The most sinister PR campaign in history just hit a new ethical low when it was revealed that forged letters appearing to be from charities were sent to lawmakers urging them to vote against the Waxman Markey climate bill.
Congressman Tom Perriello was shocked to find that anti climate letters claiming to be from the NAACP and a local Latino non-profit were instead sent by DC lobby firm Bonner & Associates – a company apparently subcontracted by Big Coal astroturf group American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE).
In total, twelve phony letters have surfaced so far, sent to three freshmen Congress members – all representing coal producing districts. Other charities apparently impersonated by Big Coal include the Jefferson Area Board for Aging, and the American Association of University Women.
You wonder how they sleep at night… Apparently unencumbered by ethics or morals, the fossil fuel lobby seems prepared to do anything, including fraudulently impersonating charities to avoid progress on climate change.
Of course Big Coal denies everything. Although Bonner and Associates was subcontracted by ACCCE, they are now claiming that it was all the doing of "temporary employee who worked for us for 7 days [who] acted alone." Ah huh.
The ACCCE admitted they were long aware of at least 12 forged letters but of course they would never be involved in something as slimy as this, would they? While claiming “outrage” about the scam, it is strange that they sat on this explosive knowledge since June 24th, two days before the House vote on Waxman Markey, and of course until it was otherwise revealed in the press.
The middleman between the ACCCE and Bonner was another PR firm called the Hawthorn Group that takes a “grassroots, campaign oriented approach to corporate public relations”. Their chief operating officer said that Bonner & Associates "failed to reach the congressional offices to properly advise them" of the forgeries. Now try to imagine a DC-based lobbying firm that does not know how to “reach” congressional offices…
Ed Markey, the co-sponsor of the current climate bill wants some answers. "The deliberate inaction prior to the House vote and the extended silence after the vote - some 40 days after ACCCE knew what had happened - raises serious concerns," Markey wrote in a letter to the ACCCE on Wednesday.
Markey also wants to know exactly the relationship between ACCCE and the Bonner, how much they were paid, what congressional districts they were targeting and who the mysterious and supposed ex-employee is.
"This fraud on Congress distorts the legislative process and disserves the American people. It represents a serious breach that needs to be fully understood as to the extent and scope of these wrongful acts,” Markey said in the letter.
As for the charities impersonated by the fossil fuel lobby, they are understandably more than a little pissed.
The American Association of University Women released this blistering statement:
“This incident constitutes outright deceit and demonstrates a breathtaking lack of ethics. AAUW greatly resents having been portrayed in false lights, and sympathizes with the other organizations that have been victims of this outrageous act. We also fully support Rep. Edward J. Markey's investigation into this matter. When members of Congress receive a letter from AAUW and its members, they should feel confident that they are being contacted by real people committed to the principles of our great democracy and the mission of AAUW. Cynical and premeditated lies have no place in public policy debates.”
The NAACP was also not pleased:
“The NAACP is appalled that an organization like Bonner and Associates would stoop to these depths to deceive Congress In this case Bonner and Associates are exploiting the African-American Community to achieve their misdirected goal.These tactics illustrate that discriminatory tactics normally used to deceive voters are now being used to deceive the Congress,” stated Hilary O. Shelton, Director of the NAACP’s Washington Bureau and Senior Vice President for Advocacy.
This story is not over and we will keep you posted as more details on this scam are dragged into the light of day.