A DC-based consulting firm has been exposed for forging letters in opposition to the American Clean Energy and Security Act. The letters, replete with letterhead and made-up identities, purported to be from Virginian minority organizations including the NAACP. Rep. Tom Perriello (D-VA) received multiple letters pressuring him to vote against clean energy reform. According to Daily Progress, Perriello staffers discovered that the letters were actually forged by Bonner & Associates. Going through past correspondence regarding ACES, staffers found at least six forged letters purporting to be from Creciendo Juntos, a nonprofit hispanic group, and the NAACP.
ThinkProgress has acquired the forged letters. See them here:
Bonner & Associates has a long history of shady tactics and big business corporate associations:
Show Me the Money: Founder Jack Bonner bragged in 1994 that the group has no “ideological or political bent,” the Washington Post noting that “if you’ve got the money and need some ‘regular people’ to flog your issue, Bonner will find them for you.” [8/23/94]
Defrauding the U.S. Government: In 1986, the firm was caught defrauding the U.S. government in order to retain a contract. Bonner & Associates was fraudulently submitting names from phone books, yearbooks, agency employee books, and other sources. The firm claimed to fire the offending employee: “We fired the people we determined were involved in it…what they did was in direct violation of the written policy of the firm.” [New York Times, 12/18/86]
Fighting the Smoking Ban on Behalf of Philip Morris: Bonner & Associates was hired by Philip Morris during the early 90s to build opposition to the workplace smoking ban. A 1994 National Journal piece reports that the firm “was paid about $1.5 million to solicit 7,000 letters to OSHA from small businesses, criticizing the indoor air proposal.” [National Journal, 12/3/94]
Killing Health Care Reforms on Behalf of PhRMA: After the group was hired by PhRMA to kill Maryland legislation that would have affected prescription drug legislation, they faxed dozens of community leaders with a petition that was meant to appear grassroots, “including grammatical errors and a handwritten cover letter.” A community leader that received one of the faxes said, “I wish they would take off the masks. If the drug industry wants to organize people at the grass roots, they should be honest.” [Baltimore Sun, 3/9/02]
In a statement following their most recent offense against Rep. Perriello, the company responded, “We immediately fired the person on our staff responsible for the error.” The Bonner firm’s weak dismissal of their breach as “an error” is a laughable attempt to ignore the nefarious nature of the company’s entire strategic philosophy: Astroturfing (that is, misrepresenting corporate-backed policy as a real grassroots movement).
This incident demonstrates the incredible lengths that the vested interests of health care and energy are willing to go through to undermine reform. With Congress going on recess soon, more of these astroturf tactics will undoubtedly occur as corporate backed anti-reform groups gather in Congressional districts throughout the country to obstruct health care and clean energy reform.
NAACP issued this statement:
“The NAACP is appalled that an organization like Bonner and Associates would stoop to these depths to deceive Congress. In this case Bonner and Associates are exploiting the African-American Community to achieve their misdirected goal. These tactics illustrate that discriminatory tactics normally used to deceive voters are now being used to deceive the Congress,” stated Hilary O. Shelton, Director of the NAACP’s Washington Bureau and Senior Vice President for Advocacy.
,Bonner & Associates is placing responsibility of the forgery on a lying “temporary employee”:
We take our business very seriously. A temporary employee–lied to us–and contrary to our policies sent these letters. We–no one else–we on our own found this out. We immediately fired the person. We then, called those effected, explained what happened and apologized. In the case of the group in the story–we did it in person and by letter.
This should not have happened–we had a bad employee–but through our internal checks, we found the problem, and on our own initiative took the step to notify the affected group.
,Protestors braved the DC rain today to protest outside of the Bonner & Associates offices. Watch it: