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For the last decade, Tom Donohue’s U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a nominally nonpartisan organization, has been the secret weapon of the Republican Party. U.S. Chamber of Commerce support for the Republicans has been particularly important in local races, especially in states with an elected judiciary, in which it flies under the radar. I previously traced the vital role that Chamber of Commerce money played in the Republican takeover of Mississippi in 2002-06. In addition to their alliance with the Republicans on the issue of tort reform, however, the Chamber of Commerce has also taken a leading role in efforts to undermine concern for global warming, recently promising a new series of “Scopes monkey trials” across the country as part of an effort to “debunk” scientific data on climate change. The Chamber’s hostility to science appears to be costing it key members. Over the past weeks, a stream of gilt-edged members, including Apple, Nike, Exelon, Pacific Gas & Electric, and the Public Service Company of New Mexico, have pulled out of the organization or withdrawn from its board, criticizing its stance on global warming. General Electric stated that the “Chamber does not speak for us on climate change.” PG&E CEO Peter Darbee noted that his company had repeatedly expressed concerns about public positions taken by the Chamber, only to be misled by claims that the Chamber was moderating its stance:
we had repeated discussions with the chamber about how the direction they were on was not consistent with our position, in fact very much at odds, and their response was we’ll take care of it. Really, our position and yours PG&E are much closer than you believe them to be and don’t be concerned about that. And we went down a road over several years and there was fact after fact, development after development that caused us to believe that fundamentally we had entirely different positions.
But just how many members does the Chamber have? For years, it has put the number at 3,000,000—apparently by claiming the members of state and local business associations as its own. But increasingly those organizations are at odds with the Chamber of Commerce on marquee issues like climate change. As Mother Jones noted, the Greater New York and San Francisco Chambers of Commerce flatly opposed the U.S. Chamber on climate control measures. And after publication of the survey showing local chambers at odds with its controversial positions, the U.S. Chamber suddenly announced it had “about 300,000” members. Mother Jones is putting the total closer to 200,000. In any event, however, the Chamber’s influence on the political scene in Washington and in state capitols around the nation isn’t measured by its membership, but by the dollars it spends. The Chamber’s outlay on lobbying in 2009 so far is a whopping $26,196,000.
More from Scott Horton:
Conversation — March 30, 2016, 3:44 pm
Joseph Hickman discusses his new book, The Burn Pits, which tells the story of thousands of U.S. soldiers who, after returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, have developed rare cancers and respiratory diseases.
Freddie Gray’s relatives arrived for the trial in the afternoon, after the prep-school kids had left. By their dress, they seemed to have just gotten off work in the medical and clerical fields. The family did not appear at ease in the courtroom. They winced and dropped their heads as William Porter and his fellow officer Zachary Novak testified to opening the doors of their police van last April and finding Freddie paralyzed, unresponsive, with mucus pooling at his mouth and nose. Four women and one man mournfully listened as the officers described needing to get gloves before they could touch him.
The first of six Baltimore police officers to be brought before the court for their treatment of Freddie Gray, a black twenty-five-year-old whose death in their custody was the immediate cause of the city’s uprising last spring, William Porter is young, black, and on trial. Here in this courtroom, in this city, in this nation, race and the future seem so intertwined as to be the same thing.
Average speed of Heinz ketchup, from the mouth of an upended bottle, in miles per year:
After studying the fall of 64,000 individual raindrops, scientists found that some small raindrops fall faster than they ought to.
The Playboy mansion in California was bought by the heir to the Twinkie fortune, and a New Mexico man set fire to his apartment to protest his neighbors’ loud lovemaking.
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“Matt was happy enough to sustain himself on the detritus of a world he saw as careening toward self-destruction, and equally happy to scam a government he despised. 'I’m glad everyone’s so wasteful,' he told me. 'It supports my lifestyle.'”