"This letter was so much about saving the rain forest and printed on tree-free paper, I was curious to see if it was true or not — and it turns out it’s not true," Mr. Campbell told the Washington Times. (Tree-free) Pulp Fiction

Washington Times investigative reporter Audrey Hudson is hot on the trail of another wild one.

Having recently sent the fur flying in the lynx scandal, wherein a group of federal and state wildlife workers were found to have submitted false evidence of the endangered cat in three national forests (read: Here a Lynx, There a Lynx), Ms. Hudson is now focusing her sights on the tree-lovin’ Rainforest Action Network.

It seems the group has been sending out a fundraising solicitation to support its efforts to protect rain forests. In the letter, the group asks for additional contributions to offset the higher costs of using "tree-free" paper in the mailing. Only there’s one slight problem: lab tests reportedly show the paper contains "virtually all wood pulp, including maple, beech, birch, spruce, hemlock, fir and ash." (Not the poor little ash!) This, according to fiber analysis conducted on the paper by Walter J. Rantanen, a supervisor at Integrated Paper Service Inc., an independent testing and research laboratory in Wisconsin.

Mr. Rantanen was hired by California resident John Campbell, who obtained a suspect letter. A "Republican fundraiser," Mr. Campbell — no stranger to the tricks of the trade — smelled a rat. "This letter was so much about saving the rain forest and printed on tree-free paper, I was curious to see if it was true or not — and it turns out it’s not true," Mr. Campbell told the Washington Times.

Sara Brown Riggs of the Rainforest Action Network says Mr. Campbell’s claims are false: "We wrote the book on tree-free paper, so we are confident that this is just a hoax."

Perhaps. But that’s not stopping Mr. Campbell from pursuing the matter with the U.S. Postal Inspector. Attempting to solicit funds through the U.S. mail through false or fraudulent pretenses is a federal crime. In a letter to the Postal Inspector, Mr. Campbell writes: "I urge you to take action to ensure that this organization which raises millions of dollars annually is deterred from making any future efforts to defraud the public."

Our research shows there’s a John Campbell in California who is Chairman of Pacific Lumber Company, a group much-maligned by the Rainforest Action Network. Any relation? Probably not, but that’s how conspiracy theories are born.

February 28, 2002
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