Business & Lobbying

Thurber: Advertisement praising grass-roots lobbyist a ‘mistake’

American University professor James Thurber said a newspaper
advertisement bought by his Center for Congressional and Presidential
Studies praising the head of a grassroots lobbying firm that sent
forged letters to Capitol Hill was a “mistake.”
The ad, which ran in Roll Call, thanked Jack Bonner, president and founder of Bonner & Associates, for “15 years of teaching excellence.” Bonner worked with Thurber at American University.
{mosads}“It was a mistake to run an ad in Roll Call this week to thank an adjunct professor and long-time colleague who is involved in a political controversy, and to name individuals in the ad without their approval,” Thurber said in a statement sent to The Hill by the university. “This was a lapse in judgment on my part and I certainly would not do this again.”
The ad includes a picture of Bonner at a chalkboard and a list of guests lecturers at his grass-roots lobbying workshop.

Bonner’s firm was investigated by the House Select Committee on Global Warming and Energy Independence after it was discovered that Bonner & Associates had sent letters to three House members falsely claiming community groups opposed the climate-change bill. The letters, which claimed to represent local chapters of the NAACP, the American Association of University Women, and other groups, were allegedly sent by a temporary employee working for Bonner’s firm who was subsequently fired.

Bonner later apologized to the committee and the members who received the fake correspondence.

The firm was working on behalf of the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, which has said it had no prior knowledge of the forgeries and did not pay Bonner & Associates for its grass-roots work prior to the vote in the House on climate legislation.

At a hearing last month, Bonner told the House committee that he instituted a series of practices designed to prevent a similar circumstance in the future. That included hiring Thurber as an independent ethics adviser. In the statement, Thurber said he “mentioned to Mr. Bonner his need for ethics training for his staff.”

“There was no contractual arrangement for me to be involved with Bonner and Associates pro bono or otherwise.”

“I regret the impact my actions have had on the American University community,” Thurber said in the statement.


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