Bonner's Latest Astroturf Admission (Plus More Fake Letters)

| Tue Aug. 18, 2009 6:21 PM EDT

Rep. Ed Markey's Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming has released a new batch of bogus letters sent to members of Congress by Bonner & Associates, including one the DC-based PR and lobbying firm previously told the committee was genuine but admitted on Monday was also a fake. The letters claim to be from representatives of local senior citizens groups concerned that climate change legislation will drive up energy costs for the elderly in an already "volatile economy."  

Founded in 1984 by Jack Bonner, a former GOP Senate aide and Republican National Committee staffer, the company specializes in Astroturf campaigns—efforts to create the illusion of grassroots support around the positions of its corporate clients. The firm accomplishes this by, among other things, convincing citizens, nonprofits, and others to sign letters to lawmakers in support or opposition to various issues.

Bonner's astroturfing techniques are dodgy in their own right, but the company took them to an even shadier level as the climate change bill authored by Markey and Henry Waxman neared a vote in the House. Bonner's role in crafting the phony letters first emerged in July,   after the legislation had already passed, when a local paper reported that the firm had sent forged letters to Virginia Democrat Tom Perriello purporting to be from minority groups opposed to the climate change bill. It was later revealed that Bonner, working on behalf of the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, had targeted two other congressional Democrats, Kathy Dahlkemper and Christopher Carney, with this deceptive campaign. Both of the lawmakers, who represent districts in Pennsylvania, ultimately voted against the Waxman-Markey bill.

Jack Bonner has claimed that the letters were the work of a rogue "temporary employee" whom the firm fired when his or her actions came to light. ACCCE, meanwhile, has expressed "outrage" over the letters, even raising the possibility of taking legal action against Bonner.
 

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