By Jim Snyder - 10/29/09 05:50 PM EDT
on behalf of the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE),
the firm Bonner & Associates has acknowledged that it sent about a
dozen forged letters to three House Democrats who were seen as critical
But neither the firm nor the coal
group informed the members or the misrepresented companies about the
forged letters ahead of the vote.
Steve Miller, ACCCE’s
president and CEO, said he assumed Bonner & Associates would inform
the members of the phony correspondence but regretted his group did not
do more on its own to inform them of the forgeries.
letters included the letterhead and signatures of members of local
chapters of the NAACP, the American Association of University Women
(AAUW) and groups representing Hispanics, veterans and senior citizens.
Rep. Tom Perriello (D-Va.) received a letter from a Charlottesville
AAUW chapter that had been closed and was signed by an AAUW official
who is dead.
Jack Bonner, the president of Bonner &
Associates, told the House Select Committee on Global Warming and
Energy Independence on Thursday that around June 22 the firm had
discovered that a temporary employee had sent letters to Congress
falsely representing local chapters of the NAACP, AAUW and other
groups. The firm fired the temporary employee, whose name hasn’t been
The panel has been investigating the forged letters
since their discovery last summer. It released the results of its
investigation at a hearing on Thursday.
The House voted on the bill on June 26, meaning Bonner knew of the forgeries as many as four days prior to the vote.
said his company did not inform the three members who received the
letters because it wanted first to contact the organizations it falsely
claimed were opposing the climate bill. Bonner acknowledged, however,
that the firm didn’t try to contact the organizations until after the
vote. Representatives from the groups said they didn’t hear about the
forgeries until weeks later.
Bonner said he also should have told the members who received the letters they were forged.
am personally very sorry that I did not go up to the three members
contacted and sit in their offices until I could talk directly to
somebody and tell them what happened,” Bonner said. He said the firm
reached out to the organizations it falsely represented in the days
following the discovery of the forgeries. A Bonner & Associates
employee had a lengthy conversation with a representative from the
NAACP on June 31, after the House vote.
Lisa Maatz, director
of public policy and government relations for AAUW, said, however, that
she did not learn her group was a victim of the forgeries until late
July when she read a newspaper account of the faked letters.
described Bonner & Associates as a grassroots firm that does not
lobby and said that he wasn’t aware when the vote would take place or
that the three members who received the letters could prove critical to
the measure’s success or failure.
“I had no idea whether the members were swing votes or not,” Bonner said.
Democrats on the select panel said the three members in question were
well-known as swing votes prior to the House floor debate. Ultimately,
the climate bill, which was co-sponsored by Reps. Henry Waxman
(D-Calif.) and Edward Markey (D-Mass.), passed on a 219-212 vote.
who is the chairman of the House global warming panel, read an e-mail
from Hawthorn Group, the subcontractor that actually hired Bonner &
Associates on behalf of ACCCE, directing the firm to target seven
The “miscommunications,” Markey said, “went right to
the heart” of the debate, because they targeted key members and
represented constituencies that could be more vulnerable to increases
in energy prices.
The select panel’s investigation into the
forgeries also became a broader examination of how the clean coal group
has lobbied the climate bill.
Miller, ACCCE’s president,
insisted the group did not oppose the bill, but only sought to make
changes to it, including the addition of cost controls to keep energy
prices from rising precipitously.
But Rep. Jay Inslee
(D-Wash.) read a Bonner & Associates training document laying out a
script that its employees should read to constituents. The training
document implies the climate bill could double energy prices.
said he wasn’t sure the text was actually used in live calls. Miller
said his group was not aware of and did not know the training document
was used and that it never claimed the climate bill would double
electricity rates, although the group believes it will raise them.
Markey said it was in the “coal industry’s interest” not to inform the members that the letters were fake.
“You are kind of giving the Sgt. Shultz defense: ‘I see nothing. I know nothing,’ ” Markey said.
said ACCCE, which represents coal producers and major coal users, had
created a “climate” in which the forgeries occurred by working to
deceive the country about a supposed lack of consensus on climate
Both Miller and Bonner said they have implemented new
practices designed to prevent a similar situation from occurring.
Bonner, for example, said the firm has hired American University
political science Professor James Thurber to act as an independent
ACCCE is also refusing to pay the $43,500 Bonner & Associates was to receive for its grassroots work.