Did Coal Lobby CEO Lie Under Oath?

| Thu Oct. 29, 2009 12:41 PM EDT

In testimony before Congress on Thursday, Steve Miller, CEO for American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, a major coal industry lobby group, stated under oath that his organization "has never opposed the Waxman-Markey bill."

But ACCCE's previous statements indicate otherwise. On the day that the House passed the legislation, Miller himself issued a press release stating, "ACCCE cannot support this bill, as it is written because the legislation still does not adequately protect consumers and the domestic economy."

In addition, documents released Thursday by a congressional investigation into 13 forged letters sent to Congress by an ACCCE subcontractor show that ACCCE spent nearly $3 million this year on so-called grassroots efforts to persuade vulnerable legislators to vote against the Waxman-Markey bill. (Miller did tell the House Select Committee for Energy Independence and Global Warming that ACCCE "supports federal carbon legislation that could include a mandatory cap-and-trade.")

An email exchange between ACCCE's contractor, the Hawthorn Group, and its subcontractor, Bonner and Associates, identifies seven House Democrats to be pressured to oppose the bill. The email describes Rep. Chris Carney (D-Pa.) as "a potential/probable 'no' vote on here so we're doing a little more intel to determine whether or not to keep him on our target list." The goal was clearly to convince members to vote against the measure. Once they were known to oppose it, they could be taken off the list.

Carney did indeed go on to vote against Waxman-Markey, along with five of the other targeted members. Yet ACCCE testified on Thursday that they did not actively campaign to get members to vote against the bill.

The coal industry group wasn't the only one making questionable claims in the hearing. Jack Bonner, head of Bonner and Associates—the ACCCE subcontractor that sent the forged letters—testified that his organization made a sincere effort to reach out to the community organizations whose names were misappropriated, as well as the lawmakers who received the forgeries. But the written and oral testimony from both Bonner and the community groups makes it clear that Bonner took its time. The Waxman-Markey vote was on June 26, and ACCCE, Bonner and Hawthorn all knew about the forgeries at least 48 hours before that. "Our immediate reaction to the fraud was to advise our client and reach out to the organizations," Bonner told Congress. Yet Bonner staffers didn't actually begin reaching out until June 29 (to one of the community organizations) and July 1 (to members of Congress). They didn't speak to the staff of two forgery recipients until July 13, and never contacted Carney's office at all. Lisa Maatz, director of public policy and government relations for the American Association of University Women, said she only learned about a fake letter bearing her organization's name by reading about it in the newspaper. Hilary Shelton, senior vice president for advocacy and policy of the NAACP, said his group found out when contacted by the media.

By the end of Thursday's hearing, only Select Committee Chairman Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Jay Inslee (D-Wa.) were present to grill the witnesses. But they evidently weren't satisfied with the answers they received: After the hearing, Markey indicated that his committee will continue looking into the case.