Ghost Letters: Opponents Of Clean Energy Reform Send Fake Letters To Sen. Conrad

Last week, ThinkProgress reported that a DC-based lobbying firm was caught forging letters to Rep. Tom Periello (D-VA) in opposition to the Waxman-Markey clean energy bill. The company, Bonner & Associates, has a decades-long history of “astroturfing” –- misrepresenting corporate-backed policy as a real grassroots movement. ThinkProgress just received a letter indicating that more anti-clean energy letter forgeries may be out there.

Joseph Richardson received a letter from Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND) in reply to a letter that he never sent:

Richardson never wrote such a letter, and he never would. Calling himself a “vocal member” of the North Dakota Alliance for Renewable Energy, Richardson told ThinkProgress that he is an ACES supporter and even wrote a letter to Rep. Earl Pomeroy (D-ND) calling on the congressman to support clean energy reform.

The forged letter was likely a result of astroturfing. Conrad’s letter was delivered to an out-of-date address that Richardson hadn’t used for months. According to Richardson, Conrad’s office is currently in the process of tracking down the original letter they received. See the full letter Senator Conrad’s office sent to Richardson.


This latest news joins an evolving series of dishonest tactics from opponents of clean energy reform. On Friday, a former Bonner & Associates employee told Talking Points Memo that extreme managerial pressure at Bonner is par for the course, and inevitably leads to these desperate measures. According to the article:

[The former employee] portray[ed] Bonner and Associates as a place where ethical missteps were far from rare. “They just got caught this time,” he said.

A note to the astroturf groups: next time you decide to forge a letter, try doing a Google search to make sure your target hasn’t publicly stated their opposition to your agenda.


Brad Johnson has more on corporate astroturfing.


,A spokesperson from Sen. Conrad’s office just contacted Think Progress stating that this incident was a result of a miscategorized correspondence, not a forged letter.


According to the spokesperson, Conrad’s staff tracked down an email late tonight from Mr. Richardson. The Senate office mistakenly categorized Richardson’s email as opposing clean energy reform. As a result, he received an incorrect form letter in response.

When Think Progress first contacted Mr. Richardson, he indicated that he had never sent a letter regarding ACES, but according to Senator Conrad’s office, he now takes ownership over the original correspondence. Think Progress has requested a copy of the original email from the Senate office and will post it if it becomes available.