Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Americans for American Energy: Just not credible

Conservationists and Roan Plateau CO threatened by energy liars

TUCSON -- In its short time since the oil and gas industry resurrected the mothballed lobbying group Americans for American Energy, AAE has compiled a remarkable track record for peddling disinformation.

Deceptive polls, unsupported economic claims, Astroturfing, false assertions of a governor’s support, equating critics with terrorists: AAE has left few dirty tricks untried in its effort to sway public opinion to favor policies that promote industry profits without regard for the cost to our water, our wildlife or our Western way of life.

Since August, AAE’s public relations office has:

-- Falsely claimed WY Governor Freudenthal supported their effort to open the Roan Plateau to energy development. Freudenthal immediately repudiated AAE and rebuked its executives.

-- Repeatedly touted a misleading and discredited Denver Chamber of Commerce poll question that implied that drilling the Roan Plateau would reduce dependence on foreign oil when the actual proposals are to develop natural gas.

-- Issued a report of an industry "study" that estimated the mineral revenues due Colorado from drilling the Roan at levels more than double those suggested by BLM while refusing to discuss the study’s methodology, data or even its authors. Subsequent data from the federal government suggest AAE overstated the “windfall” by five or six times.

-- Promoted a “survey” asking Coloradans what the state should do with the $1 billion AAE claims, without offering documentation, that Colorado would receive in the first year after the Roan is leased. Numbers released by the Minerals Management Service have thoroughly debunked the group’s claim.

Credible economic studies need to stand up to independent review, list data sources and methods, and at the very least tell decision-makers the names of the economists who authored the report. The industry "study" AAE touts does none of this. Full disclosure of data, methods and authors is especially needed as this "study" was completed by companies with a direct financial stake in the outcome.

Who are Americans for American Energy and what is their mission?

We just don’t know. Their web site claims they’re an educational nonprofit that promotes all forms of domestic energy, but their activities are focused almost exclusively on drilling the special landscapes of the Interior West like the Roan Plateau, and more recently, the red rock deserts of Utah. AAE is run out of the offices of Golden CO-based Policy Communications, led by president Jim Sims.

AAE is a 501(c)4, a designation was originally intended for "social welfare groups" that want to educate the public and lobby on issues.

Donations to 501(c)4's are not tax deductible, but in return, the donors' names aren't public record, allowing major donors to have a huge impact on races without the disclosure requirements of 527 groups.

The groups can endorse candidates, and there is no limit to the money they can spend on ads and other activity, as long as they can show that education about an issue, rather than expressed advocacy for a candidate, constitutes the majority of their activity.

While AAE claims they represent industry, their choice of messengers suggests they are more correctly defined as a GOP political action organization. We haven’t seen one industry executive, such as Mark Smith of IPAMs or Meg Collins of COGA, appear in any of AAE’s press releases. Instead, they parade a steady stream of extreme anti-environment Republican state lawmakers.

That’s actually not surprising, given AAE’s lack of credibility.

Here’s what others say:

“In light of highly inappropriate assertions made by Americans for American Energy, I am withdrawing my support for the organization and ending any relationship between the state of Wyoming and AAE. The Sept 10th communication from AAE president Greg Schnacke to undisclosed recipients contains a description of initiatives with which I wholeheartedly disagree on a number of levels. For your organization to tie this office with the policy initiatives in the communication from (Americans for American Energy) is offensive, at best,” WY Gov. Dave Freudenthal (9/12/07)

"It's a complete misrepresentation of what the governor stands for. The spirit of the comments presented is just not the way our governor does business." Cara Eastwood, Freudenthal's spokeswoman, to the AP. (9/13/07)

“We object in the strongest terms possible your repeated attempts to equate any questioning of your industry’s agenda to abetting terrorists. This is a scurrilous and irresponsible effort to muddy the waters and avoid discussion of the real issues and real values at stake.” The Mountain Mayors Group (12/14/07)

“They are so far off the map when it comes to serious fact-based discussion that it is impossible to take them seriously." Ritter spokesman Evan Dreyer on Americans for American Energy. (11/28/07)

No comments: