Prior to the vote on the climate bill back in June, Congressman Tom Perriello (D-VA) received a a letter from Hispanic community group Creciendo Juntos urging him to vote against the bill -- the trouble is that the letter was forged and sent on behalf of an undisclosed client by lobbyists Bonner & Associates. The Charlottesville Daily Progress broke the story:Letters Urged Protection of Minorities From Higher Electricity Costs
Pointing out that "our state gets 56% of its electricity from coal," the letter urged Perriello to vote against the American Clean Energy & Security Act in order to "protect minorities and other consumers in your district from higher electricity bills."
It was signed Marisse K. Acevado, Asst Member Coordinator, Cresciendo Juntos.
So far so good, except that person and position doesn't exist.
They Stole Our Name, Our Logo
Tim Freilich of Cresciendo Juntos was quoted by the Daily Progress as saying,
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.
Bonner & Associates Says Letters a 'Mistake'
The 'they' in that statement wasn't initially known, but is Bonner & Associates -- a firm which Think Progress describes as having "a decades-long history of astroturf tactics". Gwynn Geiger Hegyi, a partner from the DC lobbying group, travelled to Charlottesville and apologized to Cresciendo Juntos. Hegyi also sent a letter to Freilich, characterizing the forged letters as a "mistake" and saying that the unnamed temporary employee had been immediately fired.
Five Identical Letters Forged With NAACP Logo
After Perriello's office was notified that the Crescieno Juntos letter was a forgery, they discovered five other letters purporting to be from the Albemarle-Charlottesville branch of the NAACP, containing the exact same language regarding coal usage in Virginia and protecting minorities from electricity price increases. After examination of the letters, the NAACP said none of the signatures on the letters match names on their roster.
Like the Cresciendo Juntos letters, the specific person who sent the letters is unknown, but the NAACP letters were discovered to have been faxed from the Arlington, Virginia offices of Professional Risk Management -- which denies knowledge of the faxes being sent, adding that at least 60 people there have access to the fax machine.
The NAACP issued to following statement:
The NAACP is appalled that an organization like Bonner and Associates would stoop to these depths to deceive Congress. In this case Bonner and Associates are exploiting the African-American Community to achieve their misdirected goal. These tactics illustrate that discriminatory tactics normally used to deceive voters are now being used to deceive the Congress.
Who's Really Behind This & Did Other Members of Congress Receive Fake Info from Constituents?
In response to the forged letters coming to light, Sierra Club Executive Director Carl Pope said,
Obviously many more more facts need to come out before we know the full story but the alleged forgery of letters from organizations dedicated to protecting their communities forces one to question who is really behind the efforts to block America's progress towards a clean energy economy.
Congressman Perriello deserves praise for not only voting for what was best for Virginia and the nation's economy and security, but also for looking into the efforts of the dirty, old business-as-usual players who tried to sway his vote. It's impossible to know at this point how many other members of Congress may have received forged letters like those found in Rep. Perriello's office. It is disturbing, to say the least, to think that some Congresspeople may have, in good faith, voted thinking they were representing their communities when in fact they were not.
Markey Launches Investigation
Upon hearing of the news, Representative Edward Markey vowed that the Select Committee on Energy Independence & Global Warming would be launching an investigation into the forged letters. Rep. Markey said,
This fraud on Congress shows that some opponents of clean energy have resorted to forgery and theft to block progress.
This is an appalling abuse, and Congressman Tom Perriello deserves great credit for seeing through it and casting a vote that will create clean energy jobs in Virginia and throughout the United States. I encourage all Members of Congress to be on the lookout for other suspicious and illegal materials.
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