Astroturf-Busting Hotline Launched

Thu, 2009-09-03 16:31Mitchell Anderson
Mitchell Anderson's picture

Astroturf-Busting Hotline Launched

Groups Seek New Evidence in Bonner Scandal

A coalition of groups, including some that were impersonated by coal lobbyists fighting against U.S. climate change legislation, have banded together in search of further evidence of wrongdoing in the ballooning fraudulent letter scandal.

Five prominent non-profits have launched the “Polluter Fraud Hotline” (1-866-363-4648), inviting average citizens or industry insiders to blow the whistle on any deceptive or illegal tactics that big polluters and their lobbyists are using in opposition to clean energy legislation.

The American Association of University Women (AAUW), National Wildlife Federation, NAACP, and Center for American Progress Action Fund and Sierra Club are also calling for Congressional action to ensure that this type of orchestrated deception of elected lawmakers never happens again.

The hotline could add energy to the Congressional investigation that Senator Markey has launched into this scandal.

We fear we have only have only have seen the tip of the iceberg,” said Adam Kolton of the National Wildlife Federation. “Between the fake letters to Congress and a recently leaked American Petroleum Institute memo urging its member companies to have their employees masquerade as ‘concerned energy citizens’ at events as apposed to real citizens, it is increasing clear that additional steps need to be taken.”

The groups whose good names were abused are understandably outraged that campaigners working for the D.C. PR firm Bonner & Associates forged letters of opposition to the Waxman-Markey bill.

“Corporate lobbyists with very deep pockets manufactured a non-existent Charlottesville AAUW branch and used AAWU’s national logo. That was stunning to us,” said AAWU Executive Director Linda Hallman.

Later we learned that the woman whose name was forged on the letter is deceased, well before the cap and trade bill was ever considered …. This was a carefully constructed and premeditated fraud that victimized non-profits organizations and the legislators that received the counterfeit letters. It’s hard to think of a more cynical approach the democratic process than faking support from grassroots organizations with limited resources.”

The nation’s largest and oldest civil rights organization was also incredulous when they learned that the coal industry had appropriated their letterhead and reputation.

We are absolutely appalled the someone would circumvent the democratic process of citizens participating in what happens in our government by providing manufactured, disingenuous and misleading information about the position of American citizens,” said NAACP Vice President Hilary Shelton.

While the legitimate grassroots groups hosting the hotline hope it will aid the investigation by Senator Markey, they are also calling on Congress to pass laws outlawing deceptive lobbying practices like this.

“We urge Congress to take whatever steps are necessary to prevent anything like this ever happening again,” said Shelton.

Anyone with information about deceptive practices, fake letters, or phony public events, please call (1-866-363-4648) or email tips@polluterfraud.com.