Photo: Pixabay, CC0

Bonner and Associates – a lobbying firm acting on the behalf of energy companies – sent more than a dozen letters with forged letterheads from well-known organisations to US Congress members, urging them to vote against a bill for more regulation on energy.

Photo: Pixabay, CC0

In 2009, when the United States Congress was debating the American Clean Energy and Security Act, a lobbying firm acting on behalf of the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE) sent fraudulent letters to representatives in an effort to influence the vote. The ACCCE – whose members include Arch Coal, Murray Energy and Peabody Energy – hired the lobbying firm Bonner and Associates to persuade congressional representatives to reject the energy bill.

Illegitimately used letterheads

Bonner and Associates stole letterheads from organisations that were well known for their protection of women, minorities and marginalised groups, and sent forged letters to representatives urging them to vote against the bill. In total, a congressional investigation revealed that Bonner sent 13 fraudulent letters to Representatives Perriello, Dahlkemper and Carney.

The lobbyists misappropriated letterheads from the National Association of the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Creciendo Juntos, the American Association of University Women and the American Legion – groups that were actually in favour of the bill.[1] Bonner and Associates claimed that the letters were sent by a “rogue temporary employee”, but failed to inform the congressional representatives of this fraud until weeks after the vote.[2]

In a Congressional hearing, the “president of the ACCCE admitted that he knew about the forgeries at least two days before the House voted on the climate bill but did not notify the targeted lawmakers until after the votes were recorded”.[3] The ACCCE claims they did not approve of this tactic, but the fact that they knew about the fraudulent letters and did not inform lawmakers until after the vote strongly suggests intent to block regulation that would harm the interest of ACCCE’s members.[4] In its review of an earlier version of this case study, ACEEE indicated that it has numerous policies, procedures, and controls in place to protect against fraudulent lobbying, and that this case was an isolated incident.[5]

[1] Stephanie Strom, “Coal Group Is Linked to Fake Lobbying Letters on Climate Bill”, The New York Times, August 4, 2009, (accessed October 23, 2019).

[2] Kathy Mulvey and others, “The Climate Deception Dossiers: Internal Fossil Fuel Industry Memos Reveal Decades of Corporate Disinformation”. (Cambridge, MA: Union of Concerned Scientists, 2015), p. 18, (accessed October 23, 2019).

[3] Mulvey and others, p. 18.

[4] Although the House passed the bill, it was never voted on by the Senate: US Congress, “H.R.2454 – American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009” (accessed February 4, 2020).

[5] America’s Power (formerly ACCCE). “RE: Review announcement case description ACCCE”. October 1, 2019