Bonner's Dishonest Tactics Date Back a Decade Plus

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.

Astroturf PR firm also a major Republican Party Player

It has now been revealed that a Washington, DC PR powerhouse that was recently exposed as being part of an anonymous “grassroots” pro-coal group also has significant ties to the Republican Party.

As regular readers will recall, earlier this week we exposed the ties between a new pro-coal “grassroots” group calling itself the “The Federation for American Coal, Energy and Security (FACES of Coal), and a Washington, DC firm called the Adfero Group. Adfero’s client list includes Koch Industries and the US Chamber of Commerce, two leaders in the fight to confuse, distort and deny the realities of climate change - and especially to block government action that might affect their bottom line.

Brad Johnson at the Wonk Room is reporting today that Adfero also has significant ties to another very powerful group in Washington, DC that would love nothing more than to see legislation on climate change blocked, the Republican Party.

Johnson writes: “A new “grassroots” fossil fuel front group, FACES of Coal, is employing a shadowy Republican-staffed company to spread its message. The Federation for American Coal, Energy and Security — a new pro-mountaintop removal campaign that refuses to reveal its “grassroots” members — is employing a GOP Beltway shop to promote its work.”

Exposing Jack "Astroturf" Bonner's Naked Fraud [video]

The very-active Avaaz Action Factory was in rare form recently when they showed up for a naked protest in front of the offices of DC’s Astroturf King, Bonner and Associates. The point of their action was to not only get a nice shower but to drive home the point that Bonner and Associates is a naked fraud.

A point I fully agree with.

As you may recall, Washington, DC corporate power player, Jack Bonner and his firm Bonner and Associates were recently busted for sending fake letters to Congress representatives urging them to vote against the Clean Energy and Security Act - the underhanded tactic was paid for by the Washington coal industry lobby who stands to lose big-time if their toxic emissions are regulated under the new act.

For those not up to speed on their PR spindoctoring nomenclature, Astroturfing is a an age old, slimy and undemocratic technique in which one manufactures a fake grassroots uprising. It is a big money service offered by some very powerful Washington public relations companies and one of the more successful of these is Bonner & Associates, which boasts of a long history of manufacturing fake grassroots movements for corporate America.

Anyways. On to what you came for, the video [ps. here’s the photos from the naked protest]:

Bonner & Associates: the long and undemocratic history of astroturfing

With a history that could surprise the most jaded Beltway insider, Jack Bonner, head of the D.C. public relations firm Bonner & Associates, might just be the king of corporate Astroturf in the nation’s capital.

Whether its on the health care debate or the proposed clean energy bill, a notorious public relations tactic known as  astroturfing is heavily influencing the public conversation.

Astroturfing, the manufacturing of a fake grassroots uprising, is a big money service offered by some very powerful Washington public relations companies. One of the more successful of these is Bonner & Associates, which boasts of a long history of manufacturing fake grassroots movements for corporate America. 

A 1993 New York Times article, A New Breed of Hired Hands Cultivates Grass-Roots Anger, profiles Jack Bonner and his company as a “new breed of Washington firms that has turned grass-roots organizing to the advantage of its high-paying clients, generally trade associations and corporations.” As the Times rightly puts it: “the rise of this industry has made it hard to tell the difference between manufactured public opinion and genuine explosions of popular sentiment.”

New "Grassroots" Pro-Coal Group backed by K-Street PR Firm

“The Federation for American Coal, Energy and Security (FACES of Coal).” the latest “grassroots” organization to join the public conversation on behalf of the coal industry, appears to be a project of the K-Street public relations firm, the Adfero Group, one of industry’s most accommodating voices in Washington, D.C.

The FACES website, which includes no contact information, is registered to Adfero.

[Update: since we posted this article, the website registration for facesofcoal.com has been updated overnight and Adfero’s name has been wiped, however - thanks to research by one of our most loyal readers, Frank Bi, a cross-reference with Adfero’s IP address still shows facesofcoal.com running on their server.]

FACES describes itself as “an alliance of people from all walks of life who are joining forces to educate lawmakers and the general public about the importance of coal and coal mining.” But Adfero’s client list includes Koch Industries and the US Chamber of Commerce, two leaders in the fight to confuse, distort and deny the science of climate change - and especially to block government action that might affect their bottom line.

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