"Postcards Target Elderly In Attempt To Spread Clean Energy Disinformation"
Send your grandparents in Kansas a nice postcard.
In a state at the forefront of renewable energy efforts, postcards are the new battleground. Right-wing, fossil-fuel backed organization Americans for Prosperity (AFP), funded by petrochemical Charles and David Koch, is telegraphed all over the effort. In a way, renewable energy has amassed enough momentum to infringe on the Koch Brothers’ turf: They are from Kansas and the state is home to Koch Industries, their Wichita-based energy conglomerate.
The postcards targeted senior citizens, urging them to call their representatives and ask for a repeal of the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS). They represent a desperate, backward-looking tactic that proved ineffective. Last week, the Kansas House rejected legislation meant to end the RPS, which requires utilities to get 20 percent of their power from renewable sources by 2020. However, in a narrow 63-60 to defeat the bill, the misleading postcards could’ve gone a long way.
An analysis by the Wichita Eagle found that the postcards came from a recently registered organization called the Kansas Senior Consumer Alliance. The group is run by the sister of the chair of the Kansas Chamber of Commerce and represented by Alan Cobb, who previously worked as state director of AFP and as a lobbyist for Koch Industries.
Jeff Glendening, AFP’s current state director, told the Wichita Eagle that his organization did not help coordinate the postcard mailing, but he did say that he is open to working with the Kansas Senior Consumer Alliance on future issues, and that he’s known Cobb for more than 10 years.
The postcards warn that the RPS is responsible for 15 rate increases since the renewable standards took effect in 2009. No source is cited. A report last year from the Kansas Corporation Commission found that meeting the standards requires less than two percent of the revenue requirement of the utilities while supplying more than 10 percent of the generation capacity in the state. The majority of the rate increases are due to coal plant upgrades to meet environmental standards. So while technically there have been 15 rate increases, the linkage is a fabrication.
When confronted with this information gap by the Wichita Eagle, Cobb said “it was a pretty standard political mailer that we’ve all seen in Kansas a thousand times.” “Facts are facts,” Cobb continued. “People can decide on their own, the individual voter, how they want to interpret them.”
The postcard presents facts such as, “with the cost of health care, gasoline and even groceries soaring … I CAN’T AFFORD HIGHER UTILITIES BILLS,” in bold lettering with a concerned elderly man looking on.
On the other side, an elderly woman massages her forehead while reading, “our state legislature has forced energy companies to use more expensive energy sources rather than the proven, abundant, and affordable resources that have kept our bills low.”
One such postcard said to call Rep. Don Hineman and complain. Rep. Hineman said his office received two calls from constituents, both in support of the RPS.
“The objective of the postcard was to scare seniors, get them worried about their utility bills and leave the impression that maybe their representative isn’t representing their interests in that regard and that’s a false assertion,” Rep. Hineman, a moderate Republican who voted against the legislation, told the Wichita Eagle. “It really is a political scam.”
At least this political scam requires a return address — one that, after a simple web search, leads to an upscale home in a residential neighborhood.
The Wichita Eagle found that the residence belongs to Virginia Crossland-Macha, a right-wing activist who is the sister of Ivan Crossland, the chair of the Kansas Chamber of Commerce. Crossland-Macha said her brother had nothing to do with the postcards and that she formed the Kansas Senior Consumer Alliance, which only become official on April 24, on her own to help seniors.
“Right now, they’re really struggling to survive,” she said of seniors.