DC PR Firm In Hot Water Over Coal Industry Astroturfing

A contractor for public affairs and political communications agency Hawthorn Group is being looked into by Congress for an astroturfing campaign. The campaign, for Hawthorn Group’s $7 million client American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, urged lawmakers to opposed climate change legislation via a letter writing campaign.

The letters were supposed be from local community groups, however they were sent from Bonner & Associates directly. Bonner did call the groups to ask for support, but those calls, “made no mention of the coal industry or of climate change,” according to Talking Points Memo. They describe the process:

Phone-bankers read a quick script, then send targets pre-written letters on stationary created by using the group’s logo from its website. The groups are asked to sign the letters and return them in a pre-paid FedEx envelope.

Bonner & Associates President Jack Bonner testified to Congress yesterday. “Let one thing be very clear: this improper activity was undertaken without the knowledge or permission of anyone at our firm,” he said.