DeSmog

Groups Impersonated by Big Coal Testify Before Congress

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DeSmogBlog spoke this week to one of several groups impersonated by Big Coal to block the Waxman Markey Bill, and they are not happy.

Lisa Maatz, director of public policy and government relations for the American Association of University Women (AAUW) had just finished testifying before a Congressional hearing in the fraudulent letter scam:

It was very clear to me that this was specifically targeting certain members using the names of reputable groups because those groups could be influential with those members, and it wasn’t just a fluke, it wasn’t just an accident.”

No doubt. The American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE), a coal industry umbrella group, is on track to spend an incredible $44 million on lobbying efforts in 2009. This includes almost $3 million dedicated to “outreach to individuals and groups representing the interests of minorities, seniors, business, and veterans.”

Bonner and Associates sent out numerous forged letters misrepresenting just such grassroots groups. In the case of the now-closed AAUW Charlottesville office, Bonner used the personal address of the former chapter president and the name of the late and well-loved AAUW historian Anne Waldner.

Maatz wonders: “How did they come up with that name? Clearly some work was done to find something that would feel on the surface as legitimate.”

Maatz also said she hopes that legal charges will be pursued to discourage this kind of corporate deception. “Quite frankly the AAUW hopes the Attorney General will starting looking into this with an investigation to see there is the possibility of criminal charges being involved”

Maatz also believes the incident presents an opportunity, and an argument, to pass legislation making such deceptive Astroturf practices illegal.

I would like to see the Department of Justice take a hard look at this. I can’t imagine that this is the first time that forged letters have been sent to Congress, given the volume of mail that they get. This is probably just the first time they were caught. We need to look into what happened, why it happened and what kind of solution we want to propose to try and forcefully discourage it in the future.”

Perhaps the difference between Astroturf and real grassroots is best summed up by one the 100,000 real life members of the AAUW when she learned that Big Coal was impersonating their good name:

As a former President of the Charlottesville AAUW Branch, I was shocked to learn from Gwen Dent, our last President, that the cited letter used her home address without her permission and cited the name of our dear lamented longtime historian, Anne Waldner, who died before the ‘cap and trade‘ issue ever came up. So, not only were Bonner and Associates engaging brazenly in theft of the AAUW logo, their theft of address and identity was grossly insulting.”

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