A leaked memo sent by an oil industry group reveals a plan to create astroturf rallies at which industry employees posing as “citizens” will urge Congress to oppose climate change legislation.
The memo — sent by the American Petroleum Institute and obtained by Greenpeace, which sent it to reporters — urges oil companies to recruit their employees for events that will “put a human face on the impacts of unsound energy policy,” and will urge senators to “avoid the mistakes embodied in the House climate bill.”API tells TPMmuckraker that the campaign is being funded by a coalition of corporate and conservative groups that includes the anti-health-care-reform group 60 Plus, FreedomWorks, and Grover Norquist’s Americans For Tax Reform.
The memo, signed by API president Jack Gerard, asks recipients to give API “the name of one central coordinator for your company’s involvement in the rallies.”
And it warns: “Please treat this information as sensitive … we don’t want critics to know our game plan.”
Aside from the astroturf nature of the planned events, which appear aimed at passing off industry employees as independent citizens, the memo also raises questions about the positions of several major oil companies on the issue of climate change. BP and Shell both are members of API, and also of the U.S. Climate Action Partnership, a coalition of groups that supports Waxman-Markey, the very climate change legislation the memo criticizes.
API has spent over $3 million lobbying against that bill this year.
Bill Bush, a spokesman for API, told TPMmuckraker that there’s no deception involved with the rallies. “I don’t think anyone’s hiding the ball about this,” he said. “I don’t think anyone’s trying to suggest that this doesn’t have anything to do with the oil and gas industry.”
He described the campaign as preliminary. “A good bit is still in the planning stages,” he said.
In a letter to Gerard, Greenpeace has called on API to reveal the member companies funding the astroturf effort.
A Greenpeace spokesman declared in a statement to reporters:
The question is, will BP and Shell continue to hand out millions to the API after this? If these companies want us to believe that they are serious about legislation to reduce climate emissions, it’s time for them to pull funding from lobby groups who use underhand tactics to create a false impression of voter concern over Waxman-Markey.
Bush said he’s not aware of any planned response to Greenpeace. And he said the campaign is being funded by members of the “Energy Citizens” alliance — a coalition of corporate and conservative groups that 60 Plus, FreedomWorks, Americans For Tax Reform, the American Conservative Union, and the National Taxpayers Union.
A Washington lobbying group has already been caught sending forged letters, on behalf of a coal industry organization, purporting to come from local minority groups and urging lawmakers to oppose the climate change bill.
A congressional inquiry into the matter is ongoing.
Late Update: Shell Oil Company, which is a member both of the anti-Waxman-Markey API, and of the pro-Waxman-Markey USCAP, says it won’t be involved in the rallies. A spokesman sent TPMmuckraker the following statement:
Shell’s position is not aligned with the consensus opinion of the API on Waxman-Markey, therefore Shell will not participate in the rallies.