DeSmog Exclusive: The Policy Communications Inc. Astroturf Shell Game

DeSmog Exclusive: The Policy Communications Inc. Astroturf Shell Game
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Desmog Blog has uncovered an energy industry-backed astro-turf network concocted by a single PR/Lobbying firm that is working to undermine the efforts of environmental groups and organizations like the Western Climate Initiative (WCI). that are pushing for solutions to climate change.

The Top of the Pyramid

At the top of the network is a PR/Lobby firm with offices in Colorado and Washington, DC called Policy Communications Inc. The firms principals are:

Jim Sims, President/CEO

Holly Propst, Senior Vice President

Greg Schnacke, Vice President

Paul Poister, Vice President

Britt Weygandt , Vice President

Cody Stewart, Policy Specialist

Western Business Roundtable and Communications Policy Inc.

Policy Communications Inc., is linked to three separate organizations that are all running pro-energy, anti-climate action organizations. The first is the Western Business Roundtable, an organization I reported on last week when DeSmogBlog obtained a memo outlining their plans to derail the Western Climate Initiative.

Most of the Executive members and employees of the Western Business Roundtable are staff of Policy Communications Inc, they are:

Jim Sims, President and CEO of the Western Business Roundtable

Britt Weygandt, Executive Director

Holly Propst, Director of Policy

Cody Stewart, Washington, D.C., Representative

The Western Business Roundtable shares the same Colorado and Washington, DC business addresses with Communications Policy Inc. Here’s a side-by-side screenshot:

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As for lobbying dollars passing between the Western Business Roundtable and Policy Communications Inc., there’s been plenty:

In 2008, Policy Communications staff including Jim Sims, Holly Propst, Greg Schnacke, Cody Stewart, Britt Weygandt, and Darrell Henry were paid $150,000 to lobby on behalf of the Western Business Roundtable.

In 2007, Policy Communications staff including Jim Sims, Paul Poister, Holly Propst, Greg Schnacke, Cody Stewart, and Darrell Henry were paid $160,000 to lobby on behalf of the Western Business Roundtable.

In 2006, Policy Communications staff including Jim Sims, Holly Propst, Cody Stewart, and Darrell Henry were paid $160,000 to lobby on behalf of the Western Business Roundtable.

So the staff at Western Business Roundtable has paid themselves a total of $470,000 at Policy Communications Inc., in three year. What we don’t know (yet) is who is paying the Western Business Roundtable’s lobby bill.

Partnership for America and Communications Policy Inc.

The second astroturf group being operated by Communications Policy Inc. is called Partnership for America, whose slogan is “Freedom, jobs and a clean environment.” Their mandate, however, seems somewhat contradictory, given that they lobby to stop excessive wilderness designations in California, drill for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and develop coal-to-liquid fuel technology.

Partnership for America is a non-profit organization registered under section 501(c)(4) of the Internal Revenue Service code. The organization also goes by the name Partnership for the West.

All but one of the staff are, again, senior staffers at Communications Policy Inc. They are:

Paul Poister, Executive Vice President

Holly Propst, Director of Public Policy

Jims Sims, Senior Advisor and Founder

It’s interesting to note that in each of the Partnershipn for America bios, there is a detailed list of hobbies and past political work, but no mention anywhere about their current employment at Policy Communications Inc. The bio for Jim Sims mentions that he likes woodworking and fishing, but fails to mention that he is currently the President and CEO of lobby firm with offices in Colorado and Washington, DC.

Partnership for America also shares the same Colorado and Washington, DC business addresses with Communications Policy Inc. Here’s a side-by-side screenshot:

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us

Staff members at Policy Communications who also work at Partnership for America have claimed $70,000 in lobbying fees.

Americans for American Energy and Policy Communications Inc.

The final group in this lobby network is Americans for American Energy (AAE), which could easily be renamed Energy Lobbyists for American Energy.  Recent activities by the AAE include strking a petition to support “clean coal,” claiming that “more American energy means less money for terrorists,” and boosting the use of “coal-to-liquid-fuel technology.”

The President and CEO of Americans for American Energy is Greg Schnacke who is also a Vice President at Policy Communications Inc, where he “helps lead Policy Communication’s energy advocacy practice.” Prior to his work as a lobbyist Schenke was Executive Director of the Colorado Oil & Gas Association (COGA).

Not surprisingly, Americans for American Energy also shares the same Colorado address with Communications Policy Inc. Here’s a side-by-side screenshot:

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us

In the last two years, Schnacke has claimed $140,000 in lobbying expenses for Policy Communications for the work he has done for his “client” the Americans for American Energy.

So to get all this straightened away:

Jim Sims is President/CEO of Policy Communications. He is also listed as President/CEO of the Western Business Roundtable, and Senior Advisor for Partnership for America

Holly Propst is Senior Vice President of Policy Communications. She is also listed as Director of Policy at the Western Business Roundtable, and Director of Public Policy at Partnership for America.

Greg Schnacke is Vice President of Policy Communications. He is also listed as President/CEO of Americans for American Energy.

Paul Poister is Vice President of Policy Communications. He is also listed as Public Policy Specialist at the Western Business Roundtable, and Executive Vice President of Partnership for America.

Britt Weygandt is Vice President of Policy Communications. Britt is also listed as Executive Director of Western Business Roundtable.

Cody Stewart is Policy Specialist at Policy Communications. Cody is also listed as Washington DC Representative of Western Business Roundtable.

On one level, there’s no doubt that Policy Communications Inc., has realized the power of a message coming from a seemingly third-party organization of “concerned average citizens” than an energy company with a vested interest or a paid lobbyist. It’s called “astroturfing” – the setting up of fake grassroots organizations and it’s one of the oldest tricks in the books.

But what about the money trails – a fortune flowing from a (currently) anonymous source to a third-party group, one of which is a registered 501 (c) non-profit, on to a lobby firm who staffs all the third-party groups seems fishy to me.

You be the judge. We will keep digging to get to the bottom of this incredible story.

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