Friday, August 28, 2009

What Happens When Oil Lobbyists Forge Letters? They Get A Bonus!

Remember that old Louis Armstrong song concerning conflicting viewpoints on the correct pronunciation of "tomato?" Well, it turns out in the now-infamous letter forgery scandal involving Washington lobbying shop Bonner & Associates, there is some confusion as to whether or not "fired" is actually pronounced "bonus."

Let us explain.

In a letter to Representative Ed Markey (MA), whose committee is investigating fraudulent letters opposing a clean energy bill sent to members of Congress, a lawyer for the authors of said fraudulent letters at Bonner & Associates admits the employee who wrote the letters received a bonus. This provides an interesting counterpoint to Bonner's original assertion that the offending employee was simply fired.

Lawyer Steven Ross writes (via Talking Points Memo):
Due to the extremely short duration of this project, on Tuesday, June 16, 2009, an incentive program was announced to encourage and reward hard work. Compensation for temporary employees is not based on the amount of letters generated. However, temporary employees could earn a small bonus payment for additional letters generated within that employee's assigned district. It should be noted that the fired employee provided five fabricated letters on his first day of work, June 12, 2009, before the incentive program was even announced. Prior to the discovery of his fraudulent activity, since it had appeared that the fired employee met the requirements of the incentive program, he was paid a bonus on Friday, June 19, 2009.
So, in another shocking twist, the fraudulent efforts of the individual at Bonner & Associates to derail clean energy and climate legislation (on behalf of its client the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity) were in fact rewarded before being punished once they were found out.

In this case, when "shocking" is prounounced "obvious."

Big Oil's Millions Not Changing Public Support for Clean Energy: Poll

Big Oil and its fringe allies in Washington have dumped millions on false and misleading attacks against the American Clean Energy and Security Act. According to a new Washington Post - ABC News poll out today, their efforts have done little to sway popular public opinion.

By a margin of 57 to 29 percent, respondents supported "the proposed changes to U.S. energy policy being developed by Congress and the Obama administration."What's more, supporters of a clean energy bill also have intensity on their side: 29 percent of respondents strongly support the proposed changes, while only 19 percent strongly oppose them.

On the question of jobs, respondents believe by a more than two-to-one margin that the proposed changes will lead to a net increase in jobs in their state, and support for a cap-and-trade plan that would reduce harmful global warming pollution remains exactly where it did in June: 52 in favor to 43 opposed.

How can big energy interests spend $80 million with such little effect?

Maybe it's because the vast majority of attacks -- as well as the attackers themselves -- are so silly on their face. Exhibit A: this morning's op-ed in Roll Call by one Joseph Farrell. What makes Mr. Farrell an expert on the clean energy debate?
Joseph C. Farrell served as the chairman, president and CEO of the Pittston Co. (now the Brink’s Co.) from 1991 to 1998, a Fortune 500 coal, mineral products, transportation and security services firm headquartered in Richmond, Va.
A former coal CEO opposed to a clean energy bill? Say it ain't so!!

As for sources, Mr. Farrell clearly ranged far and wide: he cites the fuzzy-mathers at the Heritage Foundation and the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) in claiming it would cost Virginia between 41,000 and 56,000 jobs.

That's in contrast to the non-partisan Political Economy Research Institute's estimate of 44,000 new jobs for the state. Perhaps someone at Heritage sneezed on their computer screen and read the jobs number with an extra "minus" sign. Funny thing about being funded by big energy interests, mistakes like that just sort of... happen.

Then, of course, there's our friend Margo Thorning, who's touring the country as a clean energy "expert" who just happens to oppose the House clean energy bill. Thorning's supposed cred comes from her position with the National Council for Capital Formation (NCCF) -- a seemingly innocuous name that suggests an interest in American economic strength. Oh, how naive we are...

Not only does the NCCF take a large share of its money from ExxonMobil, but Thorning herself is a former member of President George W. Bush's energy and environment team (which, for all of you Simpsons fans out there, is like bragging that you graduated from the Nick Riviera school of medicine).

