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Happy Holidaze and Farewell for Now December 29, 2009

Posted by Julie in astroturf, bonner and associates, cejapa, chamber of commerce, climate bill, copenhagen, G20, obama to copenhagen, tcktcktck.
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Copenhagen has passed and the Action Factory has packed up, moved out, and dispersed. This just might be the last post on our blog for a while.

In the end, we did not get nearly what we had hoped for — neither a US Senate climate bill, nor a binding international climate treaty.

BUT…

…perhaps we can claim just a little credit for helping push Obama to go to Copenhagen? After all, we did give him a plane ticket for his birthday. And we gave him some flack when he went there to try to get the Olympics.

…Or how about for influencing Arlen Specter’s far-from-certain EPW committee vote after we chased him in a SurvivaBall herd, all the way from the capitol into the Hart Office Building?

…Or for making Jack Bonner of Bonner and Ass. look like a real idiot when we shook his hand while wearing Astroturf suits at a House Commitee hearing, much to the delight of Congressman Ed Markey…

…And there was also that time we crashed a press conference being held by Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravestahl prior to the G20 summit at the National Press Club. Before the G20 summit even began, we dominated the media cycle by asserting our first amendment rights and demanding strong climate action from world leaders. Then we continued to make news once in Pittsburgh with our Global Climate Wake-Up Call (the first link is hilarious, btw)

… And finally, I suppose we can claim credit for the defection of a major paper company from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. It happened just 1 day after we successfully pulled off an elaborate spoof press conference with the Yes Men in which we temporarily reversed the Chamber’s backward stance on climate policy. We may have even provoked the Chamber to dig itself into an even deeper hole and sue some of us… gee, that would make them look real bad… hmm…. oh wait, we did. The Chamber also sent a letter to Senators Boxer and Inhofe not long after our stunt, trying to play nice guy and directly assert supposed (feigned?) support for climate legislation, an act which Senator Kerry suggested would be a “Nixon to China” moment, if the Chamber really meant it.

All in all, we had a lot of fun and made a lot of friends. We generated hundreds of media hits highlighting the dire need for climate action, and these were undoubtedly seen by hundreds of thousands. We hope that through our actions, we have inspired and will continue to inspire many, many more actions.

Here are three nuggets of DC action wisdom:

1. Crash other events for media attention

2. Being ridiculous is fun and can actually put pressure on elected officials

3. The bottom of the reflecting pool is slippery – enter boldly, but carefully and everything will work out fine.

The Action Factory may be over, but our work is far from complete. In the final hours of the Copenhagen conference, a handful of countries – including Tuvalu, Bolivia, and Venezuela – made statements strongly opposing the undemocratic accord, which is essentially a death sentence for many low-lying countries. When one nation’s “unprecedented breakthrough” is another’s death sentence, something is clearly not right. That’s why in 2010 many of us will stay engaged with battles and creative actions in the Coal River Valley, within the US Senate, at the US Chamber of Commerce and elsewhere. Avaaz as an organization will take on the Chamber directly. We hope you will join us for the long haul — not just because it matters, or because the future of our planet depends on it, but because it is FUN.

Thanks to all of you who have been along for the ride – it’s been a pretty wild one. See you in the streets.

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People vs. Polluters December 22, 2009

Posted by Morgan in astroturf, bonner and associates, chamber of commerce, copenhagen, naked fraud.
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There are more people to blame for failure in Copenhagen than… sensational cliches to start blog posts with.  Obama probably negotiated his ass off during his 9 hours in Denmark, but he didn’t do enough legwork beforehand to set himself up for success.  China blocked any sort of requirement, goal, target or accountability mechanism, even though it is and will remain the largest greenhouse polluter.  The US Senate didn’t pass a climate bill in time.  The list goes on.

Yet some guilty parties are actively trying to mess the process up instead of just not doing enough: powerful fossil fuel and business interests are working against the interests of the people in the struggle for a senate bill and in the negotiations for a treaty. As Ricken Patel from Avaaz said about Copenhagen: “one group was cracking open the champagne – the polluting industry lobbyists.”

Even before the dust had settled or the last negotiations had stopped, the DC Action Factory used its last few hours as a group to deliver Climate Cover-Up: The Crusade to Deny Global Warming to every single senate office and Roland Burris (D-IL) in person. Maybe we didn’t do enough to expose the dirty energy campaign to hijack the senate, but hopefully final hours as an Action Factory are a sign of big things to come.

Mr. Burris probably shouldn’t have stopped to talk to us, because it didn’t make him look good at all. Even without knowing what an astroturf suit with a coal lobby name-tag symbolizes, you would think any senator with an instinct for self preservation (all of them?) would be wary. Instead, Julie said we had a book for him about how dirty industry has spun the science on global warming.Burris  saw the coal lobby name tag on David’s astroturf jacket and said, “You know, we have a lot of coal in Illinois, and we need to burn that coal.” Ouch. (more…)

Blowing the Whistle on Astroturfing October 29, 2009

Posted by skolmk in astroturf, bonner and associates.
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Hey Bonner & Associates- here’s what astroturf looks like!

