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Fake Outrage Hits Climate Change Debate
Aug 5, 2009; CBS News Blog | This requires NPQ commentary, and we hope NPQ’s online readers will respond. A policy/lobbying firm, Bonner and Associates, hired by the American Coalition for Clean Coal Energy (a coal industry lobbying group, worth looking at for its high-minded mission in contrast with its behavior here), sent out fake letters on behalf of (and sometimes on the stationery of) real nonprofits to local politicians calling on them to oppose climate change legislation. The nonprofits that were used in this way were a Latino service organization, Creciendo Juntos, and a branch of the NAACP, both in the Charlottesville area of Virginia. The NAACP is even on record supporting the climate change legislation. The Bonner group attributed this scam to a rogue employee, but the reporting in various places (see these New York Times articles too, here and here) makes that claim look pretty flimsy. This is more than the “Astroturf” grassroots advocacy that has been used by so many special interests to fake grassroots support or opposition on various national policies. This is outright scamming, this is corrupt behavior, both Bonner and the coal group should get their knuckles rapped big time. Clean coal? In this instance, clean coal has very dirty hands. —Rick Cohen

Lives and fortunes intertwined in GM town
Jul 21, 2009; USA Today | Due to reduced charitable giving during this recession, even by the nation’s historically most generous donors (working people who frequently give through payroll deductions), many United Ways have fallen short of their fundraising goals and been compelled to tell local groups that they’re getting reduced grants or none at all. In the Greater Utica area, the 2008 campaign fell over $400,000 below its target and the UW cut groups by about 20%; for 2009, its “Pacesetter Campaign” goal is about half as much as the UW had targeted in 2008. In Richland County, Ohio, the United Way’s take between 2007 and 2008 dropped by $200,000 and the predictions are for even worse fundraising campaign totals in 2009 due to automobile industry closures. The Muskegon, Michigan United Way cut its funded groups by 25% this year and anticipates an even larger cut for the upcoming funding year; and 5 groups were zeroed out, including one that provides tax preparation assistance for low-income people to help them qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit. Even in Texas, where the United Ways appear, at least based on press reports, appear to be doing somewhat better than United Ways on the coasts and in the Midwest, there are cuts, such as the Angelina County United Way announcing a reduction in its campaign goals for this year with corresponding cuts to local agencies. There are many more of these stories from across the nation about United Way fundraising shortfalls and distribution cutbacks. The organizations being hurt are typically the communities’ social safety net groups, just at the time when they are obviously facing increased demands for their services. —Rick Cohen

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