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Members of Congress Received Fraudulent Letters Paid for by Coal Companies

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A burst of developments Monday considerably raised the profile of the latest attempt by polluting industries to thwart environmental legislation. This story has been moving quickly, so here is a quick timeline of how things have unfolded over the past few days. If I missed anything major, please let me know:

Friday Over the weekend, more traditional outlets took notice, with stories from NYT, WaPO, WSJ, Politico and AP.Monday An ACCCE-produced Bonner and Associates Background Document, obtained late Monday by EnviroKnow, sheds additional new light on the extent of the fraud (emphasis mine):

Due to reported misconduct by a Bonner and Associates employee (who the firm states was subsequently fired), it appears that a total of twelve falsified letters were sent by that firm to the offices of Congresswoman Kathy Dahlkemper, Congressman Christopher Carney and Congressman Tom Perriello.

Six forged letters, all sent to Congressman Perriello, had been acknowledged previously. While Congressman Perriello remained unswayed by the letters, and voted in support of the legislation, Reps. Dahlkemper and Carney both did not. This raises the very real possibility that Members of Congress were influenced by fraudulent letters paid for by the coal industry, and voted against environmental regulation as a result of this influence. Given the razor thin margin and last-minute negotiations surrounding the House vote, this was a clear attempt by both Bonner and Associates and ACCCE to subvert the Democratic process. Now, we can't say for with 100% certainty that fraudulent letters persuaded any particular Member of Congress to oppose the legislation, but that was certainly the intent. To make matters worse, the background document includes ACCCE's less-than-inspiring "belief" that the fraudulent letters were limited to the three congressional districts mentioned previously:

Due to assurances that Bonner and Associates provided to Hawthorn, and Hawthorn subsequently communicated to ACCCE, we believe this matter to be limited to the three congressional districts mentioned above. However, we are in the process of verifying all contacts made by Bonner and Associates with respect to this project.

The folks who lied their way into this mess are not going to get to the bottom of it on their own. Chairman Markey has generously given Mr. Bonner nine days to respond to his questions. The Department of Justice should move forward in the meantime with separate investigations.

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