Which brings us back to our original point: if you wouldn't trust medical advice from "Dr. Nick," why would you waste your time on clean energy propaganda from former Bushies and Big Coal CEOs?

You wouldn't. And if today's Washington Post - ABC poll means anything, it's that Americans aren't.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

FACES of Coal: The Finest Stock Photos Money Can Buy

You can't make this stuff up.

Well actually you can, if you're the slick K Street PR firm hosting Big Coal's latest front group, "FACES of Coal." Thanks to some great sleuthing by new media reporters at Appalachian Voice and DeSmogBlog, it's come to light that the Web site for FACES of Coal is comprised of stock photos purchased from iStockphoto, an internet photo bank for use when real people just don't seem to be available.

Maybe that's why FACES of Coal won't release a list of its members: they don't exist (or at least they didn't how much they loved dirty dirty coal when they sold their mugshots to iStockphoto).

We strongly encourage you to check out this wonderful deconstruction of the FACES site using side-by-sides of the pics on iStockphoto and their new home over at FACES of Coal. It's just so precious: who knew that "woman working at flower shop" and "group of happy business people standing together against white background" felt so strongly about blocking clean energy legislation?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

New LCV Ads Hold Members Accountable On Clean Energy

LCV is up with paid television and print ads in the districts of Reps. Denny Rehberg (R-MT), Roy Blunt (R-MO), Jason Altmire (D-PA) and Ann Kirkpatrick (D-AZ) that hold them accountable for voting against clean, American energy and thousands of jobs for their states. Check out the Rehberg spot:

All four representatives voted against the American Clean Energy and Security Act on June 26th. That's a shame, because each of their states stands to realize huge economic gains from a new clean energy economy, according to a study by the Center for American Progress and the Political Economy Research Institute.
  • Pennsylvania: 71,667
  • Missouri: 35,989
  • Arizona: 29,548
  • Montana: 6,303
The campaign has been well-received so far, receiving coverage in Politico as well as a variety of state blogs and local papers.

Americans should know when their elected representives are standing in the way of progress on job creation and comprehensive energy reform, and LCV is a very effective messenger when it comes to accountability. Let's hope that senators who are on the fence regarding a clean energy bill take note.

Another Day, Another Exxon-Funded Climate Smear

Policymakers in the nation's Capitol used to look forward to August, a time when Congress left town for a month-long recess and the rest of us could take a much-needed breather to recharge our batteries before the fall session.

Unfortunately, those days seem to be history; we have witnessed one of the most politically charged summer recesses in recent memory. And while no one here discourages passionate discourse on any of the issues facing our country today, it would be a bit more productive if Big Oil wasn't single-handedly bankrolling every event advocating a do-nothing approach to tackling our nation's energy challenges and curbing carbon emissions.

But, in what's becoming a daily occurrence, a panel discussion in West Virginia on capping our carbon and moving to a clean energy future turned into a forum to slam any proposal to do so (via Huntington News):
Dr. Margo Thorning, senior vice president and Chief Economist of the American Council for Capital Formation, projected that by 2030, WV’s gross state product would be lowered by $1.32 billion dollars, a loss of 5,611 jobs, gasoline up seventy cents a gallon, and , depending upon whom you rely, electricity costs shooting to infinity.
Electricity costs shooting to infinity, you say? We're no chief economists here, but infinity seems, well, a bit exaggerated.

Until you realize that the American Council for Capital Formation is yet another Exxon beneficiary, to the tune of $1.64 million. As you may remember from our post The Exxon Three-Step Guide to Blocking Climate Reform, it's a classic Step One maneuver from the mischievous oil conglomerate.

But that wasn't the extent of the night's lunacy. State Delegate Kevin Craig enlightened the audience with his uniquely informed take on climate change:
“The earth’s temperature is constantly changing,” Craig explained, due to the sun’s heat. Projections used in the controversial proposed legislation have the sun’s heat as a constant. He urged a “scientific debate” before rushing to adopting the bill which is hyped as the next “clean air act.”
While we understand that climate science is no simple subject, Mr. Craig's presentation of "facts" invites criticism, if only because he is an elected official speaking at a public forum. And, man, is he wrong. You can read a detailed analysis of the causes of global warming here, but let's just begin by saying it has absolutely nothing to do with the sun's temperature rising or falling. Perhaps if Mr. Craig had paid attention to even the most rudimentary aspects of the debate (for example, all this talk of carbon or the greenhouse effect), he'd understand that the increased emissions of greenhouse gases is trapping the sun's rays and making the planet warmer.

