Energy bill opponents forged letters to Rep. Perriello.

A lobbying firm has admitted to forging letters to Rep. Tom Perriello in the names of a two Charlottesville groups, all asking him to vote against the energy bill. Professional astroturfers Bonner & Associates variously claimed to be “Marisse K. Acevado, Asst Member Coordinator” of Creciendo Juntos and various nonexistent members of the Albemarle-Charlottesville branch of the NAACP. Mysteriously, Bonner & Associates hasn’t registered as lobbying on behalf of anybody for this bill. (Which is doubly mysterious. Not only is it strange that they wouldn’t get a piece of this pie—I’m sure every lobbying firm in DC had a contract related to that bill—but why would they lobby against a bit just for the heck of it?) Perriello’s office points out that these are just the letters that they know have been faked—there could be many others.

This is just an evil thing to do. Such missives from constituents are important to legislators. They shouldn’t have to question whether those letter-writers actually represent the organizations that they claim to represent (or even exist). The amount of work that would necessary to verify such communications would be enormous, a huge waste of government resources. Can you imagine if Perriello had been moved to vote against this bill because of one of these letters—and if his vote was the deciding vote—only to later find out that this group that he knows and trusts felt completely the opposite about the issue? I have to wonder if laws aren’t being broken here. If this isn’t illegal, it should be.

Bonner & Associates describes this as a “mistake,” but that doesn’t begin to explain this or express how problematic that it is. I hope that Perriello’s office is able to pursue this, to find out who paid for these mailings to be sent, how many other such forged letters that they received from the group, what other congressman Bonner sent forged letters to, and how many other times that they have done this. Sunlight is the disinfectant called for here.

Published by Waldo Jaquith

Waldo Jaquith (JAKE-with) is an open government technologist who lives near Char­lottes­­ville, VA, USA. more »

9 replies on “Energy bill opponents forged letters to Rep. Perriello.”

  1. Just read this… awful.

    B&A fired the person responsible, so it should be pretty easy to identify WHO did it. Although the article states, “a lobbying firm only needs to disclose their clients if the client pays them more than $3,000 in a filing period, at least one employee spends 20 percent of their time lobbying, and that employee made at least two lobbying contacts within the filing period.”

    So there is likely all kinds of non-“lobbying” lobbying going on. But we should remember, lobbying itself isn’t evil.

  2. If they sent the petition via US Mail it is mail fraud. Not very glamorous law, but hey, there’s a new sheriff in town and he don’t trust lobbyists either. Stick ’em in a cage and hang it from a light post on the Wilson Bridge. WTOP will take care of the publicity.

  3. B&A fired the person responsible, so it should be pretty easy to identify WHO did it.

    Well, that’s who they fired. That’s not necessarily who did it. The president of the company might have come up with the idea on behalf of a client, told a manager to do it, who had an intern actually write and mail out the letters. The story goes public, they want to make it look like they’ve taken care of the problem, so they fire the intern. Problem solved.

    That’s just how Abu Ghraib was handled, incidentally.

  4. Waldo, anyway you can post this on the national blogs like Daily Kos? This story needs to go national!

  5. Not to worry, Eileen–Sen. Kerry has a recommended diary about this up on DailyKos, which translates into national attention. (I actually diaried about this on Kos first thing this morning; good to see the story gaining traction, and good on the Daily Progress for digging into this in the first place and giving it prominence today.)

  6. Technically, Bonner & Associates doesn’t have to register the lobbying work they were doing on ACES because their employees were not the ones personally lobbying congresspeople. They were paid to recruit (or fake) civic leaders to do the lobbying, which is a pretty common practice, and does not require registration.

  7. Oh dear. The one thing that a lobbying firm absolutely positively cannot do is lie to legislators. They often have differences of opinion, but they present their competing cases to legislators generally using what they believe to be facts. Lobbyists are often *useful* to legislators, because they have specialized knowledge of issues that can help inform them. This is much of their currency.

    But not if you lie. Any lobbying firm that deliberately lies to legislators is DOOMED. From this point on, why would anyone on Capital Hill listen to a word these people have to say? They are proven liars and frauds. Their calls will not be returned and it will suddenly be very difficult to get meetings with chiefs of staff and so on. These people screwed themselves.

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