Protests grow over big oil forgery scandal

The corporate-Republican fabrication of fake 'public opposition' to clean energy (as well as health care reform) has become so aggressive and mendacious that the Sierra Club responded by launching an online 'Liar, liar, pants on fire' campaign.

It was initiated after Democratic Rep. Tom Perriello who represents Charlottesville, Virginia, discovered that letters to him opposing the American Clean Energy and Security Act supposedly from the local NAACP and a local Latino group, Creciendo Juntos, were actually forgeries fabricated by the corporate PR firm, Bonner & Associates on behalf of a coalition of oil and coal corporations.

Perriello exposed the fraud and alerted Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass) co-author of the clean energy bill and chair of the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming. Markey has launched a congressional investigation into a total of 58 letters that appear to be forged, the most recent purporting to be from a senior center in Pennsylvania.

Sierra Club media spokesman David Willett told the World 'Obviously we have no objection to anyone expressing their opinion on legislation but we have a lot of concern about the fact that both the oil and coal corporations are using misinformation and now flat-out forgeries to create an impression that there is a groundswell of public opposition to clean energy when clearly that is not the case.'

He pointed out that the forged letters misrepresented 'well-respected' groups like the NAACP that would be within their rights to sue Bonner & Associates for the forgeries. 'We are encouraging people to contact their Senators and Representatives to voice their support for the clean energy legislation so that the Senators know where the people really stand on this,' Willett said.

Hilary O. Shelton, Director of the NAACP’s Washington Bureau, said, 'The NAACP is appalled that an organization like Bonner & Associates would stoop to these depths to deceive Congress ... exploiting the African-American community to achieve their misdirected goal.' The letters in the name of the NAACP 'are completely false and the NAACP is diametrically opposed to the claims made in the correspondence.'

He said it 'begs the question of how many times they have done this to deceive the U.S. Congress.' The text of a similar forged letter from Creciendo Juntos, available on the TPM website reads, 'We support making the environment cleaner ....we are concerned about our electricity bills ... We ask you to use your important position to help protect minorities and other consumers in your district from higher electricity bill. Please don’t vote to force cost increases on us, especially in this volatile economy.'

The American Petroleum Institute (API) has unleashed the latest phase of this corporate 'Astroturf' dirty trick campaign. They are orchestrating a series of 22 public rallies attended by oil company employees against the clean energy act. Greenpeace, the environmental group, obtained an internal memo signed by API President and CEO, Jack N. Gerard, calling on oil companies to turn their employees out for these rallies 'to put a human face on the impacts of unsound energy policy and to aim a loud message at those states’ U.S, Senators ... and the Obama Administration’s tax increases on our industry.'

Gerard added, 'We have identified 11 states with a significant industry presence and 10 other states where we have assets on the ground.' He lists as allies the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, and the trucking industry 'which have pledged to have their membership join in the event.'

He adds: 'To be clear, API will provide the up-front resources to ensure logistical issues do not become a problem. This includes contracting with a highly experienced events management company that has produced successful rallies for presidential campaigns, corporations, and interest groups.'

Already the first rally has been held in Houston, Texas, attended by more than 3,000 oil company employees bused in by the employers and asked to send letters to their Senators.

The Sierra Club sent a letter to the U.S. Justice Department urging an inquiry into the letter forging suggesting that these forgeries may be a violation of laws against 'wire fraud' defined as a 'scheme or artifice to defraud. Or for obtaining money or property by means of false or fraudulent pretenses…' The felony is punishable by up to 20 years.