This just came across the Mountain Justice listserv. The clean coal lobbyists, masters of fiction in the political arena, faked the appearance of a grassroots movement with lots of money at every political rally possible during the run up to the elections this year, and in so doing almost turned clean coal technology, in true political fashion, into a real thing, almost. Say it enough and it becomes true, right?
This is shameful propaganda and manipulation, and in the face of three TVA disasters, each the real dirty side of “clean coal”, it is an insult to all the people that deal with the violent end of the coal industry. No New Coal!
Contact: Sam Salyer, 301-887-1060, x112 firstname.lastname@example.org
Coal lobby PR firm’s memo brags about manipulating Democrats, Republicans and media stars on the campaign trail
Spin doctors reveal how they injected discredited idea of “clean coal” into presidential campaign…and air and water
Washington D.C., Jan. 14, 2009—Experts on the human and environmental impact of coal expressed outrage today at a newly posted memo from a D.C.-area public relations firm. In the unseemly memo, the Hawthorn Group extolled their PR campaign on behalf of the coal industry as historic, although “clean coal” does not actually exist.
“The industry’s indiscriminate attempts to market “clean coal” are starting to look like the tobacco industry’s efforts to sell “safe cigarettes,” said Eric Schaeffer, director of the Environmental Integrity Project and a former U.S. Environmental Protection Agency official. “No public relations strategy can hide the dozens of plants the industry is still trying to build, using old technologies that would add more than 150 million tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere—the amount of global warming pollution created by more than 20 million Hummers. And it certainly can’t hide the back-to-back spills of toxic coal ash at TVA’s plants only weeks after the election.”
The memo is signed by Suzanne Hammelman, executive vice president of the Hawthorn Group and wife of coal industry lobbyist Paul Bailey, both major donors to top Democrats.
It details a highly organized strategy to simulate grassroots support and convince the candidates that Americans support the coal industry, in coordination with a national advertising campaign that reportedly took the total expense to $55 million.
Their tactics targeted prominent political figures including both major parties’ candidates for president and vice president, all of whom took positions in favor of clean coal during the campaign debates. Their memo shows a picture of Joe the Plumber wearing a “Clean Coal” hat. Other pictures show John McCain addressing a crowd of people, several of whom are wearing the hats, and Vice President-elect Joe Biden and CNN commentator Chris Matthews posing with people wearing hats and other “clean coal” clothing.
“We nearly turned candidate events into clean coal rallies,” the memo says.
“We did this by sending ‘clean coal’ branded teams to hundreds of presidential candidate events, carrying a positive message (we can be part of the solution to climate change) which was reinforced by giving away free t-shirts and hats emblazoned with our branding: Clean Coal.”
The PR team then used Facebook, Flickr, and YouTube to distribute the pictures and video. Their memo continues, “The pictures of our supporters were caught and broadcast by local and national media, including USA Today and Fox News. Soon our message was repeated back to us from the podium by the candidates themselves.”
President-elect Obama himself is quoted in the memo, telling a newspaper in Scranton, Pa., “I saw somebody with a clean coal technology hat. We have abundant coal.”
The memo’s release comes on the heels of the largest coal ash spill and one of the worst environmental disasters in American history. The spill at the Kingston Fossil Plant in Harriman, Tenn. dumped 5.4 million cubic yards of coal ash on the surrounding community.
“Anyone talking about ‘clean coal’ needs to come down here and see what we’re dealing with,” said Chris Irwin, staff attorney for United Mountain Defense, a Tennessee group working with residents impacted by the disaster. “All the hats and t-shirts in the world won’t make coal any less filthy.”
The memo was sent out to “family and friends” as an email newsletter at the end of December, and was posted on Monday on the Hawthorn Group website at: http://www.hawthorngroup.com/newsletter/index.BAK.html.
It starts out, “We thought the most fixated of the political and communications ‘junkies’ might find interesting some highlights of a recent grassroots campaign Hawthorn created and managed for the American Coalition of Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE).”
“Even in a communication-saturated environment we achieved, even exceeded, our wildest expectations (and we believe those of our client!)…The presidential campaign concluded with both candidates, their running mates and surrogates talking about and supporting clean coal technology. The issue was mentioned in all four general election debates. This was a 180-degree turn from earlier in the campaign when none of the candidates were focused on this issue.”
For interviews with Eric Schaeffer, Chris Irwin, or families impacted by the Tennessee coal ash disaster, or an electronic or hard copy of the memo that was posted at the above web link, please contact Patricia Charles or Sam Salyer at 301-887-1060, email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.