Monday, October 19, 2009, 4 PM
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
WILL THE REAL CHAMBER OF COMMERCE PLEASE STAND UP?
Business as usual; Chamber is its own parody
WASHINGTON, D.C. - In a dramatic announcement 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 backwards."
"An entity claiming to represent the public good, but that opposes action on the climate, is obviously illegitimate," Bichlbaum added.
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. (Video here.)
"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 Avaaz.org.
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.
UPDATE: Chamber of Commerce knocks out entire Mayfirst hosting company over Chamber-of-Commerce.us
UPDATE #2: Chamber uses Yes Men hoax to raise money! Seriously. Not a joke (apparently).
UPDATE #3: Chamber of Commerce sues the Yes Men (also apparently not a joke)
UPDATE #4: Chamber cries uncle, drops lawsuit