Actors Allegedly Hired To Pose As Citizens Supporting New Orleans Power Plant

Updated | Actors were apparently hired to pose as supporters advocating at a public hearing for an Entergy New Orleans power plant.

"They paid us to sit through the meeting and clap every time someone said something against wind and solar power," said Keith Keough, who was informed about the job through a friend told The Lens. "I'm not political. I needed the money for a hotel room at that point."

This method is known as "astroturfing," the practice of concealing the sponsors of an organization to make it appear as if authentic participants are in attendance. While this practice is not technically illegal, the ramifications of the tactic being revealed could include loss of credibility, among other factors.

The alleged actors were required to sign non-disclosure contracts, agreeing to abstain from speaking to the media or anyone of their compensation, The New Orleans Advocate reported. In October and February, they were tasked with attending meetings and wearing orange shirts with the slogan: "Clean Energy. Good Jobs. Reliable Power." Completing this job would earn participating actors $60, and persons who delivered a pre-written speech earned $200. While on assignment, Keough said he spotted approximately 10 to 15 other individuals who were members of the local film community.

Garrett Wilkerson and Daniel Taylor of Crowds on Demand, a Los Angeles-based provides clients with hired actors, apparently aided in recruiting talent for the public hearing. Ahead of the October hearing, Wilkerson shared a post via Facebook promoting the job, according to screenshots obtained by The Lens. In a Facebook message to an interested actor, Wilkerson explained the gig's protocol.

"We need people to sit through part of a city council meeting to decide on building an additional turbine onto the local power plant, replacing the outdated and failing systems that were built before WW2 (World War II)," Wilkerson wrote, according to The Lens. "The council already supports it, this is mostly just to show that the citizens don't have a problem with it. Free pizza and a round of drinks after it's over, at which point pay will be dispersed in cash."

It hasn't been confirmed whether Entergy was Crowds on Demand's client. However, Entergy said it did not participate in recruiting actors. The company is currently finalizing its investigation.

"The recent allegations that some supporters of the New Orleans Power Station may have been paid to attend or speak at certain public meetings are troubling and run counter to the values of our company," Entergy said in a statement issued to Newsweek. "While we reiterate that Entergy did not pay, nor did we authorize any other person or entity to pay supporters to attend or speak at Council meetings, we recognize that our interactions with our stakeholders must always be based on honesty and integrity."

A lawsuit was filed Thursday by concerned local groups highlighting this alleged issue. "There's one gentleman, who went on Channel 4, admitted that he was paid," Attorney Bill Quigley told WWL-TV. "The evidence does not say who paid...Nobody here is saying Entergy paid. Okay. Cause we don't know that yet. We're calling on the District Attorney, the council themselves to investigate who was paying."

Crowds on Demand did not immediately return Newsweek's request comment.

This story was updated to include a statement from Entergy New Orleans.

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Actors were allegedly paid to attend a public hearing in support of a New Orleans power plant. Here, U.S. currency is pictured October 14, 2004 in Washington, DC. Alex Wong/Getty Images