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Happy Holidaze and Farewell for Now December 29, 2009

Posted by Julie in astroturf, bonner and associates, cejapa, chamber of commerce, climate bill, copenhagen, G20, obama to copenhagen, tcktcktck.
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Copenhagen has passed and the Action Factory has packed up, moved out, and dispersed. This just might be the last post on our blog for a while.

In the end, we did not get nearly what we had hoped for — neither a US Senate climate bill, nor a binding international climate treaty.

BUT…

…perhaps we can claim just a little credit for helping push Obama to go to Copenhagen? After all, we did give him a plane ticket for his birthday. And we gave him some flack when he went there to try to get the Olympics.

…Or how about for influencing Arlen Specter’s far-from-certain EPW committee vote after we chased him in a SurvivaBall herd, all the way from the capitol into the Hart Office Building?

…Or for making Jack Bonner of Bonner and Ass. look like a real idiot when we shook his hand while wearing Astroturf suits at a House Commitee hearing, much to the delight of Congressman Ed Markey…

…And there was also that time we crashed a press conference being held by Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravestahl prior to the G20 summit at the National Press Club. Before the G20 summit even began, we dominated the media cycle by asserting our first amendment rights and demanding strong climate action from world leaders. Then we continued to make news once in Pittsburgh with our Global Climate Wake-Up Call (the first link is hilarious, btw)

… And finally, I suppose we can claim credit for the defection of a major paper company from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. It happened just 1 day after we successfully pulled off an elaborate spoof press conference with the Yes Men in which we temporarily reversed the Chamber’s backward stance on climate policy. We may have even provoked the Chamber to dig itself into an even deeper hole and sue some of us… gee, that would make them look real bad… hmm…. oh wait, we did. The Chamber also sent a letter to Senators Boxer and Inhofe not long after our stunt, trying to play nice guy and directly assert supposed (feigned?) support for climate legislation, an act which Senator Kerry suggested would be a “Nixon to China” moment, if the Chamber really meant it.

All in all, we had a lot of fun and made a lot of friends. We generated hundreds of media hits highlighting the dire need for climate action, and these were undoubtedly seen by hundreds of thousands. We hope that through our actions, we have inspired and will continue to inspire many, many more actions.

Here are three nuggets of DC action wisdom:

1. Crash other events for media attention

2. Being ridiculous is fun and can actually put pressure on elected officials

3. The bottom of the reflecting pool is slippery – enter boldly, but carefully and everything will work out fine.

The Action Factory may be over, but our work is far from complete. In the final hours of the Copenhagen conference, a handful of countries – including Tuvalu, Bolivia, and Venezuela – made statements strongly opposing the undemocratic accord, which is essentially a death sentence for many low-lying countries. When one nation’s “unprecedented breakthrough” is another’s death sentence, something is clearly not right. That’s why in 2010 many of us will stay engaged with battles and creative actions in the Coal River Valley, within the US Senate, at the US Chamber of Commerce and elsewhere. Avaaz as an organization will take on the Chamber directly. We hope you will join us for the long haul — not just because it matters, or because the future of our planet depends on it, but because it is FUN.

Thanks to all of you who have been along for the ride – it’s been a pretty wild one. See you in the streets.

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People vs. Polluters December 22, 2009

Posted by Morgan in astroturf, bonner and associates, chamber of commerce, copenhagen, naked fraud.
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There are more people to blame for failure in Copenhagen than… sensational cliches to start blog posts with.  Obama probably negotiated his ass off during his 9 hours in Denmark, but he didn’t do enough legwork beforehand to set himself up for success.  China blocked any sort of requirement, goal, target or accountability mechanism, even though it is and will remain the largest greenhouse polluter.  The US Senate didn’t pass a climate bill in time.  The list goes on.

Yet some guilty parties are actively trying to mess the process up instead of just not doing enough: powerful fossil fuel and business interests are working against the interests of the people in the struggle for a senate bill and in the negotiations for a treaty. As Ricken Patel from Avaaz said about Copenhagen: “one group was cracking open the champagne – the polluting industry lobbyists.”

Even before the dust had settled or the last negotiations had stopped, the DC Action Factory used its last few hours as a group to deliver Climate Cover-Up: The Crusade to Deny Global Warming to every single senate office and Roland Burris (D-IL) in person. Maybe we didn’t do enough to expose the dirty energy campaign to hijack the senate, but hopefully final hours as an Action Factory are a sign of big things to come.

Mr. Burris probably shouldn’t have stopped to talk to us, because it didn’t make him look good at all. Even without knowing what an astroturf suit with a coal lobby name-tag symbolizes, you would think any senator with an instinct for self preservation (all of them?) would be wary. Instead, Julie said we had a book for him about how dirty industry has spun the science on global warming.Burris  saw the coal lobby name tag on David’s astroturf jacket and said, “You know, we have a lot of coal in Illinois, and we need to burn that coal.” Ouch. (more…)

Will the Real Chamber of Commerce Please Stand Up? October 20, 2009

Posted by skolmk in chamber of commerce.
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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.