In terms of a "scientific debate," how does a Nobel Prize winning panel of scientists or a clear consensus in the national and international community work for you?

Of course, having none of these facts at his disposal (or at least not caring enough to find out for himself), the author of the Huntington News piece ends his apparently objective report with a plea for readers to write their senators and urge them to oppose any climate bill.

Instead of intelligent blog posts or reasoned debates, perhaps Really? Seriously? should buy a copy of this for Mr. Craig and the Huntington News.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Exxon Three Step Guide to Blocking Climate Reform

Regular readers of Really? Seriously? will know that oil giant ExxonMobil's role in America's transformation towards clean energy has been counterproductive, to put it in the most generous terms. Be it through funding sham studies, launching fake campaigns, or plain flat-out lying, we've witnessed an impressive array of misinformation from Big Oil's biggest and baddest member.

We certainly aren't the only ones to notice. Former Fortune magazine managing editor Eric Pooley penned an editorial in which he takes Exxon to task for its dastardly tactics in their attempts to derail clean energy and climate reform. In a piece entitled "Exxon Works Up New Recipe for Frying the Planet," Pooley slams the corporate giant for its lame attempts at greenwashing while exerting their influence in all corners of the globe to block reductions of carbon emissions.

Pooley effectively breaks down their strategy into three steps:

Step 1: Fund said faulty studies while outspending everyone else lobbying Congress.

Step 2: Company outings to protest clean energy, giving new definition to the term Astroturf organizing.

And, in what is a particularly compelling point (via Bloomberg):
Step 3: Offer a seemingly sensible alternative policy. Having caricatured the legislation, Exxon then offers a compromise. That’s what it did in Australia earlier this month, after the legislature shot down Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s climate proposal. Last week the chairman of Exxon’s Australian unit, John Dashwood, called for replacing cap and trade with a carbon tax. Echoing a January 2009 speech against cap and trade by Chief Executive Rex Tillerson, Dashwood said the carbon tax “is more transparent to consumers, will achieve greater environmental benefits and is more difficult to manipulate than a cap-and-trade program.”

Let’s get this straight. Exxon is demonstrating against a climate bill in the U.S. because it is supposedly a hidden tax, and on the other side of the globe it is lobbying for a tax. This may seem contradictory, but it’s not. I believe the company simply recognizes what so many others have missed in the debate over the tax versus the cap: The cap requires economy-wide emissions reductions, and the tax doesn’t.

Exxon doesn’t want to do business in a world where cuts in carbon dioxide are mandatory. It would prefer to pay a modest tax and keep on polluting.

A tax wouldn’t guarantee any carbon reductions, let alone bring about the steep cuts needed to stave off the worst climate changes. By calling for a small tax instead of a mandatory cap, that’s exactly the kind of solution Exxon is proposing.
Of course, Exxon's preferred method of action going forward is retaining the status quo, made possible by eight years of having close allies in the White House and Congress.

With the House passing the American Clean Energy and Security Act, we look forward to the Senate seeing past the pathetic arguments of these powerful interests and transition our nation to a clean energy future that will revitalize our economy, keep our nation secure, and cap harmful carbon emissions by passing legislation this fall.

Then the only question will be: in what other unproductive and harmful ways can Exxon blow more money than most of us will ever see?

Big Oil Swindle Gets Help From Enron Talent

Yesterday, we reported on the launch of yet another Big Oil front group, the American Energy Alliance (AEA). With so many of these shill groups for oil companies out there, one has to wonder: do they ever get competitive with each other? Who can be the biggest, baddest shill group EVER?

Well, it looks like the former Republican House staffers backing AEA are playing this game to win. And with Big Oil throwing around more than $80 million, any group that wants to be the big dog needs to bring its A-game. It needs some serious shill talent. It needs...

