Someone paid actors to support an energy company at public hearings in New Orleans

Every time a conservative jackass accuses a high school kid of being "a crisis actor" remember this: someone hired actors to support an energy company's proposal. The actors were required to sign non-disclosure agreements. Some of the actors talked anyhow.

Via The Lens NOLA:

At least four of the people in orange shirts were professional actors. One actor said he recognized 10 to 15 others who work in the local film industry.

They were paid $60 each time they wore the orange shirts to meetings in October and February. Some got $200 for a "speaking role," which required them to deliver a prewritten speech, according to interviews with the actors and screenshots of Facebook messages provided to The Lens.

"They paid us to sit through the meeting and clap every time someone said something against wind and solar power," said Keith Keough, who heard about the opportunity through a friend.

He said he thought he was going to shoot a commercial. "I'm not political," he said. "I needed the money for a hotel room at that point."

They were asked to sign non-disclosure agreements and were instructed not to speak to the media or tell anyone they were being paid.

But three of them agreed to talk about their experience and provided evidence that they were paid to endorse the power plant. Two spoke on the condition that they not be identified, saying they didn't want to jeopardize other work or get in trouble for violating the non-disclosure agreement.

Another attendee, an actor and musician who played a small role on HBO's "Treme," told WWL-TV he was paid to wear one of the orange shirts at a meeting of the council's utility committee.

Paying people to create the illusion of grassroots support is known as astroturfing. Although it's misleading, it appears to be legal. The Lens couldn't find any prohibition against such activities, and Louisiana's lobbying laws only cover money spent directly on public officials.

But Councilwoman Stacy Head called what happened in those meetings "disturbing." Councilwoman Susan Guidry, the only member of the Utility Committee to vote against the plant, called it "morally reprehensible," saying, "I think it had a phenomenal impact on public opinion."

The two men who recruited and organized the actors, Garrett Wilkerson and Daniel Taylor, appear to be from out of town. In our story about the October hearing, Wilkerson offered an apocalyptic prediction about what would happen to New Orleans if the power plant weren't built.

It remains unclear who was behind the effort, but Guidry has a guess. "How can you not link Entergy to this?" she asked. "Who else would have paid all these people to come there and say they want a gas-fired power plant?"

Entergy New Orleans did not respond to repeated requests for comment. The company told WWL-TV, "Entergy New Orleans did not pay anyone to attend."

Previously on Boing Boing:

"Citizens" who speak at town meetings are hired, scripted actors