Memo to Media:  Who the heck are these guys and what are they hiding by apparently misstating their origin?

E&E News (subs. req’d) reports on a new advertising campaign from a “conservative organization”:

The American Energy Alliance (AEA) campaign targets 11 key members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee — all of them moderates whose votes could be critical to the climate bill’s success or failure.

Who is the AEA?  Good question.  The AEA says on its website:

AEA is an independent affiliate of the Institute for Energy Research (IER)….

Aside from the cryptic nature of the oxymoronic phrase “independent affiliate,” it is worth noting that the Institute for Energy Research “has received $307,000 from ExxonMobil since 1998.” The President of IER is one Robert Bradley “who previously served as Director of Public Policy Analysis at Enron, where he was a speechwriter for CEO Kenneth Lay,” who was “convicted on fraud and conspiracy charges on May 25, 2006.

Elsewhere on the site, AEA says it is “the independent grassroots affiliate” of IER.  The only people who think AEA is a “grassroots” organization are people who are actively smoking grass.

Now here is where it gets really confusing, apparently by design.

The AEA also says on its website it was “founded in May, 2008.

But Sourcewatch (here) points to a 1993 Time magazine article (here)

In April Jasinowski’s group [the National Association of Manufacturers] got together with the American Petroleum Institute, 1,600 large companies, small businesses and farmers to form the American Energy Alliance (AEA), a group designed solely to defeat the BTU tax. The coalition paid more than $1 million to Burson-Marsteller, a public relations firm, to deploy nearly 45 staff members in 23 states during the past two months. Burson’s goal was to drum up as much grass-roots outrage about the BTU tax as possible and direct it at the swing Democrats on the Senate Finance Committee, including David Boren of Oklahoma, Max Baucus of Montana, Kent Conrad of North Dakota, John Breaux of Louisiana and Thomas Daschle of South Dakota. The goal was to win at least one Democratic vote; that would be enough to stop the tax in the Finance Committee, where the Democrats hold an 11-9 majority.

The New Mexico Independent try to uncover information about the group last July:

A pro-drilling group called the American Energy Alliance is airing ads on both 770 KKOB-AM and 1350 KABQ-AM attacking Tom Udall’s stance on drilling….

Information on the group is hard to come by. There are no online Federal Energy Regulatory Commission filings, no Internal Revenue Service filings and no way to contact the group. The latest news on an American Energy Alliance comes from 1996, in a Washington Post article describing the group as “a coalition of the National Association of Manufacturers, American Petroleum Institute and Edison Electric Institute.”

One must go back to 1993 to find more information on the group, this time from Time magazine….

So were they founded last year, or quite some time ago?  It would appear they are trying to distance themselves from the earlier group, perhaps because the funding sources for that earlier group have been made public and are clearly not “grassroots.”

But they seem to be doing the same damn thing as that “other” AEA, namely “running radio ads in the districts of the 11 lawmakers that attack” progressives efforts to make polluters pay.  E&E News reports the ad says:

“The politicians in Washington, D.C., don’t seem to get it — voting to bail out Wall Street — rather than helping Main Street,” the 30-second spot says. “And just when you think that it can’t get worse — some in Congress are now pushing an energy tax that would be the largest tax hike in history.

“Studies show that the bill, known as the Waxman-Markey Energy Tax, could cost our families more than $3,100 per year in new taxes.”

Environmentalists and other climate-bill advocates say the $3,100 figure is overblown. Meanwhile, House Republicans have used that number — which is drawn from a 2007 Massachusetts Institute of Technology study — as a key part of their argument against cap-and-trade legislation for curbing greenhouse gas emissions.

The ads will run in the districts of Democrats John Barrow (Ga.), G.K. Butterfield (N.C.), Mike Doyle (Pa.), Charlie Gonzalez (Texas), Baron Hill (Ind.), Jim Matheson (Utah), Charlie Melancon (La.), Mike Ross (Ark.) and Betty Sutton (Ohio). The group will also target one Republican — Tim Murphy of Pennsylvania.

Most — if not all — of those lawmakers are already subject to an intense public relations blitz by environmentalists and labor unions that is urging them to support the climate legislation.

The right word to describe the $3100 figure isn’t “overblown” (see MIT Professor says GOP, Weekly Standard “misrepresentation” of his April 2007 study to project costs for Waxman-Markey is “inappropriate,” “silly” and “just wrong”).

I suppose it bears repeating the MIT study being used by opponents of the Waxman-Markey bill was published in April 2007 (see here). Needless to say, it doesn’t model the bill or any of its key provisions.

The author, MIT Professor John Reilly, explained to me that “the Republican approach to estimating the cost of cap-and-trade is just wrong.” He said even “apart from the misrepresentation of the costs” by the GOP, “it is inappropriate to draw conclusions on the costs of Waxman-Markey” from a study published two years ago that doesn’t model key cost-containment provisions, suc
h as the use of offsets!

So a better word than “overblown” is “fraudulent.”

It looks like E&E News is falling into the fake equivalence trap that award-winning journalist Eric Pooley criticized in his important study of the media’s miscoverage of the Boxer-Lieberman-Warner bill debate (see Must-read study: How the press bungles its coverage of climate economics — “The media’s decision to play the stenographer role helped opponents of climate action stifle progress.”)

Hmm.  Maybe it is time to reprise the Pooley analysis.