Enron talent.

AEA is the lobbying arm of the Institute for Energy Research, a pro-drilling group funded to the tune of $300,000 by ExxonMobil. Thanks to research by our friends at ThinkProgress, we know that the president of IER is one Robert Bradley, who previously served as a speechwriter and public policy director for Enron CEO Kenneth Lay.

That would be the same Kenneth Lay who went down in 2006 on ten counts of wire fraud, securities fraud and making false statements for his role in Enron's epic collapse.

Of course, when your math is as fuzzy as the AEA, you need a guy with some real Enron experience. The AEA and other opponents of the House clean energy bill in the conservative media have been trying to sell us on the idea that the bill would cost average American families $3,900 a year. Considering that the bill was written this year (which is 2009 at last check), maybe the oil companies shouldn't be using a study from 2007 whose own author says his work is being wildly misrepresented. Per ThinkProgress:
Memo to Media: The MIT study being used by opponents of the Waxman-Markey bill was published in April 2007 (see here). Needless to say, it doesn’t model the bill or any of its key provisions.

The author, MIT Professor John Reilly, explained to me today in an exclusive interview that “the Republican approach to estimating the cost of cap-and-trade is just wrong.” He said even “apart from the misrepresentation of the costs” by the GOP, “it is inappropriate to draw conclusions on the costs of Waxman-Markey” from a study published two years ago that doesn’t model key cost-containment provisions, such as the use of offsets! ["Inappropriate" is an academic term. A better word might be "fraudulent."]

Prof. Reilly said that the Weekly Standard reporter “feigned stupidity” in an effort to elicit answers that could be taken out of context and misrepresented. Reilly called the analysis in the resulting article, "Fuzzy Math: According to an MIT study, cap and trade could cost the average household more than $3,9000 per year" — now being cited by conservative blogs and politicians — “just silly.”
Can't say Bradley and his buddies at the AEA are letting those flack skills go to waste.

Monday, August 24, 2009

"Energy Citizens": Sounds Better Than "Big Oil Lobbyists"

If you enjoy watching Big Oil's awkward attempts to step outside of its very small comfort zone into the world of grassroots politics as much as we do, then you've been eagerly awaiting the absurd spectacle of the coming "Energy Citizens" rallies against clean energy reform. Last week, we noted that the American Petroleum Institute's (API) kick-off rally for Energy Citizens in Houston was strictly employees-only - unwelcome news for several flag-toting citizens who were stopped at the door.

Well today, some great sleuthing by our friends at Grist uncovered the following list of coordinators for Energy Citizens' 21 planned events, and (drumroll)... 15 are registered lobbyists!
Here’s more evidence that the “Energy Citizens” rallies against climate legislation are anything but grassroots uprisings. We already knew that the American Petroleum Institute was behind the whole idea. Now it turns out that even the local organizers of individual rallies are oil-industry lobbyists.
Grist obtained a copy of API’s list of coordinators for the 21 planned rallies, and 15 of them are registered lobbyists, mostly for API or its state-level affiliates.

Here’s a list of the lobbyists organizing the “grassroots” rallies:
  • Greensboro, N.C., rally organizer Bill Weatherspoon is a registered lobbyist for API in North Carolina.
  • Lima, Ohio, organizer Terry Fleming is a registered lobbyist for the Ohio Petroleum Council.
  • Atlanta, Ga., organizer Ric Cobb is a registered lobbyist for the Georgia Petroleum Council.
  • Elkhart, Ind., organizer Maggie McShane lobbies on behalf of the Indiana Petroleum Council.
  • Nashville, Tenn., organizer Mike Williams is a registered lobbyist for API.
  • Bismarck, N.D., organizer Ron Ness is a former registered lobbyist for the North Dakota Petroleum Council.
  • Tampa, Fla., organizer David Mica registered lobbyist for the Florida Petroleum Council.
  • St. Louis, Mo., organizer Ryan Rowden is a registered lobbyist for the Missouri Petroleum Council.
  • Greenville, S.C., organizer Kay Clamp is a registered lobbyist for the South Carolina Petroleum Council.
  • Lincoln, Neb., point of contact Chris Abboud is a registered lobbyist for the Agri-Business Association of Nebraska.
  • Springfield, Ill., organizer Dave Sykuta is a registered lobbyist for API.
  • Detroit, Mich., organizer John Griffin is a registered lobbyist for the Associated Petroleum Industries of Michigan.
  • Richmond, Va., organizer Mike Ward is a registered lobbyist for API in Virginia.
  • Philadelphia, Pa., organizer Rolf Hanson is a registered lobbyist for API in Pennsylvania.
  • Huron, S.D., organizer Tim Dougherty is a registered lobbyist.
But wait, that's not all! If you act now, Big Oil will also throw in a ream of current and former Republican staffers working on the "American Energy Express," a four-week bus tour organized by yet another polluter front group, the American Energy Alliance. Per the Wonk Room:
Laughably, AEA claims it has “no ties to any political party":

