Last week we reported on a series of forged letters sent to freshman Congressman Tom Perriello, purportedly from constituent groups, but in reality from an employee for “grassroots” lobbying firm Bonner & Associates. The letters urged Perriello to vote against the Waxman-Markey American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009.
A total of 12 forged letters, sent to three House Democrats, have thus far been uncovered. As well, as Perriello, who voted for ACES, Kathy Dahlkemper and Chris Carney of Pennsylvania also received letters claiming authorship from community organizations. Dahlkemper and Carney voted against ACES.
The chain of responsibility
The ACCCE revealed earlier this week they knew of at least 12 forged letters, claiming both “outrage” and no prior knowledge of the forgeries until after they had been sent by an employee of Bonner & Associates. Bonner & Associates was hired by the Hawthorn Group, specialists in the “art of advocacy“, who was hired by the ACCCE to exercise that art. And it seems that nobody is responsible for the letters, except for what Bonner & Associates founder Jack Bonner describes as a “temporary employee who worked for us for 7 days [who] acted alone.”
If all that seems just a little convoluted, Ed Markey would agree.
What did you know, when did you know it, and what did you do about it?
Despite ACCCE’s claim it had no knowledge of the forged letters until Bonner & Associates’ temporary employee (acting on his or her own behalf) had sent them, Ed Markey is pushing for answers on what the ACCCE did about it between the time the letters were sent, two days before the House vote on the bill, and earlier this week when the ACCCE went public about it.
“The deliberate inaction prior to the House vote and the extended silence after the vote — some 40 days after ACCCE knew what had happened — raises serious concerns,” Markey wrote in a letter to the ACCCE on Wednesday.
Markey also sent a letter to Bonner & Associates on Monday pressing the firm to explain who hired their lobbying services, how much it was paid, the congressional districts in which it operates, and the extent of its activities in those districts. Markey also asked for more information about the employee that mailed the letters.
“This fraud on Congress distorts the legislative process and disserves the American people. It represents a serious breach that needs to be fully understood as to the extent and scope of these wrongful acts” Markey said in the letter.
Outrage and inquiry
Sierra Club president Carl Pope expressed his own outrage this week, calling on Congress and the Department of Justice to fully investigate the matter (pdf, Think Progress) .
“Big Oil, Big Coal and other special interests have already spent more than $100 million to kill a comprehensive clean energy jobs and climate plan,” Pope said. “By faking these letters, Bonner and the special interests they represent admit that an army of lobbyists and hundreds of millions of dollars still can’t overcome real grassroots power.”
Of the slippery matter of who’s to blame, Pope added:
“Both the coal industry’s ACCCE and Bonner have denounced the sneaky tactics and firmly placed blame elsewhere. It is clear that the Department of Justice and Congress may be the only ones that can really figure out who is responsible for these dirty tricks.”
It seems as if the debate over climate and energy legislation isn’t rancorous enough, so somebody, somewhere felt the need to insert a little fraud. Sometimes I’m amazed anything at all ever gets done in Washington.
Grist reports that this incident is not the first time the ACCCE has misrepresented the position of others to seek a favorable position with members of Congress.