Wednesday, August 4, 2010

"Today on, 'As the Oil World Turns'..."

Remember in high school, when your best friend got dumped and the school hallways were abuzz with rumors of who did what and who said what?

Well, in today's Washington Post, Dan Eggen examines “the murky world of advocacy-for-hire in Washington” – which, as it turns, bears resemblance to those same high school dramas.

The article focuses on an advocacy arm of the conservative Institute for Energy Research (IER), which launched a campaign over the July 4 weekend highlighting how the actions of BP leading up to the Gulf spill were not indicative of the industry as a whole:

Days after the Deepwater Horizon oil rig sank in the Gulf of Mexico, a conservative nonprofit group called the Institute for Energy Research asked BP to contribute $100,000 for a media campaign it was launching in defense of the oil industry.

Although BP took a pass, the group's advocacy arm went ahead with a campaign -- only instead of defending BP, it vilified the company as a "safety outlier" in an otherwise safe industry. The campaign's Web site features dozens of images of the burning rig, oil-smeared birds and other environmental devastation from the spill.

This where the mess really turns into a he-said-she-said ideally suited for the high school lunchroom.

Backers of BP familiar with the situation called it a shakedown, saying the original proposal contained no anti-BP messages. Thomas Pyle – IER president and formerly an oil industry lobbyist – responded that rather than retaliation, the images were part of a separte campaign to distance BP from the industry as a whole (funny then that a document sent to group supporters last week included a scathing, 19-point attack on BP's safety record).

It's not clear who to believe in this saga fit for a teen soap opera (I think I saw a "Degrassi" episode just like this). What is clear is this: these 'advocacy-for-hire' groups connive stealth communications campaigns with no disclosure of their backers or their motives. What's more, Big Oil will cannibalize its own in the name of protecting their bottom line and keeping us addicted to oil.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Circular Firing Squad at the Chamber of Commerce Over Climate Issues

The big-business lobbyists at the mammoth U.S. Chamber of Commerce are apparently fighting a bit of a civil war these days over global warming.

As Mother Jones reports, the Chamber's national office - which has called for a "Scopes monkey trial" of climate science - is engaging in a public relations campaign to discredit some of its own local chambers of commerce. What offense did these dozen or so local chambers commit? Why, calling for action on clean energy of course! Per MoJo:
A new split over climate policy is brewing within the ranks of the US Chamber of Commerce as a breakaway group of local chambers is getting ready to publicly split with the business lobby's hardline stance against climate legislation. The new climate coalition, known as the Chambers for Innovation and Clean Energy (CICE), will press Congress to take stronger action on climate and energy issues. It has already signed up about a dozen chambers and will officially launch later this year.

The US Chamber is already working behind the scenes to discredit the new group. After it caught wind of the effort last month, it fired off a letter to local chamber leaders, discouraging them from joining CICE, which it claimed was "established by the Natural Resources Defense Council." The letter, written by US Chamber board member Winthrop Hallett, the president of Alabama's Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce, states that the new group's "indirect purpose appears to be undermining the U.S. Chamber's and the business community's leadership on" climate issues.
Oh goodness, where to begin...

Well first of all, kudos to the local chambers willing to take a stand against their national office. They join other innovative businesses like Best Buy, Microsoft and Apple in splitting with the U.S. Chamber's anti-science stand against clean energy. Also, Chamber president Tom Donahue is both a frightening and a very confused man, so crossing him is not a step to be taken lightly.

Second of all, in true Chamber fashion (see Dylan Ratigan's "you talk nonsense" line), the charge about a link with NRDC appears to be, well, just sort of made up:
The claim that CICE is little more than a front group for the NRDC is "outrageous" and "really just pissed me off," says Steve Falk, the president of the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, which has been organizing the independent climate coalition. Hallett's letter, which has not been posted publicly but which Mother Jones has seen, does not explain the alleged connection between CICE and the NRDC. Hallett and a spokesman for the US Chamber did not respond to requests for comment.
And third, let's focus on the part where Hallett says the new group's purpose is "undermining the U.S. Chamber's and the business community's leadership" on climate issues.

Really? The group of local chambers standing up to Tom Donahue and his anti-science thugs who have blocked clean energy action for decades is the group that's "undermining leadership?" Unless she's referring to the $123 million the Chamber spent on lobbying in 2009 trying to block essentially every legislative priority of the Obama administration, this R?S?er is not sure what "leadership" Hallett could possibly be referencing.

We've been at this debunking thing a while now, but the U.S. Chamber truly never ceases to amaze.