The Rock Island Clean Line is one for-profit company proposing to ship wind power produced in western Iowa to the outskirts of Chicago. None of that power would stay in Iowa and a number of landowners along the proposed 500-mile-long transmission line route have opposed the plan. Some owners and farmers have expressed concerns about potential damage to land from transmission tower construction and the threat of eminent domain to push a route if enough willing sellers aren’t found.
But Lang, and Mike Prior, interim director of the Iowa Wind Energy Association, hope the new organization could serve as a “go-between” to bridge some of the disagreements between land owners and the Clean Line developers.
A front group is an organization that purports to represent one agenda while in reality it serves some other party or interest whose sponsorship is hidden or rarely mentioned. [or denied!] The front group is perhaps the most easily recognized use of the third party propaganda technique.
Windward Iowa's web domain was purchased October 21, 2013 by Larson Shannahan Slifka Group, aka LS2Group.
Larson Shannahan Slifka Group (LS2group) is a bipartisan public relations, public affairs, and marketing firm that guides its practices with one goal in mind: what others may do, we strive to do better. We offer clients an unparalleled commitment to excellence and take pride in our consistent delivery of successful outcomes. Our strength lies in the diversity of our team and its determination to apply creative solutions and unique perspectives to clients' needs. We see possibilities others cannot and have a track record of helping our clients reach their goals.
Who are LS2Group's clients?
"LS2group has a thorough understanding of our needs and responds quickly to our requests, coupled with a vast network of strong relationships with key officials."
- Cary K., Director of Development, Rock Island Clean Line
The claims that Windward Iowa is not advocating for Clean Line's RICL project, and has nothing to do with the company, are beyond credible belief.
Windward Iowa incorporated as a non-profit Iowa corporation on December 12, 2013. According to its Articles of Incorporation, its purpose is:
to promote social welfare by seeking to educate and encourage landowners to become familiar with wind energy production and transmission, and expand the wind industry in the state of Iowa to further the common good and general welfare of the people of Iowa and the Midwest.
no substantial part of the activities of the corporation shall be the carrying on of propaganda, or otherwise attempting to influence legislation, and the corporation shall not participate in, or intervene in (including the publishing or publication of statements) any political campaign on behalf of or in opposition to any candidate for public office
Donations? Yes, that's one of the ways you can "get involved" with this group, in addition to "submitting a letter to the editor or opinion editorial; commenting online through Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn, or on an article; commenting to the Iowa Utility Board; or contacting your legislator or local government official." Hey, wait a tick, doesn't that last one violate the Articles' prohibition on attempts to influence legislation? That's some pretty thin ice!
I also wonder what the legal implications are of this corporation involving itself in negotiations with property owners that eventually result in eminent domain takings?
Windward Iowa's Facebook page contains numerous links to stories about RICL.
Windward Iowa's website makes sweeping statements that it does not back up, such as:
"Experts predict the U.S. will soon be in the midst of a transmission crisis. It is important to be proactive in addressing the issue and developing new infrastructure. We cannot afford to wait another 60 years for wind energy development.
The country’s electric grid is outdated and in need of attention and upgrades. Projects that bring wind energy through new avenues are part of the solution to providing clean, dependable, and renewable power."
Who are these "experts" and where have they made these statements? Or did the public relations firm just make it up out of whole cloth?
Compare this information to the signs of a front group here:
1. The group does not report who they are really working for, who their members are, or the source of their funding. The idea that three individuals spontaneously decided to start an advocacy group managed by a pricey lawyer and a public relations group defies belief.
2. There is no physical address or list of staff on the website.
3. The group claims neutrality on some hot button issue and appears to be making general arguments about a topic only marginally related to the issue, and yet they mainly focus on a “secondary” issue (RICL).
This is all so classic. I've had experience uncovering and reporting on transmission company front groups in the past, and my opinion is that Windward Iowa is a front group being paid for by Clean Line Energy Partners.
Because RICL and Clean Line Energy Partners are no longer viewed as an impartial and trustworthy source of information in Iowa, the company and its public relations contractor have created a supposedly "neutral" third-party entity that will continue to advocate for its project under another name. If you wouldn't believe a word RICL says, then don't believe anything the company tells you when it is wearing its "Windward Iowa" mask.
Windward Iowa only has the same amount of credibility as RICL, and should be treated accordingly by opposition, elected officials, and the media. It's very disappointing that none of the reporters attending the group's "launch" yesterday had the curiosity to ask where this group is getting its funding. That's the literal "million dollar question."