Not.

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.

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.

The Yes Men’s award-winning new documentary film, The Yes Men Fix the World, opens at the Avalon Theater in NW Washington this Friday, Oct. 23.

Watch the raw footage used on Rachel Maddow and CNBC interrupt their programming to discuss our breaking news.

Fox Business:

Chamber of Commerce: We’re Calling You Out October 19, 2009

Posted by Morgan in chamber of commerce, flash mob.
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Starting off the work week is always miserable, but we’re going to make this the worst Monday ever for the anti-climate PR machine at the US Chamber of Commerce. Actions are planned throughout the week, so let’s kick it off right for our side with a mass phone/email jam.

The Action Factory is taking the Chamber full on. Last week we confronted the head of Shell oil about ties to the Chamber, and this week we have even more stuff planned.

The Chamber is among the largest and most powerful corporate lobbying blocs in Washington. Despite recent defections by member companies like Apple over the Chamber’s reactionary anti-science, anti-regulation agenda, the campaign to undermine progress on climate recovery and transition to a sustainable energy economy continues. The Chamber of Commerce PR machine has got to stop…
— Denying climate science; calling for a “Scopes-Monkey trial” of established climate findings.
— Amplifying the fossil fuel agenda; promoting “clean coal” and other false solutions.
— Lobbying against US climate legislation essential to global consensus in Copenhagen.

WHAT’S THE PLAN?

Who? You and yours and thousands of climate advocates across the US.

What? Call the numbers below and many times as you can and email the addresses below to demand that Chamber of Commerce PR people stop the lies and get real about climate change.
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Shell Chairman and the Chamber of B.S. October 16, 2009

Posted by carolynauw in chamber of commerce, climate bill, copenhagen.
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Yesterday the Action Factory greeted Royal Dutch Shell’s Chairman Jorma Ollila at the National Press Club’s newsmaker luncheon.  He promised to discuss “energy and the need for worldwide action to address climate change in advance of international climate talks in Copenhagen,” but we just got a lot of hot air and a tummy ache.  And we called him out on it a couple times.

Actually, the real reason Ollila was speaking is because he‘s the new chairman of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, a CEO-led group of 200 companies that encourages sustainable development.  That translated to a speech filled with rhetoric about businesses being good corporate citizens and that if government would lead on climate change, business would provide back up.  Sounds good, except that Congress has been working hard on climate legislation for the past several months and the Chamber of Commerce has been pouring money into stopping it.


Ahhh, yes, the Chamber.  This was the real reason we bought an overpriced lunch, and I personally sat through 30 minutes of small talk with five American Petroleum Institute cronies.

Back in August, Bill Kovacs, the Chamber’s VP of Environment, Technology & Regulatory Affairs, called for a “Scopes Monkey Trial” on climate change, horrifying many of the Chamber’s members with such an extreme talking point.  Since then, four companies have resigned in protest – Exelon, PG&E, PNM Resources, and Apple  – while Nike left its position on the board of directors.  Many others have publicly stated that the Chamber does represent them on climate change (for the full round-up, see Pete Altman’s blog on NRDC’s website here.)

USCAP, on the other hand, is a group of businesses advocating for a “mandatory, flexible climate program” including cap and trade and other market-based carbon reduction regulation and incentives.  And guess who’s a member?  You guessed it – Shell.

This contradiction led us to scribble down a pretty obvious question to Ollila for the Q&A, which was so obvious, in fact, that seven people asked the same question (despite the room being packed with industry types).

Happily for us, it was our expertly phrased question read aloud to Ollila (starts at 50:30):

“Shell is a member of both USCAP and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, groups with opposing agendas on climate legislation and on Copenhagen.  Does the Chamber of Commerce speak for Shell when they lobby against climate legislation?”

Starting with a “mmmm, yeah . . . how did I guess it might be this one,” Ollila proved he didn’t prep very well despite the anticipation.  After his long, drawn-out answer, the nugget was this: although Shell won’t leave the Chamber or any trade association over one issue like this,

“that has to be coupled with a situation where everybody transparently knows that we disagree with the view and this is exactly happening . . . that there is a disagreement between Shell’s position and in this case, the Chamber position.”

It was good to hear Ollila publicly acknowledge that difference but something still rankled.  In the course of the Q&A, Ollila answered another question with the gem that “as a businessman during the past 30 years, I have learned to trust more on the actions than the talk.”

So how are we supposed to trust this talk when Shell’s Chamber dues are still paying for lobbyists to obstruct climate legislation?

We tracked him down for some further clarification.  Watch our video for that exchange as well as his first answer during the formal Q&A.

Of course Shell will continue to spout feel-good doublespeak on climate change while not following talk with action. In particular, its commitment to extracting every last drop of oil from the Canadian tar sands comes to mind.  But one thing is certain — the Chamber of Commerce is an increasingly irrelevant group that doesn’t speak for its members.

And making that painfully clear was well worth the tummy ache.