Today’s Congressional hearing shone light on the fraudulent letters sent to three congressmen on behalf of Bonner & Associates just days before the vote on the House energy bill (ACES) this past summer.  In short, we investigated astroturfing. The unfortunate tactics employed by the opponents of clean energy to blatantly co-opt and misrepresent members of already marginalized communities- the NAACP, seniors, and women, amongst others – and undermined genuine grassroots efforts.

In the same way that big tobacco once masqueraded the toxicity of cigarettes, Bonner & Associates led elected officials to believe that the groups most effected by the unjust realities of climate change and dirty energy were against passing provisions in the House to stop climate change and create clean energy jobs.

While politics have never been pretty, there are certain lines you just don’t cross. Until today.

Three action factory fellows showed what today was really about: the coal lobby and their astroturf operation.  The few supporters of Bonner and Coal were sitting just to our right, undoubtedly sweating as Jack Bonner and Steve Miller (President of American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity) were tirelessly grilled by Sen. Ed Markey and Rep. Jay Inslee.

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Coal Lobby Poisons Democracy

We couldn’t help but smile every time Rep. Inslee interrupted Jack Bonner, requesting for the umpteenth time that he simply answer the question about whether he told his employees to lie. Steve Miller was similarly full of hot air as he stumbled between “ums” and “uhs”, attempting to dig himself, and the coalition he represents, out of a significantly deep pit of lies.

It was suggested to Mr. Miller that in retribution for his company’s deceitful actions (and equally as harmful inaction) that he make an office visit to Senator Inhofe-a climate legislation obstructionist-lobbying for progressive climate legislation in the Senate. Or perhaps run a full page advertisement in a political publication supporting energy independence instead of clean coal technologies that don’t even exist. Hilarity ensued as both Bonner and Miller were left speechless by these suggestions, and the coal lobbyists to our right looked nervously at their feet.

While the legal penance of the Bonner & Associates “hoax” has yet to be determined, the action factory fellows visibly exposed the astroturf efforts of these companies, complete with signs reading “Coal Lobby Poisons Democracy”.

Until we can actually keep CO2 safely sequestered, we should keep the same big coal lobbying efforts underground- and nonexistent.

Astroturf in Congress October 29, 2009

Posted by Morgan in astroturf, bonner and associates.
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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

WHO:

  • 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.

Bonner and Ass. Pissed us Off August 6, 2009

Posted by Morgan in bonner and associates, naked fraud.
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Bonner and Associates pissed us off, so a few of us at the Action Factory, a group of young climate activists living and working in DC, took our clothes off in the rain to demonstrate the NAKED FRAUD of this astroturf lobbying firm.
Bonner and associate, who were working for the Hawthorne Group, whom in turn were working for American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, forged not 1, not 6, but 12 letters to not 1 but 3 congressmen. All three of these companies are outraged, claiming to have fired the ‘deviant’ employee who supposedly acted on his or her own. They were so ‘outraged’ that they didn’t notify the congressmen who received these letters. They were so ‘outraged’ that they even forgot that Bonner has been caught using almost the same tactics before, making them look very stupid for hiring them in the first place. That’s pretty much blind with outrage.

Once the intense anger of the moment subsided, we grabbed a camera and headed back to Bonner’s office first thing Monday morning to get to the bottom of this. Keep in mind, we’re not professional journalists, and I apologize in advance if our ‘outrage’ clouds our judgment on ethical conduct. But, I think that you’ll enjoy joining us on this search for democracy. Bonner and Associates seems to have stolen it, so it only made sense to start looking at the scene of the crime…

Some thoughts:
*People seem pretty unsure of whether forging letters is illegal
*We’re not legal experts – what are the legal consequences for mail fraud? forging names and signatures? Lying to congress?

Aliens, Wizards, and Other Made-Up People Oppose Green Jobs August 5, 2009

Posted by Morgan in bonner and associates, naked fraud.
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Bonner and Associates (ahem, Hawthorne Group, ahem, ACCCE) couldn’t find enough real people to oppose clean energy and green jobs legislation. In fact, the management wouldn’t take that ‘no’ for an answer, and pushed their employees to commit outright mail fraud instead.

(C’mon, seriously, Tom Periello knows the folks who work for the NAACP chapter in his district. He’s gonna notice. – catch his interview on Rachel Maddow last night.)

So today, we decided to help the coal industry out a little bit by showing them that made-up people and creatures can have a say in politics! We dressed up as aliens, a wizard, and Little Red Riding Hood and passed out the Sierra Club’s hill add to hill staffers getting out of the subway. “Hey, help us kill green jobs!”

Its a testament to hill staffers that at least some of them replied, “No, I like green jobs.” Apparently irony isn’t the best tactic at 9am. But making up the names of people who oppose climate change legislation? Never a good tactic.