Editors' Note: After a review, we've determined that this blog post overstates the role Blue Line Strategic Communications and its founders, Michael Meehan and David DiMartino, played in Clean Energy Works. A coalition comprised of dozens of NGOs, Clean Energy Works was founded in 2009 to campaign for the passage of climate change legislation. The organization was led by Democratic strategist Paul Tewes and a managing committee comprised of representatives from each of the participating groups, which collectively determined the coalition's priorities and strategies. Clean Energy Works subsequently hired several firms to work on the campaign, including Blue Line, which handled strategic communications. While Blue Line played a role in shaping the campaign's messaging, it neither managed Clean Energy Works nor was it in a position to unilaterally determine strategy, as the post suggests.
The post also leaves the impression that Michael Meehan worked for Clean Energy Works. While Meehan worked for groups that were part of the broader coalition, he did not work directly with Clean Energy Works. That account was handled by his partner David DiMartino. As Fang reported, Meehan was a vice president at Virilion, the digital media company that held a $19 million contract from American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity. Meehan maintains, however, that he never worked directly on the ACCCE account, which preceded his arrangement with Virilion, and had no financial stake in it. Both Meehan and DiMartino, who were not interviewed before publication, contacted The Nation to say that neither of them are registered lobbyists, as the post describes them, but rather communications professionals. They previously worked at BGR Public Relations, part of the BGR Group, which has lobbied on behalf of fossil fuel companies, although both Meehan and DiMartino maintain that they had no role in those efforts.
We stand by the post's contention that Meehan's work for Blue Line and Virilion—while Blue Line was coordinating communications strategy for Clean Energy Works in favor of climate legislation and Virilion was working to block the same bill—created an apparent conflict of interest. What is not supported by the evidence is that this conflict influenced Clean Energy Works' strategic decisions and ultimately contributed to the failure of the bill. We apologize for the errors.
Despite holding the presidency and congressional majorities, Democratic leaders failed to pass a climate change bill. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File.)
On this Earth Day, we are three years out from the last window of opportunity to pass a climate bill in America. Harvard University’s Theda Skocpol has done the best job so far in diagnosing why, at the outset of the Obama administration with large Democratic majorities in Congress, progressives failed to enact a law regulating or pricing carbon pollution. Her conclusion is that reformers spent too much resources on an “inside game” of lobbyists and dealmakers and not enough on grassroots campaigning, and that reformers failed to make the case about the dangers of global warming.
She’s right, but here’s another reason: The guys who managed the campaign were also secretly working alongside the opposition.
Three years ago, reformers established a group called Clean Energy Works that would manage a coalition of more than sixty organization to develop advertising, field and lobbying to pass a climate bill. New disclosures not only show that Clean Energy Works and its affiliates spent about $37 million on advertising and less than $900,000 on grassroots organizing, but that the firm at the helm of the effort, then called Blue Line Strategic Communications, was in bed with the coal industry.