Highlight of the Week – Lobbying Firm Nabbed for Fraudulent Letters Opposing Clean Energy

It seems opponents of clean energy are increasingly resorting to dirty tactics in their fight against climate legislation.

Washington lobbying group Bonner & Associates recently sent fraudulent letters to U.S. Representative Tom Perriello (D-Va.) purporting to represent the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and Creciendo Juntos, a Latino advocacy network, and asserting opposition to the American Clean Energy and Security Act.

The notes first surfaced in June, when, two weeks prior to a House vote on the clean energy bill, Rep. Perriello's office received letters urging the freshman representative not to vote for the legislation, which institutes an emission-limiting system and initiatives to stimulate job growth. Rep. Perriello ultimately supported the bill.

The six letters contained nearly identical language and were 'signed' by fictitious members of each organization.

Bonner & Associates has been accused of so-called 'astroturfing' in the past, and has lobbied on behalf of utility companies and obstructionist groups. This time, the firm did not register to lobby against the clean energy bill for any company or organization, a requirement in many cases.

Victims of the deception campaign have been vocal in their condemnation of the firm.

Tim Freilich, who sits on the executive committee of Creciendo Juntos, claimed the firm "stole (its) name" and criticized the act as an example of "an activity that undermines Americans' faith in democracy."

Leaders at the NAACP, which recently ratified a resolution to fight global warming and its effects, were similarly outraged. Hilary O. Shelton, director of the NAACP’s Washington bureau, released a statement saying he was “appalled that an organization like Bonner and Associates would stoop to these depths to deceive Congress." Shelton further accused the firm of "exploiting the African-American community to achieve their misdirected goal."

Bill co-sponsor Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), in response to what he calls "an appalling abuse," said  that the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming would launch an investigation of the incident. "This fraud on Congress shows that some opponents of clean energy have resorted to forgery and theft to block progress," Markey said.

Published: August 5, 2009