News broke on Friday that the American Petroleum Institute is urging member companies to recruit their employees, retirees, vendors, and contractors to attend “Energy Citizen” events across the country over the August congressional recess. Today, we have some updates to the story:
It’s not just energy interests backing the astroturf efforts; major conservative and anti-tax groups are jumping in. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers are both part of the coalition, and API tells TPMMuckraker that its campaign is funded by a variety of corporate and conservative groups — including 60 Plus, FreedomWorks, the American Conservative Union, National Taxpayers Union, and Americans for Tax Reform.
The groups’ astroturf campaign focuses on 21 states that have “a significant industry presence” or “assets on the ground.” American Petroleum Institute President Jack Gerard wrote in a memo [PDF] that the intent is to put a “human face on the impacts of unsound energy policy” and urge senators to “avoid the mistakes embodied in the House climate bill” that was passed in June.
The memo was supposed to be kept on the down low; Gerard urged recipients to “Please treat this information as sensitive … we don’t want critics to know our game plan.” But now that the memo has leaked, API spokesperson Bill Bush wants to make it seem like no big deal, telling TPMMuckraker, “I don’t think anyone’s hiding the ball about this …. I don’t think anyone’s trying to suggest that this doesn’t have anything to do with the oil and gas industry.”
No one’s surprised to hear that oil giants are trying to gin up the appearance of “grassroots” opposition. API is not the first industry group caught astroturfing this summer. But the leaked document should be of concern to some big energy companies that are members of both API and the United States Climate Action Partnership, the industry-enviro partnership that played a significant role in shaping the House climate and energy bill. BP, ConocoPhillips, General Electric, and Shell are members of both organizations.
The Washington Post reports that spokespeople for BP and Shell said their companies don’t plan to participate in the “Energy Citizen” rallies. And TPM got this statement from Shell on its involvement with API:
Shell’s position is not aligned with the consensus opinion of the API on Waxman-Markey, therefore Shell will not participate in the rallies.
Greenpeace issued a letter to Gerard, asking API to reveal which of its member groups are funding the rallies. Thus far, API has not responded.
The memo lists “tentative venues” for “Energy Citizens” rallies:
Ohio (venue being finalized)
Indiana (venue being finalized)
Sioux Falls, S.D.