The nation’s largest electric utilities have been relying on a political consulting shop to portray their efforts to attack rooftop solar as having support from the “grassroots” for at least the past year.

The consulting group, DDC Consulting, has carved out a niche for itself at conjuring up “astroturf” – or faked grassroots efforts. Indeed, the firm’s website says that it specializes in designing, managing, and executing advocacy campaigns that “shape public opinion, sway decision-makers, and affect outcomes in the legislature, the press, the board room, and the public eye.” DDC was just exposed as the PR firm behind an effort to portray imagined support for natural gas pipelines, this time funded by the American Gas Association.

The Huffington Post first revealed that the American Gas Association is funding a new front group called Your Energy, which has advocated for the benefits of natural gas and specifically the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, a natural gas pipeline that is largely owned by Dominion Energy, with ownership stakes also held by Duke Energy and Southern Company.

DeSmog further reported on June 14 that DDC Advocacy, short for “Democracy, Data & Communications” is the PR firm helping the American Gas Association with the front group. DeSmog’s Steve Horn writes, “A source who requested anonymity and attended the Chamber of Commerce event told DeSmog, he saw Ryan Lowry, DDC’s Vice President of Client Relations, wearing a Your Energy Virginia name badge at the event. DDC has played a pioneering role in pushing web-centric ‘astroturf’ public relations campaigns, which it calls ‘grassroots.'”

A domain registration search confirms that DDC Advocacy is also the PR firm behind the Edison Electric Institute’s “We Stand for Energy” campaign, one of the utility industry’s efforts to portray grassroots support behind the utility industry’s attacks on rooftop solar energy.

Work for the Edison Electric Institute

DDC Advocacy is a current ‘Associate Member’ of the Edison Electric Institute, the trade association for investor-owned electric utilities.

The profile of the firm on EEI’s website states: “DDC’s full-service capabilities include: political strategy, global and local strategy and execution, grassroots and legislative technology, PR and social media management, insights and paid media, outreach, government solutions and PAC compliance.”

According to U.S. Internal Revenue Services (IRS) tax forms, DDC Advocacy has been one of EEI’s top five highest paid independent contractors in 2012 and 2014. EEI paid DDC Advocacy $548,163 in 2012 and $1,326,106 in 2014 for “consulting.”

Additionally, a 2007 client list found by DeSmog shows that DDC Advocacy worked with EEI that year along with utilities American Electric Power, Dominion, Exelon, San Diego Gas & Electric, and Southern California Edison.

While it is unclear what consulting work DDC Advocacy has done for EEI and the utility companies over the years, a domain registration search shows that DDC Advocacy has at least been a part of EEI’s We Stand For Energy campaign since its founding since DDC Advocacy is listed as the organization that registered EEI’s westandfordenergy.com.

We Stand For Energy was launched in 2014. A POWER magazine article about the advocacy campaign said a consulting firm had been retained by EEI to develop the program and “the national effort of the program is supposed to ‘educate’ customers about the importance of electricity in their lives.” The article did not name the firm hired by EEI.

We Stand For Energy ad – EEI

A look at the We Stand For Energy campaign shows similarities to the Your Energy campaign in efforts to pass as a grassroots-type organization. The EEI campaign recently ran advertisements that urged voters in Indiana, Maine, and New Mexico to ask their lawmakers to support legislation that would have harmed distributed solar energy, or oppose legislation that would have helped it.

We Stand For Energy ad for Indiana voters regarding Senate Bill 309:

We Stand For Energy ad for Maine voters regarding LD 1504:

We Stand For Energy ad for New Mexico voters regarding Senate Bill 210/House Bill 109:

An additional We Stand For Energy web page features critical statements about the Clean Power Plan and Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS):

“EPA’s Clean Power Plan Would Harm Reliability, Affordability … The Plan has been criticized for its flawed assumptions that form the basis for unrealistic expectations of carbon emission reductions … Farmers and ranchers in South Dakota have expressed similar, well-justified concerns about the expanded definition of Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) under the Clean Water Act.”

Work for American Petroleum Institute

Along with the “grassroots” consultancy work DDC Advocacy has done for the Edison Electric Institute and the American Gas Association, the firm has also helped the American Petroleum Institute in its state advocacy campaigns.

In fact, a DDC Advocacy case study reveals how the firm works with trade associations and companies:

Energy Citizens – API

“DDC was tasked with creating an on-the-ground campaign focused on raising the profile of Energy Citizens in support of natural gas production from the “Marcellus Shale” formation in Pennsylvania. This was the first time a consumer-based advocacy group would collaborate with other local landowners, small businesses, and industry groups to support natural gas development from the Marcellus Shale site; conveying positions to government officials, the media, and the broader public; as well as building organizational momentum … Our creative team played a significant role in branding the Pennsylvania Energy Citizens effort—developing a state-level version of the national brand, and a series of collateral that included apparel, stationary, and bumper stickers to support their efforts.”

Posted by Matt Kasper

Matt Kasper is the Research Director at the Energy & Policy Institute. He focuses on defending policies that further the development of clean energy sources. He also frequently focuses on the companies and their front groups that obstruct policy solutions to global warming. His work has appeared in The Guardian, the Huffington Post, the Washington Post, and other outlets.

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