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Astroturf in Congress October 29, 2009

Posted by Morgan in astroturf, bonner and associates.

Congressional Hearing on Bonner Letter Fraud

WHAT: Select Committee hearing: “Fraudulent Letters Opposing Clean Energy Legislation.”

WHEN: Thursday, October 29, 2009, 9:30 AM

WHERE: 1100 Longworth House Office Building, Washington, DC and online at globalwarming.house.gov


  • Mr. Jack Bonner, Bonner & Associates
  • Mr. Steve Miller, President and CEO, American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity
  • Ms. Lisa M. Maatz, Director of Public Policy and Government Relations, American Association of University Women
  • Mr. Hilary O. Shelton, Director and Senior Vice President for Advocacy and Policy, NAACP Washington Bureau

Climate Activists with the Avaaz Action Factory will wear astroturf suits to protest the fake grassroots support for coal industry.  In June, Bonner and Associates, on behalf of the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE), was responsible for 14 forged letters sent to 3 representatives urging them to vote no on the climate bill.  This extreme example of fake citizen support for big-industry policies, is part of a larger issue with corporations pretending to be real people.

The coal industry has spent millions to try and generate ‘grassroots’ support for its policies, spending that is not reported as lobbying.  The hearing is expected to examine both specific instances of letter forgery, but also the larger issue of undisclosed industry lobbying efforts.

Current lobbying rules do not require firms to disclose clients for ‘public outreach’ work, even though it can translate into direct lobbying.  Closing this loophole would effectively limit astroturf lobbying operations and bring democracy back to the people.  It would also presumably limit opportunities for fraud, such as the fake letters sent by Jack Bonner’s company.

According to E&E news, ACCCE spent $302,700 on lobbying in the third quarter.  This number admittedly excludes “grass-roots activity, and leaves out most advertising spending and does not show money spent on state and local lobbying.”

Fake citizen opinion on legislation is dangerous for democracy, especially when companies stand to reap huge profits from the outcome.  Furthermore, when companies can hide their funders, public accountability for these actions becomes difficult to enforce.

Congressmen receiving forged letters: Rep Perriello, (D-VA) voted for the ACES legislation.  Reps. Dahlkemper (D-PA) and Carney (D-PA) voted against it.

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