Cross-posted from Wonk Room.

A new “grassroots” fossil fuel front group, FACES of Coal, is employing a shadowy Republican-staffed company to spread its message. The Federation for American Coal, Energy and Security — a new pro-mountaintop removal campaign that refuses to reveal its “grassroots” members — is employing a GOP Beltway shop to promote its work. At the group’s initial press conference in Charleston, West Virginia, the West Virginia Coal Association’s Bryan Brown complained about “outsiders” who don’t “appreciate America’s reliance on coal”:

Many outsiders are putting pressure here in West Virginia and nationally. We feel they don’t understand and appreciate America’s reliance on coal and the economic impact coal has on our communities, our state and our nation.

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The West Virginia Coal Association and the County Commissioners Association of West Virginia are the only organizations to publicly admit being part of FACES. However, as the DeSmog Project first reported, they’re willing to rely on “outsiders” to do their actual work: The FACES website, which includes no contact information, is registered to the Adfero Group, a K-Street public relations firm. Adfero’s online communications arm was spun off as Fireside 21. Adfero and Fireside21 serve predominantly Republican and corporate clients:

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  • Ken Ward, Fireside21 CEO, is a former Richard Pombo staffer. Kenneth Ward, the CEO of Fireside21, served as a Legislative Assistant and Deputy Press Secretary to the extreme anti-environmentalist Rep. Richard Pombo (R-CA) until 2004. [Fireside21, Legistorm]
  • Jeff Mascott, Fireside21 president and Adfero Group managing director, built the website. Jeff Mascott, the managing director of the Adfero Group and the president of Fireside 21, “designed the original web site” as the “primary online communications consultant at the House Republican Conference under former Chairman U.S. Rep. J.C. Watts, Jr. (R-OK).” He is married to a former staffer for Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) and Rep. Anne Northrup (R-KY). [Adfero, Innovative Advocacy, Legistorm]
  • Fireside21’s congressional clients are predominantly Republican. Fireside21 claims the record of building the websites for 150 members of Congress. Of the 38 members listed publicly on their site as clients, 28 are Republicans, from Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-GA) to Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA). Only 10 clients are Democrats, including Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH). [Fireside21: CMF Awards, Website Launches]
  • Adfero is behind numerous Big Oil astroturf campaigns. Working for the National Petrochemical and Refiners Association, Adfero’s “Fuel For America” campaign whitewashed price-gouging by its clients following Hurricane Katrina. Adfero’s “ChamberGrassroots,” “Vote For Business” and “Coalition for a Democratic Workplace” campaigns fight labor reforms including card-check. “Californians Against Higher Taxes” killed a clean energy reform ballot measure in 2006. Other clients include the American Tort Reform Association, the National Pork Producers Council, and the Independent Petroleum Association of America. [Adfero]

What do the FACES of Coal really look like? The same inside-the-Beltway, fossil-funded conservative lobbyists behind the other “grassroots” efforts to demonize clean energy reform.

 UPDATE: JW Randolph reveals that the “FACES of Coal” are actually iStockPhotos:

UPDATE: Adfero has stopped hosting the FACES site, transferring it to Liquid Web hosting, a Lansing, MI company.

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