350.Org to launch new campaign: “The U.S. Chamber doesnt speak for me”

U.S. Chamber of CommerceOne of America’s largest grassroots climate organizations is readying a national campaign against the lobbying efforts of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.  Brad Johnson has the story.

The Chamber, described by founder Bill McKibben as the “power plant” of “money pollution” in Washington, DC, has led lobbying efforts to block action on climate change for decades.

Because of its pro-pollution, anti-science stance, the Chamber is threatening American prosperity “” its supposed mission. Several companies, including Apple, Exelon, and Pacific Gas & Energy, have quit the lobbying group over its climate denial. In the Tom Dispatch, McKibben explains how plans to expose the split between real American businesses and the multinational polluters that fund the “U.S.” Chamber of Commerce, with the simple message, “The U.S. Chamber Doesn’t Speak For Me“:

Still, the rest of us can stand up and be counted. We can tell the Congressional representatives taking their money that they don’t speak for us. We can urge more big companies to act like Apple and Microsoft, which publicly denounced the chamber. (It’s good to hear Levi Strauss, General Electric, and Best Buy making similar noises.) We need to hear from more dissenting chambers of commerce. It cheered me to find that the CEO of the Greater New York Chamber said, “They don’t represent me,” or to discover that just a few weeks ago the Seattle chamber cut its ties.

But it’s even more important to hear from small businesspeople, the very contingent the U.S. Chamber of Commerce draws on for its credibility. Across America in the coming months, volunteers from the climate change organization I helped to found,, will be fanning out to canvass local businesses “” all those bakeries and beauty salons, colleges and chiropractors, pharmacies and fitness centers that belong to local chambers of commerce.

The volunteers will be asking for signatures on a statement announcing that “the U.S. Chamber doesn’t speak for me,” and offering businesspeople the chance to post videos expressing just how differently they do think when it comes to global warming, energy, and the environment. It’s a chance to emphasize that American business should be about nimbleness, creativity, and adaptation “” that it’s prepared to cope with changing circumstances, instead of using political cash to ensure that yesterday’s technologies remain on artificial life support.

“With my colleagues at, I’ll do what I can to help undermine the chamber’s claim to represent American business,” McKibben writes. “I don’t know if we can win this fight against money pollution, but we’re going to do what we can to clear the air.”

Brad Johnson, in a Wonk Room cross-post.

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15 Responses to 350.Org to launch new campaign: “The U.S. Chamber doesnt speak for me”

  1. But as HBGary discovered, the US CoC may not actually need real businessmen after all! All they need is an actor to play the part of “Joe” the “Plumber”.


  2. GMJ says:

    This was a major part of the campaign groups like 1Sky and were running in the lead up to federal climate legislation.

    What is the ultimate ask of the Chamber? To stop opposing climate progress? Not as long as they’re beholden to oil and coal companies, which they are. Is this the best way to highlight the fact that dirty energy businesses run the show? I don’t think they’re even making the connections to the US Chamber and these business lobbying efforts and our democracy. I’d like to see better.

  3. paulm says:

    Chamber of Chaos….

  4. Jeff Huggins says:

    Bravo! I’m glad to hear about this. Super! I’d be happy to help canvass some small businesses in my area.

    A few bits of related news, for context:

    Some of the “big names” in business thinking are, rather remarkably, calling for supposedly dramatic reinventions and reformations in our present approach to capitalism and corporate governance. For example, Harvard’s corporate strategy guru Michael Porter wrote a long piece in a recent Harvard Business Review about the deep need for reinvention to bring business value creation into alignment with creating (and preserving) value for societies and communities. That particular piece is rather abstract, and it’s hard to know what to make of it, but the very title of the piece, and introductory explanation, make it clear that he feels that fundamental change is needed. That in itself is a striking admission.

    Also, in the most recent Harvard Business Review, the Managing Director of McKinsey, Dominic Barton, writes about the need for rather deep reforms. That is striking, in itself, as well.

    In both cases, the articles are rather abstract — for one reason, because they attempt to cover so much territory — so are not very concrete. And, as far as I can tell, they miss some very important points and don’t go nearly far enough. But the very fact that Michael Porter and the Managing Director of McKinsey are openly admitting that MAJOR change is needed, and soon, is notable. Neither of them is saying that “all is well” with the present approach.

    Also, just as another (and more concrete) example, there is a one-pager in the recent issue of Fortune magazine (the issue titled “The 100 Best Companies To Work For”) by the CEO of FedEx, Frederick W. Smith, titled “A New American Energy Plan”. The subtitle is “Electric vehicles would help the U.S. shed its oil dependency. What’s needed is a bold strategy to make that happen.” The article ends with this line: “What is needed now is an urgent, national commitment to action.” See page 28 of the recent issue.

