Astroturf Mastermind Picked To Lead Western Drilling Group

By Jessica Goad, manager of research and outreach, Center for American Progress Action Fund.

The Western Energy Alliance, one of the biggest and best-financed oil and drilling promoters in the Rocky Mountain West, has chosen former lobbyist Tim Wigley to be its new president, according to Greenwire today.

Wigley comes to WEA after a 10-year stint at Pac/West, a public relations and lobbying firm that counts the oil and gas industry as one of its clients. Pac/West previously employed disgraced former Rep. Richard Pombo (R-CA), who once attempted to sell off national parks to tackle national deficit woes. The group is also notable for having secured a $3 million contract from Alaska’s legislature to “educate” Americans on the benefits of drilling in the state’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Wigley has spent much of his career lobbying on behalf of corporate interests. But perhaps most interesting is his previous role as campaign manager for two “astroturf” groups — those that purport to be grassroots when really they are just front groups for industry. According to a 2007 investigation by Public Citizen, Wigley headed up two major astroturf campaigns while working for Pac/West:


– Project Protect (logging): “This group spent $2.9 million on media purchases and other efforts to lobby for President Bush’s ‘Healthy Forests’ initiative. The group, which billed itself as ‘a grassroots coalition of western communities, natural resource groups, labor organizations, and conservationists,’ refused to disclose its donors. It listed an address at Mailboxes, Etc., in 2003. In 2004, it listed an address identical to that of the American Forest Resource Council, a group that lobbies for public land management policies that favor industry.”

– Save Our Species Alliance (endangered species issues): “This group sought to gut the Endangered Species Act…The campaign manager for Save Our Species Alliance was Tim Wigley…[who] told a reporter that the Save Our Species Alliance was a grassroots group of farmers, labor groups and others. Wigley did not divulge the identities of the group’s funders. ‘I think this line of questioning is misleading,’ he said to the reporter who asked.”

The Western Energy Alliance is a trade group with lobbying and PAC arms whose “Blueprint for Western Prosperity” is a hit list against public health and environmental safeguards and calls for policies like a “moratorium on new federal regulations.” WEA is notorious for accusing the Obama administration for blocking drilling on public lands, despite evidence that oil and gas drilling in America is higher than ever before.