men have focused
their attention on the urgent need for action on climate change. Today
they sought to highlight relentless corporate lobbying of elected
officials aimed at derailing domestic climate legislation and a
much-needed global climate accord.
The group of reporters at the Press Club listened closely as U.S. Chamber "representative" "Hingo Sembra" (Andy Bichlbaum of The Yes Men)
asserted that the Chamber would put its full weight behind supporting
the Kerry-Boxer bill, while working with Senators Kerry and Boxer to
strengthen the bill.
"We believe that climate legislation currently being considered
by the U.S. Senate is a great start towards a bill that will spur
American innovation, create jobs, and give us all a good chance of
survival," he said. To the visible delight of reporters in the
audience, he added, "We at the Chamber have tried to keep climate
science from interfering with business. But without a stable climate,
there will be no business."
The Chamber has recently come under fire for launching
multi-million dollar advertising campaigns designed to derail climate
negotiations. Their position has been so controversial that Apple,
Exelon, PNM Resources, PG&E, PSEG, Levi Strauss & Co, and the
San Francisco Chamber of Commerce have all left the U.S. Chamber, and
Nike very publicly stepped down from the board.
"The Chamber's position against climate legislation is
completely troglodytic," said Bichlbaum. "The rest of the world sees
the need for urgent action on the climate. The rest of the world's rich
countries have pledged large emissions reductions. With scientists
saying if we don't reduce carbon emissions, then sooner or later we're
doomed, the Chamber represents corporate America at its most
"An entity claiming to represent the public good, but that
opposes action on the climate, is obviously illegitimate," Bichlbaum
News outlets were quick to jump on the story, including a Reuters story which was reprinted in the New York Times and elsewhere. The Chamber's "about-face" was also reported on Fox Business Network and CNBC before the anchors were forced to retract in mid-sentence.
At the end of Sembra's remarks, Eric Wohlschlegel confronted
Bichlbaum. In the stand-off, both accused the other of being a fraud.
The standoff ended with Wohlschlegel dispensing his business card to
reporters in the room, and attempting to field a number of pointed
questions about the Chamber's real stance on climate legislation
currently in Congress, which the real Chamber opposes.
"Mr. Wohlschlegel was feeling defensive," added Bichlbaum. "He should,
what with the Chamber's ridiculous stance in the face of all science."
International climate talks are currently stalled, largely
because the U.S. negotiators won't make any promises that Congress
can't keep. Breaking the gridlock in negotiations will require the
passage of ambitious U.S. legislation within the next 2 months.
An official response
from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce read: "These irresponsible tactics
are a foolish distraction from the serious effort by our nation to
reduce greenhouse gases."
"The only irresponsibility and distraction here is the
Chamber's doublespeak," said Bichlbaum. "They're pretending to support
the idea of legislation while opposing actual proposed legislation."
The Yes Men collaborated on this action with activists from BeyondTalk.net,
the "Climate Pledge of Resistance," which calls on citizens to risk
arrest in the interest of creating pressure for sane climate
legislation, and received tactical support from the DC Climate Action
Factory, a semi-autonomous group of climate activists sponsored by
The Yes Men will be holding a rally tomorrow at 10:30am on the
Capitol lawn, northeast corner (across from the Dirksen Senate Office
Building), to kick off the 350.org Day of Climate Action by showcasing a fleet of SurvivaBalls, an alternate solution to climate change that protects America's most valuable citizens from the ravages of climate change.
TOMORROW: SurvivaBall rally, 10:30am Tuesday, on the Capitol lawn, northeast corner, across from the Dirksen Senate Office Building