Americans for American Energy: The Oil Industry in Action
In April of this year a $3 million no-bid contract given by the state of Alaska to an Oregonian PR company called Pac/West Communications. The contract was given by the Alaskan delegation (including Senators Ted Stevens and Lisa Murkowski) to lobby members of Congress to open up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (breeding ground for millions of birds) to oil exploration and drilling.
In Alaska a controversy began
about the choice of Pac/West as soon as the contract was announced. Many Alaskans were already familiar with Pac/West as the company that ran an aggressive campaign in 2004 to defeat an initiative to ban bear baiting, the action of feeding or otherwise attracting bears to be shot by hunters.
During that campaign Pac/West was accused
of shady practices, including attempting to hijack the names of opposition groups and doctoring images of protestors using computers (they wanted to make it seem like Greenpeace activists were involved). Pac/West also created a false image for itself by creating of a fake 'grassroots' organization called Alaskans for Professional Wildlife Management. This tactic of creating the image of a grassroots movement and using them as a front for the campaign ads is one commonly used by Pac/West (read on).
OK. So, Pac/West now has $3 million dollars of Alaskan taxpayer money and wants to "educate voters and their elected leaders as to the wisdom of congressional approval from drilling in ANWR" (Anchorage Daily News 4/20/05
). What do they do? SIDE NOTE: If you look through all the stuff from drilling proponents, you'll never EVER seem them call it the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. It's always ANWR. ANWR sounds like a middle eastern country, not a pristine wildlife refuge. Check for yourself.
Well, first they decide that they probably want to distance themselves from the Pac/West name. Why? There are a number of reasons.
It could be due to all the controversy in Alaska
about hiring the group.
OR it could be about the separate, simultaneous controversy
about how Pac/West set up another fake grassroots organization (this one funded by a Canadian cruise ship company) and falsely listed companies as being against a proposed tax that would punish cruise ships for discharging waste into Alaskan harbors.
OR it could be that their CEO, Paul Phillips, was fined $17,000 in 1990 for an ethics violation while serving as a state legislator in Oregon (he offered to use his position to fight tax bills for Nike if they offered him a full-time job) and has hosted fundraisers for Congressman Richard Pombo
OR it could be because Pac/West VP Tim Wigley is also the head of another dubious 'grassroots' organization, the Save Our Species Alliance, a group looking to 'revise' the Endangered Species Act to favor landowners (it would be terrible for many endangered bird species). Check out Wigley's quote in this leaked email about selling the public on an idea and then changing it in legislation: "...don't mistake the language we use to sell the public on the need for change -- with language which will appear in the bill."
So Pac/West figures out that it wants to hire someone else to put some distance between them and the Arctic National Wildlife Drilling campaign. They turn to Jim Sims and his company, Policy Communications, Inc., who had previously been involved with the SOSA website
In addition to Policy Communications, Inc. and Americans for American Energy, Jim Sims also heads the Partnership for the West Coalition, is on the Board of Directors of the Center for the New American Century and is the Executive Director of the Western Business Roundtable. He previously served as the Director of Communications in Vice President Cheney's National Energy Policy Development Group.
So Sims, taking a page out of the tried-and-true Pac/West guidebook, creates Americans for American Energy, a "non-profit, grassroots-based organization dedicated to promoting public policies that encourage greater energy independence for America" (americansforamericanenergy.org). A4AE claims to be a grassroots organization with members and supporters across the country, but it lists no membership information and only lists Sims as staff.
A list of members could probably be produced if necessary, though. Sims himself boasts an army of citizenlobbyists for-hire
to any organization who wants it (click on "Partnership for the West Announces Grassroots Power Network").
Americans For American Energy's media campaign has begun. It started in late May and June when Sims himself began writing Op-Eds and getting them published in small newspapers across the country. The effort has stepped up, though, and now print, radio and television ads are being aired in targeted states, those with potentially vulnerable Senators: ND, Arkansas, Nebraska and more to come. The tactic here, I think, is to establish a base history of A4AE letters in small newspapers so it looks like they have a legit grassroots following when they decide to take it to a wider audience. All of the published work, though, are directly from Jim Sims.
Why does this matter? Because those who want to permanently scar the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and smart and well-funded. They will do anything, and pretend to be anyone, to get people to think that drilling more oil out of the ground in a National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska will be the answer for this country's energy problems. They won't call it the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. They won't mention global warming. They won't mention breeding birds or polar bears. They won't mention hybrid cars or increased fuel efficiency (the real solutions to our energy problems).
They won't because they aren't Americans for anything but money from Big Oil. Don't listen to them.