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Arthur Delaney   |   October 26, 2009   12:14 PM ET

Washington luminaries raised glasses in honor of lobbyist Tony Podesta, who celebrated his 65th birthday on Friday night with a party at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

Roll Call, Politico, and the Examiner all covered the event, which was billed as a "Red Shoe Affair" -- per Podesta's fashion proclivities, guests were asked to wear red shoes.

Jenna Staul   |   October 26, 2009   10:50 AM ET

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Jenna Staul   |   October 26, 2009    9:49 AM ET

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Arthur Delaney   |   October 23, 2009    4:46 PM ET

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The U.S. Chamber of Commerce demanded that the company providing Internet service for the Yes Men shut down their site on Tuesday, claiming the spoof troupe's fake version of the Chamber's site constituted copyright infringement.

"The Website infringes the Chamber of Commerce's copyrights by directly copying the images, logos, design, and layout of the Chamber of Commerce's copyright-protected official website," said the letter from the Chamber's lawyers, who threaten "legal liability" for the service provider, Hurricane Electric.

The mockup of the Chamber's site was part of the Yes Men's epic hoax, which included a phony press conference at the National Press Club, where a fraudulent Chamber spokesman announced that the superlative lobbying organization had reversed its controversial stance on climate change.

Hurricane Electric obeyed the Chamber's letter and shut down the spoof site. But in the process, they shut down hundreds of other sites maintained by May First / People Link, the Yes Men's direct provider (Hurricane Electric is its "upstream" provider).

"I wasn't able to only shut down that one website," said Benny Ng, director of infrastructure for Hurricane Electric in an interview with the Huffington Post. "The only way I could do it was by taking down their entire connection which I don't want to do but in order for me to comply with the [Chamber's letter] that was my only option."

Ng said the sites were down for an hour or so. He said he reconnected them after May First agreed to take the site off Hurricane's network.

"We were very unhappy with Hurricane Electric's response," May First's Alfredo Lopez told the Huffington Post. May First immediately "mirrored" the Yes Men spoof page -- he stressed that it's going to stay on the web. As for Hurricane, "They did that because they don't want to spend the time or the money on a lawyer."

The Chamber of Commerce, added Lopez, is "disgusting."

In a statement, the business federation defended its effort to knock down the site:

"Consistent with our legal right to protect our intellectual property, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce requested that the Hurricane Electric, an upstream provider, take down a fake site that appeared to be, but was not, from the Chamber. The Chamber never requested removal of the web site theyesmen.org or theyesmenfixtheworld.com or any sites other than chamber-of-commerce.us. Hurricane Electric told us that it could not respond because it was an upstream provider. We took no other action with Hurricane."

Andy Bichlbaum of The Yes Men had strong words for the Chamber.

"This is a blow against free speech, and it demonstrates in gory detail the full hypocrisy of the Chamber," he said in a statement. "The only freedom they care about is the economic freedom of large corporations to operate free of the hassles of science, reality, and democracy."

Copyright law allows for "fair use" of copyrighted material "for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research."

"This seems to be a pretty clear fair use case," said Matt Zimmerman, a senior staff attorney with the Electronic Frontiers Foundation, which is representing the Yes Men. He called the Chamber's letter a "nastygram" commonly used to scare people into removing stuff from the web. "People will frequently use this provision [of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act] when they don't really have a basis for doing so."

Zimmerman sent a letter to the Chamber's lawyers demanding they withdraw their takedown notice. The letter also pointed the lawyers to the "Free Speech" page on the Chamber's site.

Jenna Staul   |   October 23, 2009    1:34 PM ET

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Arthur Delaney   |   October 23, 2009   12:14 PM ET

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In response to pressure from environmental groups, Toyota issued a statement on Friday distancing the automaker from the Chamber's opposition to climate change legislation.

"Toyota is a member of a wide array of groups, but none has our full proxy," wrote Toyota executive Josephine Cooper. "Our association with any one of them does not signify that we agree with all of their policies."

Politico reported Friday that Toyota had been "inundated with calls and emails" from Prius owners upset about the firm's Chamber membership.

Chamber president Tom Donohue has complained about the "orchestrated pressure campaign" to get businesses to defect from the uber lobbying group.

Here's the full statement from Toyota:

Toyota Supports Economy-Wide Reductions of Greenhouse Gases


Recently, you may have seen some reports or emails critical of Toyota's membership in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in light of the Chamber's position on reducing greenhouse gases. We want to set the record straight.

Toyota is a member of a wide array of groups, but none has our full proxy. Our association with any one of them does not signify that we agree with all of their policies. It means we are there to have a dialogue and engage in making good public policy. Toyota speaks for itself and has its own position on mitigating climate change, backed up by a strong track record of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

As the record shows, Toyota has long supported global economy-wide reductions of greenhouse gases, and we are committed to working cooperatively with the U.S. and other governments to achieve these reductions in every market where we operate. That is why Toyota Motor Sales President Jim Lentz stood with President Obama at the White House last May in support of a national program to reduce greenhouse gases from vehicles. We will not disappoint when it comes time to deliver.

In fact, we have not waited for government legislation or regulation to address these issues. We are the leader in fuel efficient vehicles in the U.S. We are the leader in hybrid technology, and are making major investments to develop and bring to market even more advanced hybrids, plug-in hybrids, pure electrics and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. And, we've already cut CO2 emissions and energy use from our manufacturing plants on a per-vehicle basis by 19% since 2000.

Our actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions speak for themselves, and we are focused on moving ahead with real-world solutions.

Josephine S. Cooper
Group Vice President, Public Policy and Government/Industry Affairs
Toyota Motor North America


Jenna Staul   |   October 23, 2009   12:10 PM ET

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Jenna Staul   |   October 23, 2009   10:48 AM ET

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Jenna Staul   |   October 23, 2009    9:21 AM ET

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Jonathan D. Salant and Lizzie O’Leary   |   October 23, 2009    8:05 AM ET

Citigroup Inc., which has yet to repay $45 billion in federal assistance, has more lobbyists than any other company who registered to try to shape legislation regulating the financial industry, U.S. Senate records show.

The New York-based bank, 34 percent-owned by the U.S. government, is listed as a client by 46 of the 1,537 lobbyists who filed with Congress to work on President Barack Obama's push for rules to limit financial risks and impose stricter consumer protections.

Critics Charge Lobbyist Ban Will Hurt Trade

  |   October 22, 2009    4:40 PM ET

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AHIP: Health Care Reform's Ultimate Frenemy

  |   October 22, 2009    2:20 PM ET

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Jenna Staul   |   October 22, 2009   11:18 AM ET

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Jenna Staul   |   October 21, 2009    4:08 PM ET

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