Most "Energy Citizens" rallies are being organized by registered lobbyists working on behalf of the American Petroleum Institute and other energy interests.
A list of organizers circulated by the Sierra Club shows state-registered lobbyists for the energy industry are serving as the coordinators for 16 of 21 scheduled events organized under the campaign.
Most of the rally coordinators are individuals who lobby for API but work primarily for its state-level affiliates such as the Illinois Petroleum Council or the Florida Petroleum Council. Others represent corporations such as Devon Energy or are simply registered lobbyists who are not identified as being linked to particular clients.
"Most 'citizens' movements I know of aren't headed up by corporate lobbyists," said Josh Dorner of the Sierra Club. "It's not the least bit surprising that these events are being orchestrated by corporate lobbyists, but it's truly shocking that they continue to pretend that these rallies are anything but yet another PR offensive paid for by Big Oil's billions in profits."
The Sierra Club has led the charge in an effort to paint the "Energy Citizens" campaign as one that is being orchestrated by API and others in industry, and it says the conservative movement has little backing from the public at large.
Energy Citizens is organized by API, along with FreedomWorks, the American Conservative Union and Americans for Tax Reform.
The campaign kicked off with a rally in Houston earlier this week, followed by similar, though smaller, events in New Mexico, North Carolina and Ohio. API officials say the events are not designed to oppose the climate legislation but rather to highlight flaws in the House-passed legislation and to build public support for changes that the Senate should make to the legislation.
The campaign is expected to continue until Labor Day.
API dismissed the accusations from the Sierra Club, arguing that the rallies represent the views of much of the public regardless of who serves as the actual organizer.
"The contact people for the rallies are irrelevant," API spokeswoman Karen Matusic said. "What we are seeing are ordinary Americans citizens with valid concerns about the House climate bill showing up at these events in numbers that far exceeded expectations."
Matusic added, "The Sierra Club is trying to change the focus of these rallies to talk about process. The true story is that when average Americans learn about the facts of this bill and how they would be affected, they are really showing up at these events."