The Case Of The Forged Letters – a cap-and-trade mystery

July 31, 2009

A half-dozen fake letters, signed by people who don’t seem to exist and who work at made-up jobs, are causing a bit of buzz in the environmental world — mostly because the letters urged a Virginia congressman to vote against a cap-and-trade system to curb climate change.

The Sierra Club calls it “dirty tricks.” The Union of Concerned Scientists points out that the PR firm said to be behind the fake-letter lobbying effort has a history of working against climate legislation. Rep. Ed Markey, who chairs a House committee on energy independence and global warming, said the committee will investigate. The Daily Progress newspaper in Charlottesville published a detailed story.

The congressman, Tom Perriello, voted for the cap-and-trade bill anyway. It passed by a slim margin and the Senate is expected to take up this matter in September.

The alleged forgeries came in letters made to look as if they were sent from two civil rights organizations: the local branch of the NAACP and Creciendo Juntos, a network for Charlottesville’s Hispanic community — neither of which oppose cap-and-trade. The Daily Progress tracked the letters to a Washington lobbying firm, Bonner & Associates. A partner at the Bonner firm apologized to Creciendo Juntos, but that probably won’t be the end of the matter.

Jack Bonner, the president of Bonner & Associates, responded to a call for comment by e-mail: “We take our business very seriously. A temporary employee—lied to us—and contrary to our policies sent these letters. We—no one else—we on our own found this out. We immediately fired the person. We then, called those effected, explained what happened and apologized. In the case of the group in the story—we did it in person and by letter. This should not have happened—we had a bad employee—but through our internal checks, we found the problem, and on our own initiative took the step to notify the affected group.”

Interesting thing about the Bonner firm: its acknowledged specialty is “grassroots” lobbying — even though grassroots politics used to mean efforts that come from the ground up, from the rank-and-file members of a group. The Union of Concerned Scientists, which strongly favors the legislation that Bonner’s clients presumably oppose, pointed reporters to a now-defunct Web site Bonner put up for the Western Fuels Association to oppose the carbon-capping Kyoto Protocol back in the 1990s.

The association said the site generated 20,000 e-mails in opposition, including one from a mythical “George Jetson.” The cartoon character complained that he would have to pay an extra $24,239,987.52 a year if Congress ratified the Kyoto pact. They didn’t, and the United States is now the only industrialized country that hasn’t joined the protocol.

Carl Pope, Sierra Club’s executive director, praised Perriello for voting for the bill and for looking into the efforts of “the dirty, old business-as-usual players who tried to sway his vote.” Pope also noted that other members of Congress may have received the same kind of forged letters, urging them to vote against the bill: “It is disturbing, to say the least, to think that some congresspeople may have, in good faith, voted thinkingthey were representing their communities when in fact they were not.”

So the question is: did this lobbying effort, and others, sway the vote on the climate bill in the House? Will the same efforts come into play in September in the Senate? And is this an outrage, or just the way Washington works?

Photo credit: REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst (U.S. Capitol dome, February 24, 2009)


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I’m not convinced e-mails do much, one way or the other. I write my Congressman and both Senators quite regularly, but as far as I know, my e-mails have not made one iota’s difference. Once in a while — but not very often — I’ll actually get a reply, one at the very least some staffer has taken the time and trouble to cut-and-paste in points dear to “The Boss.” But they voted the way they said they would anyway. Which usually is not the way I’d like to see them vote, though there have been exceptions, to be fair.I wonder if the cap-and-trade legislation is going to do any good anyway.Mekhong KurtBangkok, Thailand

Posted by Mekhong Kurt | Report as abusive

SHAME on these companies for putting profit before prudence! It is good that Mr. Kurt feels strongly enough to leave a comment. I strongly urge all to write to their Senators and Representatives, even if it seems to be whistling in the wind. They have no way of knowing what their constituents want without it. As for the effectiveness of cap and trade – we DO know what doing nothing at all is doing and we know that it is not good. LOOK, we only get this ONE garden planet. Let’s PLEASE do whatever it takes to clean it up for whatever life is left after our rampant raping, shall we?

Posted by Joe Chasse | Report as abusive

Glad they smoked out this deception. These guys can’t compete with the likes of ACORN when it comes to deception – they are rank amateurs! If we all get on board now, we can help Obama snuff out what remains of the embers of the American economy.

Posted by Jack Frost | Report as abusive

This whole Global Warning/Cap & Trade is a big SCAM.. Just another way this current administration will control

Posted by Notasheeple | Report as abusive

Either way, it is an outrage. The government is overstepping its constitutional bounds, and the ignorant people in the country are standing idly by as they do so. Wake up America, learn and understand and stand for what made this country the greatest country in the history of the world. We have elevated the rest of the world like no other country, because we can, and if we let the government run us over, we will no longer be able to lift others, and no longer be able to hold ourselves up.

Posted by Stephen | Report as abusive

Cap and Trade, just another tax which will be passed on in prices.The only gainers in cap and trade will be the financial institutions that trade these instruments. We have just had a demonstration of how these vultures operate. How long before they slice and dice these parcels up and leverage them into another financial disaster?

Posted by sid greenstreet | Report as abusive

The cap & trade bill (as well as the so-called healthcare plan) will be the down fall of this country.When Michelle Obama stated in a speech b4 the election that the country as we know it will never be the same, if her husband is elected, really rings true. He is destroying it with his socialist agenda!!

