Now, besides the fact that the event itself was not an official town hall but instead sponsored by API and friends, there were a few signs that perhaps indicated that this wasn't a traditional grassroots event. For example, it was held in the middle of the workday, a time at which most activists would be busy at their normal jobs.
The reason? All 3,000 attendees were technically on the clock. For Big Oil.
It turns out that in order to create the perception that there is indeed support for the oil industry's scare tactics, the only people to which they could turn were those who they pay. And they couldn't even get them to attend in their free time (via the Wall Street Journal):
More than 3,000 oil company employees on Tuesday flocked to a downtown Houston venue to listen to anti-climate bill spokesmen such as National Black Chamber of Commerce president Harry Alford and Houston Astros CEO Drayton McLane. The attendees were handed yellow T-shirts with slogans like “Higher energy taxes wipe out American jobs.”Of course, it shouldn't be a surprise that, facing actual pressure to curb their pollution and protect public health, the industry has had to resort to using their fat pocketbook to fund a "grassroots" movement. As we've seen time and time again, the only green Big Oil cares about is the kind with presidents' faces on it.
A lot of them were bused in by their employers and asked to send letters to their Senators urging them to vote down the Waxman-Markey bill passed by the House.