Coal group ‘outraged’ by forgeries

A coal group sought to distance itself from a grassroots advocacy firm working on its behalf that sent forged letters to Congress in opposition to a climate-change bill, as a key House sponsor of the legislation said he would open an investigation into the matter.

Stephen Miller, president and CEO of the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, said he was “outraged” by a report that an employee at Bonner & Associates faked at least six letters from two minority groups based in Charlottesville, Va., that were sent to Congress. The Daily Progress in Charlottesville first reported on the forgeries.

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The letters in question were sent to Rep. Tom Perriello, a freshman Democrat from Virginia who was heavily lobbied by both sides leading up to the House vote on the climate bill. Perriello voted in support of the bill, which would cap carbon dioxide emissions and could curb coal use.

“The standards and practices that we require for grassroots advocacy outreach were not adhered to by Bonner and Associates,” Miller said in a statement released Monday.

ACCCE, which represents coal producers and utilities, opposes the climate bill passed by the House. Miller said as part of its efforts against the bill, ACCCE hired Hawthorn Group, a grassroots lobbying firm, which then hired Bonner and Associates.

Bonner and Associates said the forgeries were the unauthorized actions of one employee who has since been fired.

In a statement to the blog Talking Points Memo, the firm said its own internal checks discovered the forgeries. Once the firm discovered the fabrications, it said it notified the groups involved and apologized.

Meanwhile, Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.), a principal author of the House climate bill along with Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), said his Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming would investigate the circumstances surrounding the letters.