THEY’RE NOT ABOVE CHEATING…. Oh my.
As U.S. Rep. Tom Perriello was considering how to vote on an important piece of climate change legislation in June, the freshman congressman’s office received at least six letters from two Charlottesville-based minority organizations voicing opposition to the measure.
The letters, as it turns out, were forgeries.
“They stole our name. They stole our logo. They created a position title and made up the name of someone to fill it. They forged a letter and sent it to our congressman without our authorization,” said Tim Freilich, who sits on the executive committee of Creciendo Juntos, a nonprofit network that tackles issues related to Charlottesville’s Hispanic community. “It’s this type of activity that undermines Americans’ faith in democracy.”
The faked letter from Creciendo Juntos was signed by “Marisse K. Acevado, Asst Member Coordinator,” an identity and position at Creciendo Juntos that do not exist.
The mailing apparently came from a staffer at Bonner & Associates, a D.C. lobbying firm working in opposition to the American Clean Energy and Security (ACES) Act.
But wait, there’s more. After being notified of the scheme, Perriello staffers went through other correspondence the Virginia Democrat received on ACES. They found five more forged letters, purportedly from the local branch of the NAACP.
M. Rick Turner, president of the local NAACP branch, said he checked his organization’s roster and found none of the five people who signed their name to the five faked letters.
“I am very appalled as the president that our organization has been misrepresented in this way by this bogus … letter,” Turner said. “I hope that whoever’s behind this will be brought to justice.”
There are some key, unresolved issues here. Someone at Bonner & Associates was responsible for the fake “Acevado” letter, but we don’t know who the firm was working for when the letter was sent, and the firm apparently isn’t talking to the media about the incident. The fake NAACP letters were sent by fax from the D.C.-area headquarters of Professional Risk Management Services Inc, but we don’t know its clients, either, and the company hasn’t taken responsibility for the fraudulent correspondence. We also don’t know what other lawmakers may have been sent bogus letters.
Tim Fernholz added a good point: “Members of Congress are already very skeptical of constituent communications in this day of Internet-organized communications blitzes; the possibility that they may take these messages even less seriously due to fraud is a very disheartening one.”
Postscript: Perriello, by the way, did the right thing and voted for ACES.