Brian McNeil of the Daily Progress is reporting tonight that at least 6 letters received by Congressman Perriello’s office in Charlottesville were fakes sent in the names of two minority-based organizations in Charlottesville.
Creciendo Juntos is one organization. It serves the community in the Charlottesville area concerning issues important to Hispanic residents. The non-profit network was not happy about this.
“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 person who sent the letter has not been identified, but he or she was employed by a Washington lobbying firm called Bonner & Associates.
Bonner and Associates has a reputation for astroturf campaigns in support of it’s clients. They advertise themselves as a manager of “strategic grassroots” campaigns. Although a representative from Bonner went to Charlottesville and apologized for its ‘mistake’, a characterization the Creciendo Juntos organization rejected, the mood was not conciliatory. In a letter to Congressman Perriello’s office, Tim Freilich, a board member of Creciendo Juntos and the Legal Director of the Immigrant Advocacy Program of the Legal Aid Justice Center, said:
“This was not a ‘mistake,’” wrote Freilich, who is also legal director of the Immigrant Advocacy Program of the Legal Aid Justice Center. “This was a deliberately and carefully forged letter that used the logo, address and name of Creciendo Juntos without authorization. Additionally, I understand from Ms. Hegyi that our organization was not the only Charlottesville-area organization whose reputations were used in an unauthorized manner to try to influence Congressman Perriello on this particular vote.”
After the wording in the letters sounded familiar to the congressman’s staffers, a search for an additional number of letters or other communications was launched. They looked through thousands of letters, faxes and messages. After finding the letters in question, it was discovered they were purportedly from the Charlottesville-area 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.”
In fact, Turner said, the NAACP supports the American Clean Energy and Security Act, as he said it would create good-paying jobs for blacks and reduce harmful emissions, particularly in urban areas.
“Clean energy creates jobs in the urban setting,” he said.
The fake NAACP letters were faxed to Perriello’s office from the Arlington headquarters of a company called Professional Risk Management Services Inc. A representative of the company said she had no knowledge of why the fax would have been sent from her office, adding that at least 60 employees have access to the fax machine.
Bonner and Associates has been hired by many organizations, including AARP and the Electric Utility Shareholders Alliance. Bonner is not registered with Congress as a lobbyist on energy matters currently.
As we know now, Congressman Perriello did vote for the Energy Bill in the House. Republican organizations have characterized Congressman Perriello’s vote as misguided, to put it politely. Several advertisements have questioned his vote.