Leaked memo on anti-wind campaign disputed

Source: Jean Chemnick, E&E reporter • Posted: Thursday, May 10, 2012

Another day, another squabble about a right-leaning policy memo.

This time the disputed document is a 10-page strategy memo appearing to detail an expensive and ambitious campaign targeting the wind energy industry. The memo, circulated by the watchdog group the Checks and Balances Project, calls for opponents of wind power to engage in messaging and media outreach efforts that “appear as a ‘groundswell’ among grass roots.”

The memo also calls for the establishment of “dummy” businesses in communities considering hosting wind power projects to purchase 400-foot billboards opposing the idea.

Renaming wind power as “puff power” or “breeze energy” is also recommended.

The document, which was first referenced in an article yesterday in the Guardian, was drafted by Illinois attorney Rich Porter and edited by John Droz, a longtime opponent of industrial wind and a senior fellow at the American Tradition Institute.

Checks and Balances Project co-director Gabe Elsner said it was discussed at a meeting of wind energy opponents held in Washington in early February, which was convened by Droz.

Participants at that meeting included staffers from national right-leaning organizations like the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow, the Competitive Enterprise Institute and American Legislative Exchange Council, as well as state-based anti-wind groups like Illinois Wind Watch.

The memo called for $750,000 in seed money, and its proposals ranged from book publishing to extensive media campaigns. Stephen Lacey of the Center for American Progress said it left the impression that the supporters of the plan did not have funding yet.

“I think for us the real interesting news is that this is happening and a lot of these folks are trying to coordinate, and it is being done with folks that are affiliated with conservative groups that have historically fought renewable energy standards and tried to sow the seeds of doubt about climate science,” he said.

Climate scientist and author Michael Mann said the memo appeared to be part of an ongoing strategy by right-leaning groups to use “astroturfing” techniques to try to show public support for views that are actually in the interest of a narrow segment of the business community.

“It’s fundamentally dishonest,” he said. “They’re trying to make the public think that there’s grass-roots support for something when in fact it’s a Potemkin village.”

He added, “They’re lying to the public, trying to make the public think their fellow citizens share the views that really represent only the narrow interests of powerful vested interests.”

But Droz said the Guardian had the story all wrong: The memo reflected Porter’s views only. It was never adopted by participants at the Energy Advocates Conference, he said, and in fact was not even discussed. He said he had edited the memo himself, but only for grammar.

“When I looked at the ideas, I thought some of them had some merit, I thought some of them were not so good,” Droz said

He said that as a “grass roots” group, the conference of wind energy opponents had to be open to any private citizen’s ideas.

“I’m open to anyone saying anything, quite frankly,” he said.

Droz also disputed that his meeting represents a coordinated effort by conservatives to go after wind. He said the participants were chosen by him, and they took part as private citizens, not on behalf of their organizations.

Click here to read the memo.