Before the big House vote on the American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES), Rep. Tom Perriello had a tough choice to make. Perriello won his seat by a small margin and worried about attacks from Republicans campaigning against the bill. Ultimately, he voted for it, in part because he believes a sustainable energy industry is the future of his district's economy.
But even as he was considering how to approach the legislation, he received at least five letters from local constituency groups opposing the bill, including a local Hispanic advocacy organization and the area branch of the NAACP. There was just one one small problem: The letters were forgeries; at least one came from Washington, D.C.-based lobbyists Bonner & Associates.
“They stole our name. They stole our logo. They created a position title and made up the name of someone to fill it. They forged a letter and sent it to our congressman without our authorization,” said Tim Freilich, who sits on the executive committee of Creciendo Juntos, a nonprofit network that tackles issues related to Charlottesville’s Hispanic community. “It’s this type of activity that undermines Americans’ faith in democracy.”
For all the reprehensible shenanigans that lobbying firms involve themselves in, forging letters from civil-rights groups to oppose this legislation is still pretty outrageous -- in fact, the NAACP even supports the legislation. Members of Congress are already very skeptical of constituent communications in this day of Internet-organized communications blitzes; the possibility that they may take these messages even less seriously due to fraud is a very disheartening one. Hopefully the reporting on this story will spur an investigation by legal authorities and some serious punishment for the perpetrators.
Further Reading: New Kids on the Hill.
-- Tim Fernholz
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