Hearing on Forged Letters to Congress Delayed

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The Select Committee for Energy Independence and Global Warming hearing investigating the role of Bonner & Associates and the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity in forged anti-climate bill letters sent to members of Congress was postponed on Thursday. The delay came after Ranking Minority Member Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wisc.) raised concerns that the committee had not been provided with witness testimony 48-hours in advance, as required by House rules.

Sensenbrenner was heard very loudly questioning committee staff about the issue before a full hearing room. Chairman Ed Markey (D-Mass.) called off the hearing shortly thereafter, saying that there had been “a procedural mistake.” “In order to be fair to all members in terms of their ability to examine everyone’s testimony … I think the correct decision is that we will postpone this hearing until next week,” said Markey.

The delay comes as other media are picking up on some of the more scandalous aspects of the story. I reported back in August that both Bonner & Associates and ACCCE know about the forgeries well before the House vote on the climate bill, but did nothing to inform the members of Congress who had received the fraudulent letters. In a written statement I obtained at the time, ACCCE said it was made aware of the forged letters on June 24, 2009—a full two days before the House narrowly passed the climate bill.

 

The Associated Press just got around to reporting about the lag time today. But Bonner, ACCCE, and the Hawthorn Group have each been busy pinning the blame on the other involved parties, and absolving themselves of responsibility in the case. Bonner, meanwhile, has blamed the letters on a single “rogue” employee, but it’s clear that none of the parties informed the members who had received the letters until after the vote.

This delay is significant, as two of the three members of Congress who received forged letters —Reps. Kathy Dahlkemper and Chris Carney, both Democrats from Pennsylvania—voted against the bill. Of course, they likely received many letters and calls about the bill, but one has to wonder what influence the fake letters may have had. Notably, Rep. Tom Perriello, a first-term Democrat from central Virginia who received the vast majority of the fake letters, voted for the bill.

Politico also has a report today detailing just how much money ACCCE has spent on astroturfing and lobbying work like this—to the tune of $10 million over the past 18 months. There will surely be more on this and other details of the letter scandal when the hearing is rescheduled next week.

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You just sent an incredible message: that quality journalism doesn't have to answer to advertisers, billionaires, or hedge funds; that newsrooms can eke out an existence thanks primarily to the generosity of its readers. That's so powerful. Especially during what's been called a "media extinction event" when those looking to make a profit from the news pull back, the Mother Jones community steps in.

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