For far too long and far too extensively, various industries have used astroturfing methods to distort public debate. They create false groups. They fund “institutions” with impressive sounding names to spout deceptive propaganda. All of this is fraud, outright fraud on the very concept of intelligent discourse in a civil society. Now, this “fraud” typical doesn’t cross into actual directly illegal activity, a “fraud” that could attract the attention of the Postal Service (using the mail for fraud), police (stealing letterhead, using copyright / trademark protected material as part of a misrepresentation), and Congressional inquiry. Sometimes, however, it does cross the line to directly illegal activity. And, well, on even rarer occasions that fraud is uncovered in the light of day.
Such is the case of lobbying firm Bonner & Associates forging letters from at least two minority organizations to Representative Tom Perriello urging him to vote against clean energy legislation, seeking to show (falsely) that minority constituents in his districts were against energy smart legislation. The organizations involved are, justifiably, outraged.
“They stole our name. They stole our logo. They created a position title and made up the name of someone to fill it. They forged a letter and sent it to our congressman without our authorization,” said Tim Freilich, who sits on the executive committee of Creciendo Juntos, a nonprofit network that tackles issues related to Charlottesville’s Hispanic community. “It’s this type of activity that undermines Americans’ faith in democracy.”
The NAACP, which just issued an historic statement on climate change a few weeks ago, had this to say
“The NAACP is appalled that an organization like Bonner and Associates would stoop to these depths to deceive Congress. In this case Bonner and Associates are exploiting the African-American Community to achieve their misdirected goal. These tactics illustrate that discriminatory tactics normally used to deceive voters are now being used to deceive the Congress,” stated Hilary O. Shelton, Director of the NAACP’s Washington Bureau and Senior Vice President for Advocacy.
The American Clean Energy and Security Act, sponsored by Congressman Edward Markey and Congressman Henry Waxman, contains provisions that would reduce greenhouse gas emissions and create grants for green jobs.
“These letters that were sent to members of Congress in the name of the NAACP are completely false and the NAACP is diametrically opposed to the claims made in the correspondence.”
Nothing should surprise us anymore after we’ve seen powerful interests mislead about the science, twist the facts about climate change, resort to a whole host of tactics to try to hide a simple fact: the earth is in trouble because of manmade greenhouse gasses, our planet is getting closer and closer to a dangerous tipping point, and we must do something about this immediately.
But I have to say, this appears to be a desperate distortion too many.
There is going to be a Congressional investigation.
Juliana Williams highlights how fraud and identify theft are “all in a day’s work” and asks “How many lobbyists does it take to screw in a lightbulb up democracy?”
There once was a firm known as Bonner
Whose tactics were lacking in honor.
“Can’t get white letters read?
We’ll forge brown ones instead!”
Oh Bonner, you should be a goner.
Avaaz Action Factory went out into a rainstorm with a rather vivid statement about the naked frauds being perpetuated by those fighting against a clean energy future. (As a note, those involved in the protest did not realize that Tom Perriello was one of the Avaaz founders.)
Sadly, this is almost certainly not an isolated incident (and this is not the first time that Bonner & Associates has been caught playing games), but such fraudulent misrepresentation has a long history even as they claim the ‘intern’ defense. Whether in distorting science or seeking to misrepresent public support, fraudulent claims and representations are core to the anti-science sydrome suffering haters of a livable economy. And, it seems likely, that direct “fraud” and misrepresentation is far from isolated to Bonnor & Associates.