When the U.S. Chamber of Commerce recently took a strong stance against federal policy and legislative proposals to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, several companies left the Chamber in protest. The event has brought scrutiny to bear on the Chamberâ€™s president, Tom Donohue.
Chamber president Donohue is on the board of Union Pacific Railroad. The railroad thinks climate legislation would hurt its finances, since much of its income comes from hauling coal. Donohue’s contract with the railroad prohibits him from â€śany conduct or activities that are inconsistent with the Companyâ€™s best interests.â€ť And Donohue’s 11 years now on Union Pacific’s board has resulted in $5 million in compensation for him.
So as Donohue forms and articulate policy for the Chamber, it seems clear that he’s required by Union Pacific to draw particular conclusions – and then voice them on behalf of the Chamber. That conflict of interest evidently wasn’t something that had previously been so fully exposed.
Apple (along with several other companies) quit the Chamber over its new climate policy. Nike stepped down from the Chamber’s board, but remains a member for now.
I think it’s fair to say that the Chamber’s clout has been damaged, along with its credibility.