The trouble started when the Kansas City chapter of the American Lung Association approached Simpson about doing an ad in opposition to new coal-fired power plants. Simpson had spent time on the board of directors for the ALA's Kansas City chapter, so he didn't think to check the fine print. "They said it was a coalition, and I assumed that," Simpson says.
So Simpson signed his likeness and name over to a series of anti-coal-plant print ads. "I believe in everything the ads said," he says. "I just didn't know who was paying for them."
Turns out the coalition ran not on the goodwill of hippies but on the dirty money of the Chesapeake Energy Corporation. The Oklahoma City company, which claims to be the nation's largest producer of natural gas, didn't respond to messages left by the Department of Burnt Ends for this story.
The ads, which have run on full pages in several newspapers, don't say anything about Chesapeake Energy. "I understand natural gas is cleaner than coal. I don't know the relative price of it, but I do know it's not a renewable energy source, and I'm more interested in things that are renewable," Simpson says. "What I do have is a reputation as a good doctor ... who doesn't need to look as if he favors one industry over another."
Simpson says he has learned to ask more questions if somebody wants him in a commercial. "In the future," he says, "I'll ask them who's paying."