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Coal Industry-Sponsored Fake Letters Focus of House Hearing

October 30, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

fakeletterAccording to testimony yesterday before the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, a temp employee of Bonner & Associates forged 14 letters, making them appear as if they came from community groups and sending them to members of Congress. The letters urged the lawmakers to vote against upcoming cap and trade legislation.

Jack Bonner, founder and president of Bonner & Associates, said the forged letters were an “anomaly” and a “most unfortunate matter.” The temp, he said, had been fired.

Bonner’s firm had been hired as a subcontractor by the Hawthorn Group, which was in turn hired by coal industry advocate American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity.

Bonner learned of the forgeries on June 22 and notified Hawthorn, which informed ACCCE. But nobody even attempted to tell the affected members of Congress until July 1 – after the vote had been held on the American Clean Energy and Security Act on June 26. Then Bonner tried to notify two of the three members who received letters (though they didn’t actually reach them for almost two more weeks). They never tried to contact the third member.

Why didn’t the company contact the recipients of the letters until after the vote? Bonner had no answer to that question.

He did claim he didn’t know when the vote was taking place, but several committee members were openly skeptical about that possibility, including Chairman Ed Markey (D-MA) and Rep. Jay Inslee (D-WA), who said that the vote’s date was widely advertised and, after all, his company was conducting a major letter-writing campaign against the legislation. “All I can say is, give me a break,” Rep. Inslee said.

The committee’s ranking Republican, Wisconsin Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner, said that left-leaning organizations are also engaging in deceptive tactics, mentioning the Yes Men’s fake news conference a few weeks ago, in which they announced that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce had reversed its position on climate change legislation.

Markey said after the hearing that his committee will continue to investigate the case of the fraudulent letters.

— Suzanne Bopp

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