Sunday, February 28, 2010

Front Group, Fake Members, Polluter Money Target Virginia's Air

Who's attacking the Clean Air Act in Virginia? Why are they hiding behind a front group that was just created two weeks ago? A little detective work turns up an unsurprising answer -- but one with some comically bad cover-up work.

Ads began running in Virginia & several other states today attacking the Environmental Protection Agency for trying to do its job & protect our air as mandated by the Clean Air Act -- passed by a Democratic Congress, signed by a Republican president, and approved by a conservative Supreme Court.

The announcer in the ad never says who paid for them. In tiny, semi-transparent type at the bottom of the ad are the words "Paid for by the Coalition for American Jobs." If that name sounds about as credible as the law firm of Dewey, Cheatem & Howe, you're on the right track.

The next major red flag: The "Coalition" won't say who's in the coalition. Its website just makes a vague reference to "businesses, industries and others." And its "resource" page is completely blank. I showed the link to my dad who laughed, "All out! Sorry, folks! We expect another shipment in on Thursday!" At this point, I'm imagining the offices of the "Coalition" are in the back of a pickup truck with the engine running.

Who's the website registered to? The "Coalition" doesn't want you to know, having hidden its registration information. And why not? The website is as flimsy & phony as the group itself. Here's a photo from the site:

A "Coalition" supporter? Not exactly. More like a stock photo:
You'd think front groups would have learned from Big Coal's embarrassing "FACES of Coal" stock photo scandal. Guess not. In fact, the entire Flickr account of the "Coalition" appears to be stock photos.

What about the group's phone number? It's a cell phone that goes straight to voicemail ... but a search shows up as having it registered to "Chemis American." Is that the American Chemistry Council, based in Arlington? Considering the "Coalition" ads are prominently featured on the Chemistry Council's front page, it looks like we have a winner!

Why wouldn't the American Chemistry Council want its name attached to the ads? Given that the ExxonMobil Chemical Company is a member, I can see where the Council would want to distance itself from, well, itself. And it turns out the website was created by a public relations firm called v-Fluence, whose clients include the American Petroleum Institute. (The firm didn't return my call asking who'd paid for the "Coalition" site.)

Frankly, it's insulting that the American Chemistry Council & other big polluters think Virginians can be fooled by phony front groups with fake members. I hope shenanigans like this help convince Senators Mark Warner & Jim Webb to stand against any polluter efforts to gut the Clean Air Act.

Even more bizarre is that certain conservative websites mindlessly posted the ad without ever asking who was behind them. Those same bloggers will put a big "Don't Tread on Me" banner on their website -- but have footprints all over their backs from polluter front groups.

Cross-posted from Blue Virginia

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