Like a bad habit, the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE) has dropped Bonner & Associates, the Astroturf lobbying firm led by Jack Bonner, whose “white collar sweatshop” forged at least a dozen letters to Congressmembers urging them to vote against the Waxman-Markey climate bill.
While ACCCE continues to claim that “this was an isolated incident involving the wrongdoing of someone working for a subcontractor" – an excuse first put forward by Jack Bonner, who blamed a rogue temporary employee for the forgeries – Congress is investigating the extent to which Bonner and ACCCE went to mislead lawmakers.
The fake letters were sent to at least three Democratic Congressmembers, and claimed to represent opposition to the climate legislation from nine different groups, including senior citizens’ organizations, Hispanic and women’s advocacy groups, and the NAACP. So far, investigators have confirmed 13 forged letters sent to the three lawmakers, and dozens more letters are currently being probed to determine if they were authentic messages or more of Bonner’s forgeries.
The Select Committee for Energy Independence and Global Warming, led by Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA), has asked ACCCE to come clean about the letter writing campaign. Despite the fact that ACCCE learned about Bonner’s forgeries two days before the critical vote on Waxman-Markey, the coal lobby group failed to notify the lawmakers who received the fake letters until long after the vote. Two of the three recipients, Pennsylvania Democratic Reps. Kathy Dahlkemper and Chris Carney, voted against the legislation, while the third, Virginia Rep. Tom Perriello, voted for it.
“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,” Rep. Markey wrote in a letter to ACCCE President and CEO Stephen L. Miller earlier this month.
Bonner & Associates has a long record of shady Astroturf work on behalf of many polluting industries, pharmaceutical companies and Big Tobacco. Jack Bonner founded the firm in 1984 after a career in GOP politics, and built a reputation as the go-to Astroturf specialist, capable of creating the illusion of grassroots support for his corporate clients’ positions on a wide array of policy matters.
Senior Center, Inc., a Virginia elderly services group, says it felt “victimized” by the Bonner forgery on its letterhead. NAACP representatives say they were “appalled” by the forged letter sent on their behalf by Bonner, and are “diametrically opposed” to its message. NAACP Senior Vice President for Advocacy Hilary O. Shelton, said the Bonner forgery scheme “begs the question of how many times have they done this, to deceive the United States Congress.”
Chairman Markey and the Congress need to continue investigating ACCCE’s entire operation to see how many other instances of potential fraud and misrepresentation may exist. Climate change poses a major national security threat to the U.S., as DeSmogBlog reported yesterday, and America needs to have an honest debate over how to craft a legislative action plan to confront the climate and energy challenges. Forgery and Astroturf tricks have no place in that honest debate, and those responsible for these shenanigans should be held accountable.