Chamber of Commerce Prez Accused of 'Reactionary Pursuit of Anti-Environmental Policies'

Thursday's special section, "The Business of Green," prominently featured reporter John Broder's hostile profile of U.S. Chamber of Commerce president Thomas Donohue, "Storm Over the Chamber."

Donohue is opposed to the Obama administration's views on global warming policy, while Broder's previous reporting has assumed as fact that man-made global warming is a serious danger.

Broder opened with an unflattering anecdote on that's at least ten years old.

Back in the 1990s when Thomas J. Donohue was president of the American Trucking Associations, a subordinate raised a question at a staff meeting.

Some of the association's members, the aide said, wondered whether it was really necessary for the group's president to fly on a private jet.

Mr. Donohue, a scrappy Irish-American born in Brooklyn and raised on Long Island, turned to his chief of staff and asked how many seats his jet had. "Well, eight, sir," the aide said. "Tomorrow morning I want you to call and get a 12-seater," Mr. Donohue shot back. The subject never came up again.

Mr. Donohue, 71, now the president of the United States Chamber of Commerce, still flies on private jets and enjoys a chauffeur-driven car in addition to his $3 million annual salary.

And his legendary pugnacity has not faded. It was on display again this fall as he and the chamber found themselves in a maelstrom over climate change policy after a number of member companies noisily resigned in protest over the chamber's hostile stance on climate legislation. A wave of criticism arose from Congress, the White House, environmental organizations and some businesses that accused the chamber and its president of a reactionary pursuit of anti-environmental policies.

Mr. Donohue was not cowed. "Bring 'em on," he growled at a briefing for reporters last month.

While labeling the Chamber of Commerce's membership as "generally conservative," Broder couldn't locate a label for a left-wing environmental group:

His opponents say that his words and actions are self-defeating and have served only to marginalize the chamber in one of the most important environmental and economic debates of the time.

"Mr. Donohue's chamber has damaged its credibility, reputation and influence with self-inflicted wounds caused by its extremist stance on climate policy, its obfuscating double-talk and Mr. Donohue's own attacks on corporate members that have distanced themselves from the chamber's position," said Peter Altman, climate campaign director at the Natural Resources Defense Council.