Billionaires' Mouthpiece Lies About Funding Source for Wall Street's Astroturf Group
Photo Credit: (c) RDaniel/Shutterstock.com
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Last week, the Center for Media and Democracy and The Nation magazine worked together to publish a package in The Nation and a new online wiki resource on Pete Peterson and the Campaign to Fix the Debt, an entity we consider an “astroturf supergroup” with a huge budget working hard to create the fantasy that Americans care more about national debt and deficits than jobs and the economy. Fix the Debt is currently exploiting the "sequester" debate in Congress to encourage steep cuts to incredibly popular social programs like Medicare and Social Security.
After the release, Fix the Debt’s press person called to confront me about what he said were “false things” in our exposé.
“If you have corrections, I am all ears,” I said. Then such an odd (and amusing) conversation took place it struck me as worth writing up as an object lesson in how these big-buck, PR spin-machines operate.
Pete Peterson Who?
Wall Street Billionaire Pete Peterson, Jon Romano, Fix the Debt's Vice President of Communications, started by accusing me of inaccurately making Pete Peterson a focus of our report.
Why should we not focus on the Wall Street billionaire who has spent $500 million on his mission to secure cuts in Social Security and Medicare?
"I have never met Pete Peterson -- he doesn't fund us," says Romano.
So when the Washington Post interviewed Peterson and noted that he gave Fix the Debt $5 million, that was incorrect?
The facts are that Fix the Debt was launched on the Peter G. Peterson Foundation Web site; Peterson was at the National Press Club launch of Fix the Debt; and Peterson sits on the board and funds Fix the Debt’s parent organization (where Fix the Debt offices are located), the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, which is a project of the New America Foundation.
After launching as a project of CRFB in July 2012, in October Fix the Debt newly incorporated in Delaware. The new incorporation could, in essence, erase the Peterson seed money, allowing them to further distance themselves from the controversial billionaire.
More on Funding
Romano also disputed our report that the organization was targeting a $60 million budget. “Where did you get that number -- from theHuffington Post?” he sniffed.
No, we got it from your documents. Still disputed. Distributed nationwide. What do you have "eyes in the sky?" says Romano. On your letterhead. Still disputed. Look, I said, the figure is from the Fix the Debt CEO Talking Points.
The upshot? Romano says they have only raised $40 million to date. Duly noted.
I Heart Bob Borosage; I Heart Social Security
Romano also disputed our statement that the group was targeting Social Security for cuts. “We don't have a plan on Social Security,” he said over and over. “I worked for Bob Borosage . . . it's not likely that I would work for an organization to dismantle those programs,” Romano says.
Simpson and Bowles are your founders and you don't have a plan on Social Security? Really? For the record?
No, “we just want a deal,” says Romano.
There is no plan but there is a scorecard on the non-plan? The same day Romano called us, February 22, his press team issued a cookie-cutter " scorecard" in multiple states demanding that “policymakers must enact a budget deal that fully offsets the sequester permanently with more targeted measures primarily focused on health and retirement programs,” (emphasis ours) which plainly includes Social Security even though Fix the Debt prefers the euphemism "entitlement reform."