    So, hopefully, Mr. Smith of FedEx will sign the petition.

    These things are also striking in the following sense: With people like Michael Porter and Dominic Barton calling for deep reinventions/reforms in capitalism, corporate governance, and finance, and with people like the CEO of FedEx calling for “an urgent, national commitment to action” regarding energy and getting off of our addiction to oil, and with all the troubles in the Middle East these days, and with over 97 percent of the relevant scientists telling us that we have a very real global warming problem, why the heck (for goodness sake) can’t President Obama educate the public and inspire much stronger public sentiment in favor of change?? I don’t get it. I’m with Roger: We should not be requesting that President Obama talk to the nation clearly and compellingly about climate change: We should be DEMANDING that he do so, and fast.

    In any case, I like this idea, this campaign, by 350. Implementation will hopefully be vigorous and effective. Businesses of all sizes — gigantic, large, medium, and small — should sign. And it won’t be enough for businesses to sign and then (giving excuses) still remain part of the U.S. Chamber (at its central level). Responsible businesses should quit the U.S. COC, and local chambers that want to retain credibility should sever their ties and announce that they want global warming addressed. The surest way to take a good idea and make it ineffective would be to water it down and accept excuses. So please, 350, don’t allow this one to be watered-down. Thanks!

    Be Well,


  5. Mike Roddy says:

    Interesting news, Jeff, thanks.

    350 picked the right target here. Instead of going after the capitalist scorched earth business model, it’s better to attack its hoariest and most destructive instrument. This could highlight the kinds of changes we need in a way that everyone will understand.

  6. Joan Savage says:

    Canvassing businesses has pluses and minuses. I hope it goes well. The canvassers have to realize that employers need to deflect walk-in salespersons, and a canvasser looks like just one more salesperson. There are times of day when owners have other compelling duties, and don’t have the time to stop and chat.

    As I posted before, I am a former member of the Chamber of Commerce (1995-2008). The Chamber did not systematically listen to all of its membership. Reasons that small businesses join the Chamber can include local networking, and benefits like group health insurance rates for employees. Those can be important enough to not rock the boat.

    Politicians will really take notice if the canvassing can lead to stuff like Climate Hawk PACs that direct their donations to political campaigns that see the need to prepare for the worst, and mitigate what we can about climate change.

  7. Joan Savage says:

    It is important to realize that many businesses don’t bother to join the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, or have ended their membership. The canvass will be more powerful if it can reach out to all businesses, small and large. I can still say, “The U.S. Chamber doesn’t speak for me,” now that I am no longer a member.

  8. Thanks for the helpful comments. We’re launching the campaign today, and we hope to have hundreds of businesses on board in the first few weeks. We understand the issues that local activists can run into when canvassing local business leaders. That’s why we’re taking a pro-active approach, preparing talking points and materials, recognizing that business owners may not want to sign on at first glance. Any help from folks like Joan and other business leaders would be much appreciated. If you’d like to share anything with our campaign team directly, feel free to shoot us an email at

    -Phil Aroneanu,

  9. Pennsylvania Bob says:

    There is a local Chamber in just about every city and large town. I would assume most of these local chambers are members or affiliates of the US Chamber. Pushing these local groups to drop out of the US Chamber would have a huge impact. The members of the Board of Directors of each local Chamber can probably be easily found on a website. Target those folks for a powerful twofer: Their own ccompanies and their entire local group.

  10. 350 Now says:

    Say You Lied: Feds Want Apology Ad Campaign From Big Tobacco

    Who knows… if our grandkids live long enough, the government may require apologies from the GOP (Grimy Oil Pushers)…for the lies they pass off as economic justifications…

  11. @Pennsylvania Bob. There are roughly 7800 local and state chambers of commerce. 2500+ are dues-paying members of the U.S. Chamber, and many others follow the direction of the U.S. Chamber regardless. All 50 state-level chambers are members of the U.S. Chamber.

