Center for Media and Democracy

Big Soda Is Freaking Out at the Rise of Local Soda Taxes

Watch out public health advocates – as soda tax campaigns are bubbling up in cities across the nation to combat obesity, diabetes and other serious health conditions – the beverage industry is working to choke off this expression of local democracy.

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ALEC Backs Extreme Climate Denial, Constitutional Rewrite and Corporate Lobbyists

ALEC state politicians, Koch machine groups, and corporate captains will once again huddle together to produce right-wing cookie cutter “model bills” to take back to their respective state houses when the corporate pay-to-play group holds its States & Nation Policy Summit this week in Nashville, Tennessee. The meeting begins today and runs through Friday at the 4-star Omni Nashville hotel, located next door to the Country Music Hall of Fame.

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ALEC Gives Top Award to Legislator Jailed for Trying to Sneak Loaded Gun on to Plane

Colorado State Representative Lori Saine (R-63) arrived a little later than expected to this week’s American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) States & Nation Policy Summit in Nashville, but she had a great excuse.

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Exposed: Tucker Carlson, His 'Charity' and the Trump Campaign Cash He Didn’t Tell Fox Viewers About

Tucker Carlson, FOX News’ new primetime anchor, received a six-figure sum from the Donald Trump campaign for president through his Daily Caller operation–which rented out its email list to Trump–according to Center for Media and Democracy’s newest investigation. CMD estimates the amount to be $150K in cash from the campaign to Daily Caller, which paid Carlson an untold sum.

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5 Reasons Billionaire GOP Donor and Public School Privatizer Betsy DeVos Should Not Be Secretary of Education

Billionaire Betsy DeVos, a major GOP funder and party activist from Michigan, has been tapped by Donald Trump to become the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education and faces a Senate confirmation hearing on Tuesday.

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Trump's Energy Agenda Has Been Revealed - and It's Totally Terrifying

The future Donald Trump administration’s energy agenda is revealed in a memo prepared by Trump’s energy transition head Thomas Pyle, titled “What to Expect from the Trump Administration.” The document, obtained by the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD), was sent by Pyle on November 15th, just days before the Trump campaign announced Pyle’s appointment as head of his Department of Energy transition team.

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An Under-the-Radar Historic Victory Against GOP Attempts to Control Who Gets Elected

Today the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin struck down hyper-partisan legislative redistricting maps declaring them to be “an unconstitutional political gerrymander.” The maps were drawn in secret in 2011 by a Republican legislature that controlled both houses and the Governorship.

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With Help From ALEC and Bayer, Monsanto Is Poised to Take Over the Global Food System

Bayer announced last month that it plans to purchase Monsanto, the controversial chemical corporation that has been sued around the world over its products. Nowadays, Bayer has a more consumer-friendly corporate reputation, but has a checkered past too. (Bayer’s history as a German company during the Nazi era is well documented.)

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Exxon and ALEC Running Illegal Lobbying Scheme, Watchdog Groups Charge in IRS Complaint

ExxonMobil and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) are running an illegal scheme to promote the oil giant’s climate denial policies and legislative agenda in violation of U.S. tax law governing charitable organizations, the Center for Media Democracy (CMD) and Common Cause charged Thursday.

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With New Grants, Dept. of Ed Continues to Pour Millions Into Charter School Black Hole

Today, the U.S Department of Education announced today that it had approved $245 million in grants to eight states under the federal Charter School Program. The states, California, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Tennessee, Texas and Washington, will receive $177 million in grant money. In addition, 15 charter management organizations, including IDEA Public Schools in Texas and KIPP’s public charter school network in California, will receive $68 million in taxpayer dollars.

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GOP Attorneys General Held Private Meetings With Fossil Fuel Lobbyists on Exxon Investigation

Republican attorneys general held private, undisclosed meetings with fossil fuel industry lobbyists in July to coordinate on shielding ExxonMobil from scrutiny as the company faces an ongoing investigation over allegations that it intentionally misled the public and its own shareholders about evidence of climate change, according to an audio recording of the session obtained by the Center for Media and Democracy.

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Fossil Fuel Industry Paid for Meeting With GOP Attorneys General to Plan Attack on Clean Power Plan

Fossil fuel giants Murray Energy and Southern Company paid for meetings with Republican attorneys general to discuss their opposition to the Clean Power Plan less than two weeks before the same GOP officials petitioned federal courts to block the Obama administration’s signature climate proposal, according to private emails (see below) from state attorneys general obtained by the Center for Media and Democracy. The meetings took place at an August 2015 summit hosted by the Republican Attorneys General Association (RAGA) in West Virginia, where attendees were offered the opportunity to meet with GOP attorneys general in exchange for financial donations to help reelect the Republican state prosecutors.

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Revealed: World’s Largest Coal Company Funded Massive Network Climate Change Deniers

Peabody Energy, the world’s largest private-sector coal company, has provided funds to a network of individuals, scientists, non-profits and political organizations espousing climate change denial and opposition to efforts to tackle climate change, according to newly available documents reviewed by the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD/PRWatch).

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IRS Gives Up and Grants Karl Rove's Dark Money Group 'Social Welfare' Certification

In a major decison that will open the floodgates to anonymous big-money political attack ads for the rest of the 2016 presidental election, the Internal Revenue Service has caved into pressure from the GOP-led Congress and declared that political front groups can masquerade as charities under the tax code.

