Forged letters urge Congress to vote against clean energy jobs bill

Guest Blog | July 31, 2009 | Energy Policy
sunset-turbinesIn the run up to the U.S. House of Rpresentatives vote on the American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES) in June, we asked our supporters and allies to call their members of Congress and urge them to support America’s clean energy future and vote “yes.”  We heard from several folks across the Southeast who called, left messages, sent emails, and wrote to Congress to build support for this important vote.  Many felt empowered and were glad they took the time to share their opinions with our nation’s leaders.

Meanwhile, we knew opponents of the bill were urging Congress to vote against ACES, and information has come to light about just how much money and manpower these opponents were investing.  There are passionate people on both sides of our nation’s energy debate, and the folks we know who support a clean energy economy will do just about anything to make sure our country heads in that direction.  That is, anything except lie, cheat and steal.

“Who would?” you might ask yourself, but apparently some who want to chain us to last century’s energy policy have stooped to new lows.  Here’s what happened back in June.

According to the Charlottesville Daily Progress, first-term Representative Tom Perriello (D, VA) received at least six letters from writers claiming to be minority group leaders expressing opposition to the American Clean Energy and Security Act.  However, it was discovered that these letters were forged, using the name and logo of local groups that do not oppose the bill.  Creciendo Juntos, a nonprofit organization working on Hispanic issues, was one of the targeted groups.  According to one spokesperson from Creciendo Juntos:

‘They stole our name. They stole our logo. They created a position title and made up the name of someone to fill it. They forged a letter and sent it to our congressman without our authorization.’ (Charlottesville Daily Progress, July 31, 2009)

Unfortunately, it’s not yet clear exactly who “they” were, but the Daily Progress reports that they worked at a Washington lobby firm.  A partner from that firm, Bonner & Associates, wrote to a member of Creciendo Juntos’ Executive Committee to apologize for the mistake and assure them that the culprit was promptly fired.

The Creciendo Juntos executive committee member says:

‘This was a deliberately and carefully forged letter that used the logo, address and name of Creciendo Juntos without authorization. Additionally, I understand…that our organization was not the only Charlottesville-area organization whose reputations were used in an unauthorized manner to try to influence Congressman Perriello on this particular vote.’ (Charlottesville Daily Progress, July 31, 2009)

In addition, Rep. Perriello’s office uncovered five faxes allegedly from a local NAACP chapter.  Those faxes appear to have been sent from the offices of Professional Risk Management Services Inc.  They, too, deny any involvement, pointing out that up to 60 staff members could have access to their offices fax machines.  These faxes seem particularly out of place with 20-20 hindsight as delegates at the NAACP Centennial Celebration in July passed a resolution supporting climate legislation.

The president of the local NAACP chapter couldn’t find any connection between the names included in the faxes and any of the group’s members, and he even praised ACES, saying it would bring jobs to urban communities and reduce pollution.

Bonner & Associates is not reported to have been very active in either side of the debate around ACES, although it is possible that the firm simply hasn’t exceeded the amount of lobbying that would require them to register with the Office of the Clerk of the U.S. House.  In the past, they have been connected with some dubious “astroturf” grassroots campaigns.  But this issue isn’t particularly about them.  It’s about anyone who is misrepresenting themselves to be a constituent of a particular Member of Congress or acting on behalf of a particular group to create false opposition to what is in our country’s best interest.

The way Rep. Perriello’s spokesperson sees it:

‘It’s very unfortunate that opponents of this bill would resort to deception and made-up letters….Spreading false information is not healthy for real debate in our democracy.’ (Charlottesville Daily Progress, July 31, 2009)

Congressman Perriello ultimately voted in favor of ACES, and Congressman Ed Markey, Chair of the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, announced an immediate investigation of the forgeries.

Well, at least these were just a couple of isolated incidents, right?  Wrong.

In fact this is just the latest in an onslaught of incorrigible tactics from opponents to a clean energy future.  Grist Magazine features a post from Natural Resources Defense Council’s Pete Altman that what some extreme opponents of clean energy and climate legislation have been up to.  For example, organizers of the “Tea Parties” that took place earlier this summer told supporters:

When you write or call, please make sure you are armed with a city name and zip code in the home state of the Senator you are calling. They may not want to hear from you without this information. You can decline to give further personal information.

As we’ve noted before, truth and honesty are paramount if our country is going to have forthright discussion about our energy future.  These actions would certainly suggest that we’re striking a nerve and that the evidence in support of a clean energy future is unassailable on its face.  If you needed another example of why it’s important for us to continue demonstrating our support for a clean energy economy to Congress, this is it.

Take a look at the forged faxes here, courtesy of Talking Points Memo.

Then call your Senators and urge them to champion a clean energy economy when the U.S. Senate takes up climate legislation later this year.

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