The D.C. astroturf specialist Bonner & Associates has been feigning innocence that its employees were forging letters to Congress in an industry-funded attack on the Waxman-Markey climate change bill. But DeSmogBlog researcher Nathanael Baker has turned up a 12-year-old article that shows this kind of questionable public manipulation is old hat in the Bonner offices.
The Ken Silverstein article, from a 1997 edition of Mother Jones, shows that Bonner has been duping American politicians on behalf of everyone from stale cigarette smoke-and-mirrors gang at Philip Morris to the coal barons of the Western Fuels Association.
Silverstein identified two particular tactics: the “virtual petition” in which people are induced to sign a statement (with a release in fine print) only to have their signature scanned and inked onto a petition; and the recruiting of “white hats,” in which Bonner engages influential people lobby for their clients without ever identifying the funder - sometimes without being completely open about the nature of the issue on which they were lobbying.
Silverstein’s article is well-documented and shows a pattern of deception that, judging from Bonner’s own website, seems to make the company proud. The Bonner promise is, essentially, to make politicians think that people care about an issue.
In a way, they have a point: if people really knew what Bonner was up to - and who was paying the bill - they’d care deeply.