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The dog ate my homework: Excuses for ACES letter fraud proliferate

August 4th, 2009 · 3 Comments

My pencil broke … The library was closed … My alarm clock didn’t go off … Car had a flat tire … The dog ate my homework … Excuses. Excuses. Excuses.

Excuses …

When it comes to the fraudulent letters sent to members of Congress against clean energy action by Bonner & Associates on behalf of the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, the excuses just keep coming.

  • Bonner & Associates assures us that it was some rogue employee (temp, contractor, part timer, not quite sure what status) acting outside their normal procedures.
  • ACCCE assures us that “ACCCE has always maintained high ethical and professional standards.” They don’t want to get into all their shenanigans nor do they address the fact they knew about this fraud no later than three days before the American Clean Energy & Security (ACES) Act vote back in June yet couldn’t see a reason that their “high ethical and professional standards” might have led them to disclose this prior to a journalist breaking the story on 31 July.
  • The latest of excuses? The Hawthorn Group, an ACCCE contractor who served as the middleman between ACCCE and Bonner. From Michael Coe, Hawthorn’s CEO “regarding falsified constituent letters sent to Congressional offices by Bonner & Associates”:

    “Since 2000, The Hawthorn Group has had the privilege of working with the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE) on its public outreach programs.

    An Hawthorn has been proud of it and bragged about how they were able to manipulate the discussions in the 2008 elections via a false grassroots effort. Take a look at their claims as to impact:

    “In September 2007, on the key measurement question—Do you support/oppose the use of coal to generate electricity?—we found 46 percent support and 50 percent oppose. In a 2008 year-end survey that result had shifted to 72 percent support and 22 percent oppose. Not only did we see significantly increased support, opposition was cut by more than half. Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain addresses a crowd wearing “Clean Coal hats” in Pennsylvania.”

    Why does ACCCE use Hawthorne? Well, if they’re to be believed, they’re effective at using false grassroots to impact political perspectives.

    “As part of our outreach efforts during the House debate on H.R. 2454, Hawthorn engaged Bonner & Associates to reach out to organizations to explain ACCCE’s position on the issue, and, if the organization’s position aligned with ACCCE’s, to request that they send a letter to their respective U.S. Representative.

    Translation: Ah, let’s spend lots of money to see if we can find organizations that can be conned into signing a letter contrary to their interests and contrary to the interests of their members.

    “After completion of the project, Mr. Bonner informed Hawthorn that in addition to the legitimate letters resulting from their work, some falsified letters had been delivered to a few legislators.

    There is a Congressional investigation under way. And, there quite likely will be a Department of Justic look at this. So, question, Bonner & Associates’ work truly was judged complete prior to the House ACES vote? There wasn’t consideration of using them to influence the Senate? Hmmm … we know that Hawthorne and ACCCE knew about this by 24 June. When was the “completion of the project”?

    This violated Bonner’s own quality control and verification process that we understood was in place before we hired him.

    Do you see that ‘out’. It is the ‘quality control and verification process’ that Hawthorne “understood was in place”.

    Hawthorn immediately terminated our work with Bonner and promptly advised ACCCE of the identified falsified letters and informed ACCCE that Mr. Bonner had agreed to follow up with the congressional offices and organizations to inform them and to apologize on behalf of Bonner & Associates. Only subsequently did Hawthorn learn that Bonner had failed to reach the congressional offices to properly advise them.

    Jeez … we didn’t know that Bonner didn’t do what we say that he promised to do. Hmmm … no reason for ACCCE to make calls, it seems.

    “The Hawthorn Group deeply regrets that Bonner & Associates caused the fabricated letters to be sent to the congressional offices and its failure to follow up appropriately when they discovered the error. We maintain the highest ethical and quality control standards for our work, and nothing like this has happened in our 17 years in business. We are taking steps to ensure that it doesn’t happen again.

    It is good to learn that every organization involved has a clear reason as to why this isn’t their fault, that this violates their own procedures, and please go back to watching America’s Got Talent since this will never happen again.

    Nothing to be interest in here.

    Never … happen … again …

    In any event, clearly, these organizations don’t wear Nikes.

    UPDATE: Rachel Maddow had Representative Tom Perriello on her show — very much worth watching. (Mea culpa, having problems embedding the video.)

    PS1: In pure irony, from Hawthorne’s bragging “letter” about their ACCCE efforts:

    We became an integral part of the story rather than fighting for news in a saturated communications environment.

    Looks like they’re an “integral part of the story” yet again.

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    Tags: astroturfing · coal · Congress · Energy · government energy policy · politics · renewable energy

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