UPDATE 2:08pm: Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA) announces Congressional investigation into fake letters, saying, "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."
David Sewell wrote about this earlier this morning, but I wanted to add to his post because I think the scope of this scandal is a far, far greater than we first realized.
It's been revealed today that lobbyists hired to fight the American Clean Energy & Security (ACES) Act forged letters of opposition to Rep. Tom Perriello (D-VA). But there's no reason to believe Rep. Perriello is the only member of Congress targeted, and there's no reason to believe opponents of reform aren't willing to use these same dirty tricks to derail progress on health care, workers rights, and much more.
Here's the report from today's (Charlottesville, VA) Daily Progress:
As U.S. Rep. Tom Perriello was considering how to vote on an important piece of climate change legislation in June, the freshman congressman’s office received at least six letters from two Charlottesville-based minority organizations voicing opposition to the measure.
The letters, as it turns out, were forgeries. [...]
The person who sent the letter has not been identified, but he or she was employed by a Washington lobbying firm called Bonner & Associates. [...]
"This was not a ‘mistake,’" wrote [Tim] Freilich, who is also legal director of the Immigrant Advocacy Program of the Legal Aid Justice Center. "This was a deliberately and carefully forged letter that used the logo, address and name of Creciendo Juntos without authorization. Additionally, I understand from Ms. Hegyi that our organization was not the only Charlottesville-area organization whose reputations were used in an unauthorized manner to try to influence Congressman Perriello on this particular vote."
After being notified of the bogus Creciendo Juntos letter, staffers in Perriello’s office realized that the wording of the letter sounded familiar.
The staffers dug through the stacks of thousands of letters, e-mails and faxes Perriello received about the bill — the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 — and found five more forged letters, these purportedly from the Albemarle-Charlottesville branch of the NAACP. [...]
"It’s very unfortunate that opponents of this bill would resort to deception and made-up letters," [Perriello press secretary Jessica Barba] said. "Spreading false information is not healthy for real debate in our democracy. Congressman Perriello voted in favor of the bill because of its potential to create clean energy jobs, which is why the NAACP and many other groups supported the legislation in the first place."
Full story here. Once again, congratulations to Rep. Perriello for standing up for what was right for Virginians.
But we may only be scratching the surface of the deception used by opponents of clean energy reform in a failed attempt to stop the American Clean Energy and Security (ACES) Act. It was already known that a group called the "Tea Party Patriots has been urging its members to lie about their residency in their calls to Congressional offices:
When you write or call, please make sure you are armed with a city name and zip code in the home state of the Senator you are calling. They may not want to hear from you without this information. You can decline to give further personal information.
I've heard many other rumors of lies, forgery and deception from right-wing groups in their fight against ACES. Today's story only scratches the surface. And these are the same tactics opponents are willing to use in their fight against President Obama's entire agenda.
It's critical that we do all we can to spread this story, because you know the mainstream media isn't going to help us. We need to let members of Congress know they need to be vigilant for the worst kind of dirty tricks from opponents of progress.