Posted by Irish Eyes | Report as abusive

I’m all for environmental efforts that force energy companies to be held responsible for their crimes against the environment, but this has nothing to do with standing against the corporate interests.I call shenanigans. This is the result of a campaign to get people behind cap and trade by framing it as the industrial sector trying to stop its progress.Don’t respond to this as a reactionary. Investigate the policies and facts for yourselves.

Posted by Amos Bransford | Report as abusive

I totally agree with sid greenstreet…What company stands to benefit from a sale of offsets?Let’s look at The “privately-owned” Chicago Climate Exchange which seems heavily influenced by Obama cohorts Al Gore and Maurice Strong. Their website boasts they are “North Americas ONLY cap & trade system for all greenhouse gases with global affiliates and projects worldwide”… imagine that!! tent.j sf?id=821Then turn your attention to Chicago Climate Futures Exchange: where their website informs us they are “a landmark derivatives exchange that currently offers standardized and cleared futures and options contracts on emission allowances and other environmental products” it is also revealed there that CCFE is a wholly owned subsidiary of CCX. Imagine that!Not to be overlooked is The Joyce Foundation a charity onon whose board of directors Obama served and which gave nearly $1.1 million in two separate grants that were instrumental in developing and launching the privately-owned Chicago Climate Exchange: Here is a PDF of their 2001 annual report. 09_report01.pdfWho is in position to personally gain the mo$t?I would suggest you look at not only Gore and Obama but also the mysterious millionaire Maurice Strong. For years strong has been cashing in on “global warming”. Strong is on the board of directors of the Chicago ClimateExchange, Wikipedia-described as “the world’s first and North America’s only legally binding greenhouse gas emission registry reduction system for emission sources and offset projects in North America and Brazil.” He co-authored the ‘Earth Charter’ with Mikhail Gorbachev in 1992. PDF HERE: load/about_the_Initiative_history_2t.pdf Just for grins here is Strong in a 1972 interview with BBC x0L xo

Posted by Folklight | Report as abusive

Anyone that thinks that there letters are being read by any elected official or high level executive is really very niave. Staffers act as spam filters and pass on what they think the boss will like. Even the Sierra Clubblew off the invite to the 2001 Energy Summit by Dick Cheney, registered mail from the White House, because the staffers ‘knew’ it was a trick. The other ‘greenies’ came. v/politics/documents/cheney_energy_task_ force.html

Posted by Brian from Hamilton | Report as abusive

The article is not about Global Warming. Whether the Congressman read the e-mails or not makes no difference. The point is, that no matter what the position is, forgery and deception are not acceptable in politics.

Posted by TheLuke | Report as abusive

Reuters seems to miss the big question here. Is this legal? Can a lobbyist firm send out fraudulent mail, from individuals claiming to be part of legitimate organizations in order to misrepresent their organizations.This must be mail and wire fraud at the very least. Identity theft seems a reasonable charge as well.Sounds like Bonner and Associates should now be without license and out of business awhile some individuals should be under investigation and then indictment.This lobbying firm going under would be a plus to the American public.

Posted by dg | Report as abusive

The Luke is right.Deception is deception, immoral and maybe illegal (I’ll leave that part to the lawyers).By the way, who is paying Bonner’s fees? They don;t do this stuff for free.The cap and trade legislation is America’s first attempt to limit the carbon dioxide emissions that are wrecking the world’s climate. Tell me again why that’s supposed to be a bad idea? It seems to me we are just getting, once again, swamped with propaganda from far-right crazies.I see no evidence or logic offered by those who claim that cap-and-trade would supposedly harm the economy. I don’t believe it Give a few coal-bring polluters an incentive to get clean, maybe. And what’s bad about that?

Posted by Mike | Report as abusive

You say, “And is this an outrage, or just the way Washington works?” An outrage is not attention is being to global warming. It is and has done so many times the planet tells us. Yet where is the planning to get our cities and sewage systems moved to higher ground? Preparing for new farm lands, etc. as the climate changes? Yet the greatest collection of fools ever elected have not made one step of preparation. If man stepped up the cycle by some small amount, doubtful as the mid-Atlantic ridge releases much more green-house gases daily than we do in months, man cannot stop only try to live through it.

Posted by alt_bob | Report as abusive

This article shows just how far some people will go to protect their pockets. Cap-and-trade will not be good for the coal or energy companies because it will force them to actually find solutions and reduce their negative impact on the world. Contrary to Republican-spread lies, this will not cost the consumer his life savings. Bills include protections to make sure the companies don’t pass the cost on to the consumer. Besides, if you actually pause to think about it, renewable energy is RENEWABLE, therefore once it is up and going, it will be much cheaper. Fossil fuels are not only running out, but they are polluting our planet for future generations.

Posted by M_E_B | Report as abusive

People like my self tend to over look the evidence because of the track record of some of the goons that have attached themselves to this”cause”.A classic example here in CA is there has been in the past a drive to advocate bio fuel with the ratio of 2000 gallons of water needed to produce 1 gallon of bio fuel,and there is a shortage of water! Sheer political dogma has been injected into debate from floating in the air liberals,which unfortunately has conservatives like my self looking at the messenger rather than the message!the CA assembly again rejected the any attempt to harvest the vast gas and oil reserves,but the crippling financial mess we are in must have at least got it,s feasibility nearer to consideration because the no voters had the votes remover from public record,not wanting to the electorate to know who they are.

Posted by brian | Report as abusive