Submitted Testimony of Christopher C. Horner to the House Select Comittee on Energy Independence on “Astroturfing”

Mr. Chairman, thank you for inviting me to testify today, and I would like to thank the Members of this Committee for allowing me to address the long-overdue issue of deceptive practices, specifically “Astroturfing,” in the “global warming” policy arena.

Such practices have existed for years throughout environmental policy, both from inside and coordinated with government, environmental pressure groups and industry.

Examples abound of “Astroturfing” and other deceptive practices to push the global warming agenda. Recently, the Environmental Defense Action Fund used Craigslist to recruit paid “activists” to rally support for cap-and-trade in the guise of a grassroots movement.

We all witnessed last week’s dishonest advocacy effort by the activist group “Yes Men”. About this, Daniel Henninger wrote in the Wall Street Journal:

“…the cable news stations, wire services and Web sites reported that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce had recanted its opposition to climate-change legislation. It was a hoax. Incredibly (well maybe not so incredibly), the hoax was perpetrated by an activist group in a room at the National Press Club in Washington in front of reporters who’ve risen to the top of their industry. The hoaxers had created a fake Web site and faked a Chamber press release. The made-up press conference ran about 20 minutes until someone from the real Chamber of Commerce showed up yelling, ‘This is a fraud!’ Too late. Credulous TV and wire reporters had sent the Chamber’s climate flip-flop into an already confused world.”

The merits of these practices of course do not hinge on whether they agree with one’s position. As AEI’s Ken Green was quoted as saying, however, “When someone else does it, it’s astroturfing; when you do it, it’s community organizing.”

Astroturfing is no stranger to the energy industry, purportedly perfected by Chicago-based utility Exelon, which hired David Axelrod’s public affairs firm to create a front group to achieve the same end as sought by cap-and-trade, which is a rate increase.

As Newsweek wrote, when an Exelon arm “wanted state lawmakers to back a hefty rate hike”:

“it took a creative lobbying approach, concocting a new outfit that seemed devoted to the public interest: Consumers Organized for Reliable Electricity, or CORE. CORE ran TV ads warning of a ‘California-style energy crisis’ if the rate increase wasn’t approved—but without disclosing the commercials were funded by Commonwealth Edison. The ad campaign provoked a brief uproar when its ties to the utility, which is owned by Exelon Corp., became known. ‘It’s corporate money trying to hoodwink the public,’ the state’s Democratic Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn said.”

Last year Business Week wrote about this component of Exelon’s $15 million effort to convince ratepayers to agree to pay more for energy, calling the campaign the “gold standard in Astroturf organizing”.

Exelon is of course again in the news of late for leading a campaign, sold by public affairs professionals as an exodus from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce based upon environmental principle but which, upon scrutiny, is a collection of largely “rent-seeking” companies standing to make as much as one billion dollars per year on the backs of ratepayers from cap-and-trade according to media reports.

Most will also recall when gas interest Chesapeake Energy emerged, in the words of a Houston Chronicle writer, as “one of the only companies that has fessed up to funding a recent advertising campaign against Dallas-based TXU’s plans to build up to 11 new coal-fired power plants… with no clear notice of who was behind it. Chesapeake admitted to funding the campaign, at least in part, after reporters did some digging.”

Several internal memoranda have surfaced about Enron’s pioneering effort in the late 1990s, to leverage green pressure groups to advocate for its new creation called carbon cap-and-trade. One memo in particular stated how:

“Enron now has excellent credentials with many ‘green’ interests including Greenpeace, WWF, NRDC, German Watch, the U.S. Climate Action Network, the European Climate Action Network, Ozone Action, WRI, and Worldwatch.”

“This position should be increasingly cultivated and capitalized on (monitized).”

The misspelling in the parenthetical is in the original but I believe the point is clear. This list is by no means exhaustive, as I note in detail in my written testimony.

As the Journal’s Henninger also wrote, “With fakery everywhere—some of it amusing, some of it not funny—people’s ability to know where things fall on the spectrum between fact and falsity becomes so compromised that they retreat into a shell of cynicism about everything.”

Hopefully today’s effort, allowing an airing however brief of the tactics used to promote the “global warming” agenda, will also assist this ongoing education campaign.

Thank you for the opportunity to provide these remarks today.