Ahead Of Chamber Meeting On Climate, Schatz, Whitehouse, Senators Demand Answers From Board Members On Chamber’s Anti-Climate Agenda, Funding

Member Companies Publicly Claiming to Support Climate Action Have Remained Silent on Chamber’s Anti-Climate Activities; U.S. Chamber of Commerce Members Set To Meet on Tuesday To Discuss Climate Policy

WASHINGTON – Today, ahead of a meeting at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce centered on climate policy, U.S. Senators Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) called on board members to explain their support for the Chamber’s anti-climate agenda, how its activities to block climate action conflict with their own companies’ public positions, and whether they are aware of the sources of anonymous “dark money” that fund the Chamber.

“The U.S. Chamber has a long history of opposing climate action in Congress, before executive agencies, in the courts, and at the state level,” the senators wrote. “The Chamber is also one of the largest spenders of undisclosed donations—“dark money”—in congressional elections, almost entirely on candidates who oppose climate action.”

The senators continued, “Several companies on the board have expressly advocated for climate legislation, including a fee on carbon emissions. This disconnect raises questions about whether the companies represented on the board are properly exercising their governance and oversight role as board members, including a duty to ‘determine the U.S. Chamber’s policy positions on business issues,’ as the Chamber’s own website states.”

In addition to Schatz and Whitehouse, the letters to board members were signed by U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio).

The Chamber board member companies receiving the letter include Bayer, FedEx, Sempra Energy, UPS, Celgene, ConocoPhillips, Entergy, IBM, Honeywell, Martin Marietta Materials, Xerox, Shell, BNSF, State Farm, Norfolk Southern, Ford, United Airlines, NextEra, Ryder, Deere & Co., AT&T, Union Pacific, Abbott Laboratories, Altria, 3M, Dow, U.S. Bank, Allstate, Phillips 66, Delta Airlines, Southern Co., American Airlines, Devon Energy, Pfizer, MetLife, and Cesar’s Entertainment.

The full text of the letter can be found below. Letters to all board members are available here.

Dear Board Member Representative:

We are writing to you because you represent your company as a member of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Board of Directors, the principal governing body of the Chamber and the group charged with determining the Chamber’s policy positions and strategic planning.

The U.S. Chamber has a long history of opposing climate action in Congress, before executive agencies, in the courts, and at the state level.  In early 2014, a group of corporate lawyers, coal lobbyists, and Republican political strategists began meeting regularly in the Chamber’s headquarters to devise legal strategies to dismantle the Clean Power Plan—before President Obama had even released a draft proposal.   The group’s gathering place should come as no surprise, given the Chamber’s record of opposition to any meaningful attempt at climate action.  The Chamber testified in opposition to the Paris Agreement, despite many of its board members’ pledges to support the Agreement’s goals;  it was a leading voice in the lobbying effort against the Waxman-Markey cap and trade legislation;  and it sued the Environmental Protection Agency, seeking to overturn the “endangerment finding” that underpins the Clean Air Act.

The Chamber is also one of the largest spenders of undisclosed donations—“dark money”—in congressional elections, almost entirely on candidates who oppose climate action.  The Chamber has spent more than $150 million on congressional races since 2008,  and 94 percent of its donations have reportedly gone to candidates who were climate change deniers.

Although the Chamber does not disclose its membership, our review of companies on the Chamber’s board suggests most do not support its anti-climate positions.   In fact, several companies on the board have expressly advocated for climate legislation, including a fee on carbon emissions.   This disconnect raises questions about whether the companies represented on the board are properly exercising their governance and oversight role as board members, including a duty to “determine the U.S. Chamber’s policy positions on business issues,” as the Chamber’s own website states.

To better gauge your and your company’s understanding of its responsibilities as a member of the Chamber’s board, we respectfully request you respond to the following questions by December 20, 2019:

  1. Have you made any effort to understand which members (or other sources) are responsible for and directing funding to the Chamber’s anti-climate activities?
  2. Have you made any effort to understand what entities are funding the Chamber?
    1. If you are not aware of the entities that are funding the chambers, please explain how this is consistent with your duty of care as a board member.
    2. Are you aware that non-business entities may be funding the chamber, and do you think this is consistent with the chamber’s purpose as a business association?
  3. As climate-related litigation becomes more frequent, have you considered whether your company’s position on the Chamber’s board may expose it to legal liability?

Sincerely,

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