A burst of developments Monday considerably raised the profile of the latest attempt by polluting industries to thwart environmental legislation. This story has been moving quickly, so here is a quick timeline of how things have unfolded over the past few days. If I missed anything major, please let me know:Friday
- The Charlottesville Daily Progress reported on a series of forged letters from community organizations, fraudulently sent by lobbyists to Congressman Tom Perriello of Virginia. The letters, written in opposition to the American Clean Energy and Security Act, failed to dissuade Congressman Perriello, who voted for the legislation.
- Representative Ed Markey immediately announced his plans to launch an investigation, calling the letters an "appalling abuse."
- Senator John Kerry posted a rapid response diary on Daily Kos.
- The lobbying firm responsible for sending the letters, Bonner and Associates, blamed the incident on a temporary employee and tried to downplay the situation.
- Think Progress outlined Bonner and Associates' long history of shady tactics.
- Avaaz.org took to K Street in protest of the naked fraud.
- Sierra Club announced a major beltway ad buy, and fired off a letter to Attorney General Holder urging investigations.
- Move On launched a position asking the DOJ to conduct "an investigation into whether the firm, Bonner & Associates, committed fraud, and how often they've done this."
- Credo Mobile sent an email to their list petitioning A.G. Holder to "investigate and prosecute" dirty coal's fraudulent tactics."
- The American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, a front group for the coal industry, was exposed as the client Bonner and Associates sent the letters for.
- ACCCE released a statement, feigning 'outrage' and the 'deception'. A. Siegel is outraged too.
- Sierra Club continued ratcheting up the pressure, again urging the DOJ to act.
- Pete Altman at NRDC reminded us of the difficulty ACCCE had getting all of their lobbying expenditures right last quarter.
- Representative Markey sent a harshly worded letter to Jack Bonner with 14 poignant questions. TPM notes that Markey's Subcommittee has subpoena powers.
Due to reported misconduct by a Bonner and Associates employee (who the firm states was subsequently fired), it appears that a total of twelve falsified letters were sent by that firm to the offices of Congresswoman Kathy Dahlkemper, Congressman Christopher Carney and Congressman Tom Perriello.
Six forged letters, all sent to Congressman Perriello, had been acknowledged previously. While Congressman Perriello remained unswayed by the letters, and voted in support of the legislation, Reps. Dahlkemper and Carney both did not. This raises the very real possibility that Members of Congress were influenced by fraudulent letters paid for by the coal industry, and voted against environmental regulation as a result of this influence. Given the razor thin margin and last-minute negotiations surrounding the House vote, this was a clear attempt by both Bonner and Associates and ACCCE to subvert the Democratic process. Now, we can't say for with 100% certainty that fraudulent letters persuaded any particular Member of Congress to oppose the legislation, but that was certainly the intent. To make matters worse, the background document includes ACCCE's less-than-inspiring "belief" that the fraudulent letters were limited to the three congressional districts mentioned previously:
Due to assurances that Bonner and Associates provided to Hawthorn, and Hawthorn subsequently communicated to ACCCE, we believe this matter to be limited to the three congressional districts mentioned above. However, we are in the process of verifying all contacts made by Bonner and Associates with respect to this project.
The folks who lied their way into this mess are not going to get to the bottom of it on their own. Chairman Markey has generously given Mr. Bonner nine days to respond to his questions. The Department of Justice should move forward in the meantime with separate investigations.