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Energy and climate rallies – real or astroturf?

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Jack Gerard, API's president and CEO, said in the copy of the memo [PDF] released by Greenpeace:

The objective of these rallies is to put a human face on the impacts of unsound energy policy and to aim a loud message at those states' US Senators to avoid the mistakes embodied in the House climate bill and the Obama Administration's tax increases on our industry.

The memo was addressed to chief executives whose companies are members of API. It touted the use of a major event planning firm and identified 11 states where rallies could be held for maximum impact on the senators, who will vote on the climate-energy legislation in September.

One key, Mr. Gerard wrote, would be ensuring that company employees show up:

The measure of success for these events will be the diversity of the participants expressing the same message as well as the turnouts of several hundred attendees. In the 11 states with an industry core, our member company local leadership -- including your facility manager's commitment to provide significant attendance -- is essential to achieving the participation level that Senators cannot ignore. In addition, please include all vendors, suppliers, contractors, retirees, and others who have an interest in our success.

Some analysts say they've seen all this before -- and add that it will likely continue in the near  future because it's effective.

"What we're seeing here [with API's push] is an inherently deceptive campaign," says Diane Farsetta, a senior researcher at the Center for Media and Democracy, an independent watchdog group in Madison, Wis. "Why organize these rallies that appropriate the tactics and appearance of a shoestring grassroots organization? It's inherently deceptive because it pretends it is not a top-down effort when it's now clear that it is a very intensively funded top-down effort."

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