Lobby Shop Says Ex-Staffer Forged Letter to Lawmaker

By David A. Fahrenthold
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, August 1, 2009

An employee of a Washington lobbying firm forged a letter from a Latino social-service group to Rep. Tom Perriello (D-Va.), urging Perriello to make changes in a bill capping greenhouse-gas emissions, the Latino group said Friday.

The letter used the letterhead of Creciendo Juntos, a Charlottesville-based group. It asked Perriello, whose district includes Charlottesville, to work to add "pro-consumer" changes to the bill. "We are concerned about our electric bills," the letter read in part.

But it was apparently written by an employee at Bonner & Associates, which bills itself as a leader in "strategic grass-roots" political efforts. Jack Bonner, the group's founder, said in an e-mail message to The Washington Post that the firm itself discovered the forgeries and that it fired the employee.

"A temporary employee -- lied to us -- and contrary to our policies sent these letters. We -- no one else -- we on our own found this out," Bonner's message said in part. "This should not have happened -- we had a bad employee -- but through our internal checks, we found the problem, and on our own initiative took the step to notify the affected group."

Bonner said that his firm had "no clients" on the issue of climate change.

A spokeswoman for Perriello said the office had also received five letters containing very similar language that purported to be from members of the Charlottesville branch of the NAACP.

When Perriello's office checked with the NAACP chapter, none of the names matched real members, Perriello spokeswoman Jessica Barba said.

Calls to the Charlottesville chapter of the NAACP were not immediately returned.

Friday afternoon, Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) said his Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming would launch an investigation into the forged letters.

This story was first reported in the Daily Progress newspaper in Charlottesville.

In Perriello's office, the letters were filed away with hundreds of others. Perriello eventually voted for the cap-and-trade bill, which passed the House in late June.

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