Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Illinois CORE, the mysteriously high-profile 'not for profit' organization that appeared suddenly in 2005 to oppose the Illinois Governor's policy on Utility issues including his appointment of Marty Cohen (former Executive Director of the Citizen's Utility Board) to head the Illinois Commerce Commission, appears to be a fabrication created by the huge international public relations firm Hill and Knowlton. What seems to be the evidence?

Check out the registration listing for the Illinois CORE website: (see full record here).

Created On:19-Aug-2005 17:49:35 UTC
Last Updated On:19-Oct-2005 04:04:05 UTC
Expiration Date:19-Aug-2006 17:49:35 UTC
Sponsoring Registrar:Register.com Inc. (R71-LROR)
Registrant ID:9099760dc1d82616
Registrant Name:Jason Maymon
Registrant Organization:Hill and Knowlton
Registrant Street1:222 Merchandise Mart Plaza
Registrant Street2:Suite 275
Registrant Street3:
Registrant City:Chicago
Registrant State/Province:IL
Registrant Postal Code:60654
Registrant Country:US
Registrant Phone:+1.3124755902
Registrant Phone Ext.:
Registrant FAX:+1.3122553030
Registrant FAX Ext.:
Registrant Email:jason.maymon@hillandknowlton.com

Illinois Core was created as a not-for-profit organization on September 6, 2005 (full record here - select the 'By File Number' and type file number '64370693'). The organization's agent is corporate lawyer Randi Valerious.

On its website, it lists a P.O. Box number as its mailing address. Is it possible that it has no mailing address because it doesn't exist as a real organization? Somehow it has enough money for hundreds of primetime television ads and more, yet it does not have its own office!

Also their 'media liaison' is the highly politically connected former Vice President of the Chicago Board of Education, Avis LaVelle, who now runs her own public relations and lobbying consulting firm, A. LaVelle Consulting Service, LLC. You even get her consulting service office when you call LaVelle's number listed on the Illinois CORE website, 312-223-0581.

When I called the toll free number for 'CORE' 866-395-CORE (2673), I got their 'coordinator' named Jennifer Schuh. Here are my notes from our conversation 5 minutes ago:

Q: Is Illinois CORE an Illinos Not-For-Profit Corporation?
A: Yes, I believe it is.
Q: Is it a 501(c)(3) Organization?
A: I believe it is, but I'm not sure.
Q: How does one become a member of CORE?
A: just ask.
Q: I'd like to become a member.
A: Okay, I'll note that in your file.
Q: Does Illinois CORE hold any meetings?
A: No, not yet. We're focusing on new calls to action coming up at the end of December to early January. Instead of meetings, CORE contacts it's members and encourages them to just contact their legislators.
Q: Who is on the board of directors of CORE?
A: Well, we have an advisory committee, and the members of that committee are...
Q: Yes, that committee list is on the website, right?
A: Yes.
Q: Well that's an advisory commitee. What about a board of directors, do you have one, and who sits on that?
A: I think our advisory committee is our board of directors.
Q: Do you know how CORE got started, how it got organized?
A: I believe it started in August, and I don't know who started it.
Q: How long have you been with CORE?
A: I've been here since September.
Q: I noticed that the organization that registered the website address illinoiscore.org is from the firm Hill and Knowlton, do you know anything about this?
A: No, I don't know anything about this. I didn't even know that kind of information was out there.
Q: Did Illinois CORE hire you or did someone else hire you?
A: I'm sorry, but I have another call, I will send you the new materials very shortly. Good Bye.

The question is, who exactly is paying Hill and Knowlton to create and front this Illinois CORE organization? Is it the many large utility corporations in Illinois: SBC, ComEd (Exelon Corp), People's Energy, Midwest Generation (coal plant owner), who else?

It presents a surprising list of it's 'advisory committee' which the Illinois CORE website says are it's members. Among the predicted corporate interest listings are some surprising 'members':

Those above 'members' are all nominally part of African American or Latino community organizations. How did CORE, a clearly anti-consumer rights organization convince these folks to 'join'? Are members and workers in those organizations aware that their leaders support/join Illinois CORE?

Is this organization really (as it's name suggests) Consumers Organized for Reliable Electricity? Did consumers really start and organize this organization? Or, rather, did corporations and business interests create and organize this organization to fool real consumers into thinking it is a consumer interest group?

Is there any false advertising law that this organization is violating? Illinois CORE purchased likely millions of dollars worth of print, radio and television advertising (some would say propagandaizing) all under a sham corporate-created organization?

This can't be right, can it? Even for people who believe that corporations should have the rights of a natural person (which I don't), one must see that this is clearly cooersive and decptive behavior on the part of those that created this organization and currently act in its name.

Additional information:

The irony gets thicker: the Media Consultant for Illinois CORE, the organization that worked to sink Governor Blagojevich's appointment to the ICC, Avis LaVelle, was appointed in December of 2002 by Blagojevich to sit on a policy advisory committee to the Governor before he took office. This is the description given of Ms. LaVelle on the announcement of the committee:

Avis LaVelle, senior partner for the Foster Group and vice president of the Chicago Board of Education, who formerly served as Vice President of Government and Public Affairs for the University of Chicago Hospitals, and as former Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services


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