  12. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    I’m afraid that targeting the most reactionary and recalcitrant business groups will fail, for two reasons. They will always outspend the forces of sanity in the propaganda process, so prevailing until reality beats the message through the impervious skulls of the dullards. Too late, by then, for sure. And, the problem is not bad capitalists, to be cured by empowering the ‘good’ capitalists. The problem is capitalism itself, which is a process for turning all that is living into dead matter, capital. Really existing market capitalism, as we know it, further attempts to concentrate this wealth in as few hands as possible, and the creatures empowered by this system are quite literally infinitely greedy. Their idea of of heaven is the current system where several hundred semi-divine creatures, the billionaires, control as much wealth as the bottom three billion planetary ‘losers’. And the airwaves, electronic media and magazines are full of fawning sycophancy to these plutocratic parasites and their ‘lifestyle’. Capitalism cannot, by its very nature, be reformed into a system that will accomplish the one goal that must become paramount in all human activity-the maintenance of human life on this planet, and its enrichment for all humanity.

  13. Roger says:

    Kudos to for taking on the big, bad 8000-lb gorilla! As a small business owner, I’m happy to help with this too, because the US COC certainly doesn’t speak for me. In fact, we can help bring some NIACS Code-related analytical techniques to bear on this.

    While I agree that we need to undermine the ‘bad guy,’ let’s also save some time and energy to SUPPORT the relatively ‘good guy,’ namely our elected chief executive, Barack Obama. After all, I’m convinced (based on my interaction with John Holdren) that Obama does ‘get’ the climate problem, even as he uses the term ‘carbon pollution’—a term that has undoubtedly been chosen because it ‘plays’ better on Main Street.

    A subtle new sign that Obama is warming to climate is that the White House just recently provided the choice “Energy and Climate” as one of just three areas of interest that folks who want to be informed can choose from a brief menu (the other two dealing with the economy and with healthcare). Prior to this, the word ‘climate’ did not occupy a visible spot on the WH web page, as far as I have seen.

    So, this brings me to an idea I’ve mentioned before relating to Obama, as kindly noted by Jeff (#5) above. Why don’t we all focus our attention, perhaps especially on Earth Day, April 22nd, on asking President Obama to give a prime-time, nationally-televised “State of the Climate” address to the American people. In this carefully-worded address, the president needs explain just three key points, namely: 1) Rapid manmade climate change (RMCC) is REAL; 2) RMCC is very SERIOUS; and 3) RMCC must be dealt with URGENTLY in order for humans to preserve a livable climate for ourselves and our kids.

    To me, the key climate-related lesson of recent activism in the Middle East is that leaders will LISTEN, even in non-democratic realms, if enough people join forces to make their voices heard, loud and clear. Dictatorships of longstanding are teetering and toppling.

    So, if people in Egypt can be heard asking for democracy, why is it that we who are IN a democracy haven’t yet been able to muster enough moxie to ask (no DEMAND) that our democratically-elected president give one simple ca. 40-minute speech to save the whole gosh darn planetary shooting match (aka the climate) for all of humanity and nature?

    Here’s the briefest, simplest score card I can envision: Game A—Egypt — thousands angrily rally in the streets for democracy; result = they get it. Game B—US –thousands quietly rally, write comments and change light bulbs to preserve a livable climate for all; they get regression towards a weakened EPA, and a general weakening of citizens rights. NOTE: I do not wish to denigrate the good efforts all have made so far—just step it up!) But what does this little analysis suggest? To me, a serious situation demands toughness.

    I, for one, will not accept the argument that Obama cannot be ‘made to,’ nor be expected to, turn the climate situation around with a well-written speech properly delivered (and rebroadcast if necessary) to the American people. To argue otherwise is to say that the president of the most powerful nation on the planet cannot, in 2011, come up with the TIME, the TALENT and the financial resources to deliver the scientific TRUTH to his countrymen—even if his inability to do so will bring hell and high water to them all.

    Yes, Obama does need to choose his words carefully—with the right mix of hope and fear. (Fear of saying the wrong thing is likely what has kept the voice from the Oval Office so quiet on this topic for so long.)

    World-renowned Harvard biologist E.O. Wilson has called manmade climate change “the ‘mother’ of all problems.” Certainly, with so much at stake, we scientists, we parents, we professionals, we citizens who understand the true magnitude of what’s at hand must come up with the ‘mother’ of all solutions—even demanding an unusually bold level of leadership from our president. We must ensure that our fellow citizens understand the truth. A democracy depends for its very existence on having an informed electorate.

    Our fellow citizens wrath will be unending if they only learn the truth at a time when it is too late to save themselves. Then we’ll hear, “Why didn’t you TELL us the whole story?

    So, starting now and especially on Earth Day (April 22nd), please contact Obama, demanding his climate leadership, and a “State of the Climate” address. Do this by going to and writing comments using the “Contact Us” button in the upper right corner, or by calling 202-456-1414 to reach live, volunteer operators between the hours of 9am to 5pm, Monday through Friday. Ask your friends to do the same. Thank you!

    Warm regards,