The Latest in the Bonner Forged Letters Controversy

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Jack Bonner—head of controversial political consulting firm Bonner and Associates—and Steve Miller—the CEO of American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity—have a lot of explaining to do on Thursday morning. That’s when they’re due to be grilled by the House Select Committee on Energy and Global Warming about the role their organizations played in the creation of forged letters urging representatives to vote against the Waxman-Markey climate bill in June. According to documents relating to the matter and viewed by Mother Jones, the hearing will likely shed new light on the inner workings of Bonner—and how it utilizes minority groups on behalf of its corporate clients.

So, in anticipation, a quick recap of what we know so far: the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, a coal front group, coordinated with contractors at the Hawthorn Group, a communications firm, and subcontractors at Bonner and Associates to generate letters and calls to Congress urging members not to support the climate bill. Those letters included at least 13 confirmed forgeries purporting to be from minority groups such as the NAACP, as well as seniors and veterans groups.

The three companies knew about the forgeries at least 48 hours before the House voted on the climate bill on June 26: Bonner notifiied Hawthorn, which alerted ACCCE on June 24. But no attempt was made to contact the three House members who received the fake letters until July 1, according to the documents. In fact, Bonner did not actually reach any member until July 13. (Two of the three recipients of the phony letters voted against the bill.)

ACCCE and Hawthorn have maintained that they expected Bonner to inform representatives, and were assured that the organization would do so. For its part, Bonner has blamed the whole affair on a temporary “rogue” employee.

But this version of events doesn’t square with the company’s standard protocol, former Bonner employees told Mother Jones.  Generally, they say, the company employs fewer than 10 permanent staffers who oversee dozens of temps. The former employees note that had the organization’s own standards been upheld, a permanent staffer would have been responsible for confirming that all letters sent to Congress were genuine. 

We’ll have much more on this on Thursday morning—the hearing starts at 9.30.

 

 

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THE BIG PICTURE

You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

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