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‘Foreign-Funded Radicals’? Calgary-Based Enbridge Underwrites Pro-Line 3 Advocacy Group in Minnesota

Lenny K Photography/Flickr

A pro-pipeline group in Minnesota that presents itself as the voice of public support for the Line 3 pipeline is little more than a mouthpiece for North American pipeliner Enbridge Inc., the company that funds and directs its operations, according to an investigation by DeSmog Blog.

[So if a Canadian corporation sends money to an astroturf group in the United States, does Jason Kenney have any objection to the pernicious influence of “foreign-funded radicals [1]”?—Ed.]

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On the scene for a little more than a year, Minnesotans for Line 3 may sound like grassroot operation, but its methods and messaging come direct from Calgary office towers, DeSmog concludes.

DeSmog says Enbridge’s multi-billion-dollar plan to replace and reroute the aging tar sands/oil sands pipeline included heavy use of Facebook advertising, sufficient to make it “the tenth-largest digital ad purchaser among interest groups between November 2018 and April 2019.” TV ads have also been prominent, with filings with the U.S. Federal Communications Commission showing some of the placements directly funded by Enbridge—a small detail that is not disclosed on the Minnesotans for Line 3 website.

Also now conspicuously silent on its connection to Enbridge is Saint Paul, MN-based public relations firm Velocity Public Affairs, whose list of principals includes a former lobbyist for the energy giant. On a since-deleted web page, DeSmog found, the firm was once happy to trumpet the success of its Advocacy Elevator in helping Enbridge promote Line 3, declaring that “to garner favourable decisions by government agencies that would decide the fate of the project, Enbridge needed an exceptional and sustained show of statewide public support.”

To build up that “show,” wrote Velocity, “Enbridge tapped the Advocacy Elevator’s power to develop uniquely comprehensive sets of data that were the foundation to better define and understand a universe of people more likely to support the project and to take action.”

The PR firm went on to detail the menu of tactics it used to “create grassroots support” for the controversial project, including direct mail, phone calls, digital engagement, and canvassing. All of those efforts were “focused on the objective of further identifying the strongest group of likely supporters and then getting them to ‘walk the walk’ by taking actions that would create an impact with specific audiences that would, in turn, support approval of the line,” Velocity wrote.