"The Federation for American Coal, Energy and Security (FACES of Coal)." the latest "grassroots" organization to join the public conversation on behalf of the coal industry, appears to be a project of the K-Street public relations firm, the Adfero Group, one of industry's most accommodating voices in Washington, D.C.
The FACES website, which includes no contact information, is registered to Adfero.
[Update: since we posted this article, the website registration for facesofcoal.com has been updated overnight and Adfero's name has been wiped, however - thanks to research by one of our most loyal readers, Frank Bi - a cross-reference with Adfero's IP address still shows facesofcoal.com running on their server.]
FACES describes itself as "an alliance of people from all walks of life who are joining forces to educate lawmakers and the general public about the importance of coal and coal mining." But Adfero's client list includes Koch Industries and the US Chamber of Commerce, two leaders in the fight to confuse, distort and deny the science of climate change - and especially to block government action that might affect their bottom line.
FACES' coming-out press release claimed the new group consists of, "Some 70 different organizations and individuals representing a broad cross-section of people and communities throughout the Appalachian region are the coalition's first members. Any individual, business or organization can join FACES of Coal."
But Adfero doesn't specialize in spontaneous public advocacy. It specializes in crafting a "custom-tailored message" and then recruiting "key contacts" who can slam that message home. Here, from Adfero's own website, is their own version:
"At the end of the day, it’s all about relationships. From policymakers to homemakers, people respond best when the message is delivered by someone they know and trust.
"That’s where traditional grassroots outreach comes in. Adfero is able to tap an impressive network of national, state and local contacts to deliver your custom-tailored message. We’ll identify and recruit local constituents, opinion leaders, community activists or political operatives to engage in activities designed to get attention and results. We have access to key contacts on the ground who can conduct intercepts with elected officials at speeches, rallies, local town hall meetings and other events."
In addition to the recent manipulations on health care, there has been an unprecedented amount of astroturfing by the oil and coal lobby lately. And there is no reason to believe this is anything but. Certainly Adfero hasn't responded to our numerous inquiries with an alternative explanation.
Yet someone is paying for Adfero's "grassroots" services in the creation of the pro-coal FACES group. Is it Koch Industries? The US Chamber of Commerce? Or is it someone not included in their list of clients?
Once again, it's time Washington created a legal requirement for these groups to come clean on their funding. The American people deserve to know who's really behind this campaign.
Phony Astroturf groups manipulate democracy in a way that is pointedly dishonest. They work to convince legislators that "people from all walks of life" - also known as "voters" - are fired up about an issue, when in fact the voters in question are the kind of people Eugene McCarthy used to call "provocateurs," taking money from industry to pretend to hold a particular opinion. It's a practice that should stop - and, clearly, it won't stop without being banged with a legislative hammer.