Monday, August 3, 2009

Dear Congress, Climate Regulations Hurt Minorities. Love, "NAACP."

Only days after I wrote about the power of special interest lobbies in Congress versus the power of the American people as a whole, an interesting story broke. According to the Times:
A grass-roots lobbying firm has acknowledged forging letters opposed to the climate bill that were sent to a Virginia lawmaker. The office of Representative Tom Perriello discovered that a half-dozen letters it received had nearly identical language signed by a made-up person at Creciendo Juntos, a Latino group, and five fake members of the Albemarle-Charlottesville branch of the N.A.A.C.P.
So here we have the powerful, corporation-financed professional lobbyists—who already have a great deal of clout among Congress members and often win victories for companies whose actions are harmful to the public good—posing as members of nonprofit organizations that seek to give a voice to historically voiceless or powerless communities, in order to block legislation that would disadvantage their clients.

The bill claimed that the American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES) would be deleterious to low-income families (the opposite is in fact true, according to the Congressional Budget Office). And here's the best part:
The lobbying firm, Bonner & Associates, apologized to the groups and attributed the faked letters to a temporary employee who, it says, has been fired.
Well, problem solved, then, Bonner & Associates. Glad that meddlesome rabble-rouser is out of there! Shame they weren't able to catch him before the bill went to a vote.

How often does this happen when the perpetrators aren't caught? And how often do forged letters like these end up influencing Congressional votes? ACES only narrowly passed the House, and more moderate Congress members could have easily been swayed by a completely fabricated plea allegedly coming from important advocacy groups.

Even with a political system that is already tainted by unethical injections of money, greed, and power, those with the advantage still don't play fair. How can the public be served when the public seems to be neglected or undermined at every turn?

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