AEA has no ties to any political party, and it has no interest in supporting the agenda of any particular political party.

However, AEA is tightly connected to the Republican Party and right-wing oil interests. In fact, all of its employees are former House Republican staffers:
  • Thomas J. Pyle, AEA President, Is A Oil Lobbyist And DeLay Operative. Before joining the Institute for Energy Research and the American Energy Alliance, Pyle worked as a lobbyist for the right-wing oil giant Koch Industries, first in-house starting in 2001, and then at the Rhoads Group. In 2008 Pyle became a lobbyist for the National Petrochemical and Refiners Association. Previously, Pyle served as policy analyst for Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX), Majority Whip of the U.S. House of Representatives and as staff director for the GOP Congressional Western Caucus. Pyle started as a legislative assistant for radical anti-environmentalists Rep. Richard Pombo (R-CA) and Rep. George Radanovich (R-CA).
  • Patrick Creighton, AEA Communications Director, Worked For Bush And Pennsylvania Republicans. Patrick Creighton was the special assistant to Samuel T. Mok, the chief financial officer at the Department of Labor from 2004 to 2006. He then worked as a spokesman for oil and natural gas advocate Rep. John Peterson (R-PA) from 2006 to 2009, worked to elect Rep. Glenn Thompson (R-PA), then joined Thompson’s office until May 2009.
  • Kevin Kennedy, AEA Federal Affairs Director, Promoted Alaska Drilling Under Don Young. After graduating from Union College in 2004, Kevin Kennedy worked for the Astroturf organization Arctic Power, which advocated drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. In 2007, Kennedy became a legislative assistant for the corrupt Rep. Don Young (R-AK) and the House Committee on Natural Resources. He joined the Institute for Energy Research and American Energy Alliance in 2009.
  • Laura Henderson, AEA Spokesperson, Served Shelby, Dole, And Tiberi. Laura Henderson was a former press secretary for offshore drilling advocate Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) from 2005-2009. Previously, she worked for former Sen. Elizabeth Dole (R-NC) and Rep. Pat Tiberi (R-OH).

  • Daniel R. Simmons, AEA State Affairs Director, Is A Koch-Funded GOP Staffer. Simmons was the Director of the Natural Resources Task Force at the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a right-wing network funded by Koch Industries, the American Petroleum Institute, and other corporate and right-wing organizations. Previously, Simmons was a Research Fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, also funded by Koch. From 2001 to 2005, Simmons served on the staff of Rep. George Nethercutt (R-WA) on the House Natural Resources Committee. Simmons holds a B.A. in Economics from Utah State University and a J.D. from George Mason University School of Law, also supported by Koch Industries.
Furthermore, AEA’s website is run by yet another former GOP House staffer:
  • Webmaster Nathan Imperiale runs EnergyTownHall.Org. AEA’s was designed by NJI Media Group, part of Endeavour Global Strategies. Endeavour’s head, Sean Spicer, is a long-time GOP operative, including communications work for the House Republican Conference and the Bush White House. NJI Media Group’s president, Nathan Imperiale, served as Director of New Media for the House Republican Conference, building its website.
"Energy Citizens" and the "American Energy Express": the most transparent grassroots lobbying money can buy.