Dubious ‘Grassroots’ of Drilling Campaign

Last week, we reported on a “War on the Poor” rally, led by Niger Innis of the Congress of Racial Equality, Bishop Harry Jackson of the High Impact Leadership Coalition, and Americans for American Energy, in which environmentalists who oppose increased domestic drilling were accused of being “environmental racists, environmental terrorists.”  

Together, Americans for American Energy, CORE, and Jackson produced the appearance of a “grassroots” campaign. From a new press release promising more name-calling:

The national campaign was officially launched at a protest rally last week on Capitol Hill where more than 15 speakers spoke to a crowd of nearly 100 families and advocates for the poor protested with signs and chants of “Stop the War on the Poor” before a phalanx of news media cameras, Congressional staffers and others.

Of course, some of the “nearly 100 families” in attendance (a bit of an exaggeration to begin with) seem to have had varying motives for being there:

While some rally attendees told Mandel about their difficulties “budgeting around today’s gasoline prices,” others “backed away from a reporter with a notebook. … One woman, who declined to give her name, said she was demonstrating at her boss’s behest.”

And as for the organizers behind the “War on the Poor” campaign, they may not be what they seem either.

Americans for American Energy purports to be “a non-profit, grassroots-based organization dedicated to educating the public about the importance of greater energy independence for America and promoting public policies that support that goal.”  According to the Anchorage Daily News, the organization is funded by—and possibly was created by—a well-connected lobbying firm called Pac/West Communications, which received a $3 million contract from the state of Alaska to “educate” Americans about ANWR drilling.

In a 2006 interview on the Living on Earth radio show, Tom Randall of Pac/West explained that “grassroots campaigning” was one of the techniques the group planned to use:

[INTERVIEWER JEFF] YOUNG: Randall says the grass roots part is called ‘Americans for American Energy,’ which generates pro-drilling letters to congress and editors of local papers. Randall says Americans for American Energy is, essentially, one worker paid by Pac West.


YOUNG: Is it really grass roots, though? I mean if a PR firm gets 3 million dollars to carry out a campaign, that’s not what I think most people think of when they hear grass roots.

RANDALL: It’s grass roots if it gets a grassroots response, if other people in the grassroots join in, and that effort is multiplied, then you have a grassroots movement.

That one worker Randall mentioned was probably Jim Sims, formerly the communications director for Vice President Cheney’s notorious energy task force. Americans for American Energy shares an address with Sims’s Colorado PR agency, Policy Communications. Another Policy Communications employee, energy lobbyist Greg Schnacke, became president of Americans for American Energy in 2007.

Meanwhile, Jackson and Innis each target environmentalists from their respective posts: Jackson as a religious leader, Innis as heir to a once-prominent civil rights organization.

Jackson, a long-time Religious Right activist, has apparently been expanding his right-wing portfolio. In their new book, Jackson and Family Research Council President Tony Perkins argue that anti-environmentalism is a faith issue, and that “Global Warming” may in fact be “God’s Warning”: “Did you notice that what Jesus warned would occur in the last days are almost identical to what some global warming theorists are saying is going to happen?” 

Perkins has been marketing this view for some time, along with the argument that the fight against global warming promotes abortion and homosexuality: “A major component of Global Warming is to reduce population because people are seen as part of the problem. And, of course, population control includes abortion. It also includes same-sex relations because they do not cause offspring.”

According to Jackson and Perkins, this is not the only reason why “environmental alarmists” are anti-Christian. From their book:

How many times have you heard them appeal to others to ‘help save the planet’? The whole premise of the statement presupposes that mankind is ultimately in charge of the fate of our planet. It springs form the same idea that we can save ourselves and that we don’t need the atoning work of Christ on the cross. If the problems of pollution, the environment, and global warming are man-made, their logic goes, then the solution can be man-made too. We don’t need God.

Innis of CORE, whose reputation for corporate shilling we mentioned previously, rages against the “environmental extremists,” who “actually want higher prices because it gives them power to force changes in people’s behavior. They call this ‘energy conservation.’ I call it ‘economic enslavement.’ It is immoral, it is wrong, and those who support these policies will be unmasked for what they are – strategists and leaders in the war on the poor….Our ‘Stop The War On The Poor’ campaign has targeted 100 specific politicians and 50 environmental extremist groups from across the nation that will be unmasked as the ‘generals, colonels, majors and captains’ who are waging this unprecedented war on the poor.”