Friends of Coal, Friends of Coal Industry

Friends of Coal, Friends of Coal Industry
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Readers have asked us to take a look at a West Virginian organization calling themselves the “Friends of Coal.”

According to their website, the Friends of Coal is a “… volunteer organization that consists of both West Virginians and residents from beyond our borders.” Sounds all very grassroots. Just a group of citizens joining together to cheer on the glories of coal.

For a volunteer organization Friends of Coal are very well-heeled – how many volunteer groups have a sponsored race car, run television ads and send logo-ed frisbees to the troops in Iraq?

Not many.

It didn’t take long though to figure out where all that money is coming from. The Friends of Coal is a thinly veiled front group of the main coal industry lobby group in West Virginia, the West Virginia Coal Association. Most obvious is the logo in the bottom left hand corner of the Friends of Coal website (but no disclosure of their involvement) and a quick domain name search finds that the Friends of Coal website is registered to the West Virginia Coal Association.

The membership of the West Virginia Coal Association is the who’s who of the coal industry.

The technique is called astroturfing and it’s one of the oldest public relations ploys in the spindoctor play-book. While most people inherently mistrust big industry, they do trust their neighbors and groups who do not appear agenda-driven and that’s why astroturfing works.

At least it does until pesky sites like DeSmogBlog start to poke around!

Friends of Coal, Friends of Coal Industry

Kevin is a contributor and strategic adviser to DeSmogBlog.

He runs the digital marketing agency Spake Media House. Named a “Green Hero” by Rolling Stone Magazine and one of the “Top 50 Tweeters” on climate change and environment issues, Kevin has appeared in major news media outlets around the world for his work on digital campaigning.

Kevin has been involved in the public policy arena in both the United States and Canada for more than a decade. For five years he was the managing editor of DeSmogBlog.com. In this role, Kevin’s research into the “climate denial industry” and the right-wing think tank networks was featured in news media articles around the world. He is most well known for his ground-breaking research into David and Charles Koch’s massive financial investments in the Republican and tea party networks.

Kevin is the first person to be designated a “Certified Expert” on the political and community organizing platform NationBuilder.

Prior to DeSmogBlog, Kevin worked in various political and government roles. He was Senior Advisor to the Minister of State for Multiculturalism and a Special Assistant to the Minister of State for Asia Pacific, Foreign Affairs for the Government of Canada. Kevin also worked in various roles in the British Columbia provincial government in the Office of the Premier and the Ministry of Health.

In 2008 Kevin co-founded a groundbreaking new online election tool called Vote for Environment which was later nominated for a World Summit Award in recognition of the world’s best e-Content and innovative ICT applications.

Kevin moved to Washington, DC in 2010 where he worked for two years as the Director of Online Strategy for Greenpeace USA and has since returned to his hometown of Vancouver, Canada.

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