Markey expands “clean coal” forged letter investigation
A House committee is investigating whether the coal industry’s largest influence group failed to accurately report its lobbying spending to Congress.
The Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming has expanded its investigation into forged letters sent to lawmakers and their ties to the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, according to documents viewed by E&E.
In an Oct. 21 letter, Chairman Ed Markey (D-Mass.) asked ACCCE whether its lobbying disclosure for 2008 and the first half of 2009 should have included work conducted by the Hawthorn Group, a public relations firm hired in part to coordinate efforts to fight the House climate bill.
Markey directed ACCCE to detail how much of the $10 million it paid Hawthorn Group during that 18-month period went toward work aimed at influencing U.S. climate legislation. ACCCE paid Hawthorn Group more than $7 million in 2008 and nearly $3 million in the first half of 2009, according to documents it gave the committee.
“It does raise some questions,” said Markey spokesman Eben Burnham-Snyder. “What are these activities? They’re to influence a member of Congress to vote a certain way.”
The committee will hold a hearing Thursday on forged letters that came from ACCCE subcontractor Bonner & Associates. The hearing also could delve into the issue of ACCCE’s lobbying spending. ACCCE was told to answer Markey’s questions by Thursday.
Lawmakers received at least 199 letters and more than 4,000 phone calls on the House climate bill because of work by Bonner & Associates and fellow Hawthorn Group subcontractor Lincoln Strategies LLC, according to documents ACCCE gave the committee. Some of those letters urged House members to vote against the bill crafted by Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Markey.
At least 12 of those letters were fraudulent, purporting to be from groups opposed to the bill. ACCCE has blamed that on one Bonner & Associates employee. The committee’s letter also seeks more information surrounding the fraudulent letters.
An alliance of coal companies, utilities and railroads that ship coal, ACCCE is one of the best-funded trade groups in the energy sector.
For more background, see “Dirty coal group’s 14th forgery impersonated American veterans” and “ACCCE takes on water: Alstom quits scandal-ridden coal industry front group, joining Duke and Alcoa “” time for GE and Caterpillar to jump ship, too.” The story continues: