Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Forging letters to Congress

Posted By on Wed, Aug 5, 2009 at 2:06 PM

Let's make sure we've got this story straight:

Coal industry trade groups hired Bonner and Associates, whose motto is "25 years of helping our clients win!" on the federal, state and local level. Their Web site says the group, "locate[s], educate[s], and mobilize[s] ... [o]rganizations and constituencies that matter politically ... to support our clients' positions credibly and effectively."

Check.

Bonner and Associates forged letters from several minority groups claiming the groups were against cap-and-trade legislation.

Check.

Bonner and Associates has a long, well-documented history of corruption and fraud.

From ThinkProgress.org, where you can see copies of the forged letters:

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 “idealogical 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]

OK, check.

Then, the coal trade groups fire Bonner and Associates — though they deny being fired — and claim outrage.

Yeah. Check.

A total of 12 forged letters -- all appearing to come from local groups unhappy with a climate-change bill -- were sent to three congressional offices this summer by a Washington lobbying firm, according to the pro-coal group for which the firm was working

That is six more fraudulent letters than were previously known to have been sent by the firm, Bonner and Associates. The newly revealed letters were sent to Reps. Chris Carney (D-Pa.) and Kathy Dahlkemper (D-Pa.), according to the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, the trade group that hired Bonner and Associates.

"It turns out that the quality-control mechanisms took place, but after [the letters] went to the Hill," Valentine said. "We were furious about this." He said Hawthorn had fired Bonner and Associates and had not yet paid it for its work.

Jack Bonner, the founder of Bonner and Associates, denied that his firm was fired and said it finished its work under the contract. In an e-mail Tuesday, he said that the letters were written by a "temporary employee who worked for us for 7 days [who] acted alone" and that "it was through our quality control effort that we found the problem and fired the employee on the same day we discovered it."

More from The Washington Post.

Here's a "naked" protest outside of Bonner and Associates in response to the news about the forged letters:

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