The IRS has granted nonprofit status to Karl Rove's dark money political operation, Crossroads GPS, which for the past five years has pushed the legal envelope in order to influence elections but keep its donors secret, saying it was a social welfare organization akin to the March of Dimes. As a result, it didn't have to disclose who was bankrolling its operation, which allows a range of special interests and wealthy individuals to throw the political mud but duck the spotlighht.

Formed in the wake of Citizens United, Crossroads GPS has been one of the biggest secretly-funded political players, raising and spending $330 million on election-related ads attacking Democratic candidates or praising Republicans, but without doing anything that might be described as advancing "social welfare." Although the majority opinion in the U.S. Supreme Court's Citizens United decision endorsed disclosure of donors, in the five years following the decision, spending by secretly-funded 501(c)(4) nonprofits has exploded.

The IRS ruling has tremendous implications because if Crossroads GPS can be granted nonprofit status, there may be few limits on how political operatives can use tax-exempt groups to dodge campaign finance disclosure laws. The Koch political network, for example, will have little fear of IRS enforcement as it spends almost $889 million this election cycle through its network of nonprofit groups.

Nonprofits organized under section 501(c)(4) of the tax code are supposed to be "exclusively" dedicated to advancing social welfare, rather than political campaign activity, according to the language of the statute. The IRS has interpreted the law to allow 501(c)(4) groups to engage in some political activity--perhaps up to 50 percent--as long as their overall activities show they are "primarily" advancing social welfare.

Crossroads GPS has not appeared to do anything over the last five years but spend money influencing elections--or act as a conduit passing money to other politically-active nonprofits--yet the IRS still granted it nonprofit status. Crossroads has not publicly picked a horse in the 2016 primary but the grant of legitimacy from the IRS might help give it a fundraising boost.

"This decision will only add to the public’s frustration with a political system that is wildly out of balance and tilted to serve the interests of wealthy donors," said Stephen Spaulding, Legal Director at Common Cause.

Crossroads was one of the groups that accused the IRS of political bias in 2013 when the agency gave the group's application for nonprofit status extra scrutiny (even though left-leaning groups were also scrutinized). According to documents later shared with the House Ways and Means Committee, the IRS had been drafting a denial of tax exemption for Crossroads GPS before the IRS scandal erupted.

Perhaps the most charitable interpretation of the IRS' decision to grant Crossroads tax-exempt status is that the rules for what constitutes "political activity" are ambiguous. Crossroads GPS' political activities may have been calibrated to exploit uncertainty around the rules, with the expectation that a timid IRS would not enforce the law against powerful players.

Last year, the IRS was in the process of drafting new rules to clarify the definition of political activity--both to address tax code abuses by groups like Crossroads GPS, and to give clear guidance to other nonprofits about how they can permissibly engage in the political process.

But a budget rider slipped into the omnibus spending bill—negotiated by Paul Ryan with the Obama administration--blocks the IRS from taking any further action on the rules, guaranteeing that dark money political operators like Crossroads GPS can continue to skirt the law and get away with it.

“Because the IRS is failing to implement existing law properly, it’s more important than ever that the service issue rules to avoid this debacle in the future,” said Emily Peterson-Cassin, coordinator of Public Citizen’s Bright Lines Project, an effort to clarify the rules for all nonprofits. “For this reason and others, the IRS’ system of evaluating political activity remains broken, and unless the rider is stripped out of future legislation, its harmful effects will continue.”

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Koch Spy Agency Targeting Progressives Led by Notorious GOP Voter Fraud Huckster

The Kochs have been complaining about a "lack of civility in politics" as they seek to boost their public image--but one of their top operatives helped propel perhaps the most egregious case of race-baiting voter fraud hucksterism in recent years.

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Ford Revealed as Funder of Climate Denial Group ALEC

Ford Motor Company, despite its much-hyped commitment to the environment, has been quietly funding the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a group widely criticized for its promotion of climate change denial and for its opposition to the development of renewable alternatives to fossil fuels.

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5 Ways Scott Walker's Allies on Wisconsin's High Court Just Legalized Political Corruption

The Wisconsin Supreme Court has single-handedly rewritten the state’s limits on money in politics, rendering the state’s disclosure laws and contribution limits meaningless, and opening the door to unlimited funds directly from corporations and foreign firms.

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Four Ways ALEC Tried to Ruin Your State This Year

In a year with unprecedented rightwing dominance in state legislative chambers, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has continued to wreak havoc in states across the country--despite an ongoing exodus of high-profile corporate members, including BP, Google, and several high-tech firms.

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Jeb Bush Just Got Super Cozy With Coal Barons at a Secretive Retreat

Jeb Bush was the highest profile speaker at a secretive three-day retreat in Bristol, Virginia, hosted by the CEOs of six coal companies, according to materials for the invitation-only event obtained by the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) and shared with the Guardian.

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Bipartisan Prosecutors Call Scott Walker a Liar for His Attacks on Corruption Probe

Two career prosecutors--one a Republican, one a Democrat--just called Scott Walker a liar, and not a single national newspaper took notice.

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U.S. Democracy Held Hostage By The Rich As Never Before

This week, Republican presidential hopefuls like Gov. Scott Walker, Gov. Chris Christie, and Sen. Rand Paul will travel to an exclusive resort near Palm Springs, Florida to kiss the rings of David and Charles Koch. 

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A Dozen Greedy, Inhumane and Cruel Policies That Top Corporate Lobbyists Will Push In 2015

(Editor's note: This report has been adapted from an article on PRWatch.org)

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Corporate Hitman's Top 10 Tips For Trashing Progressives And Their Causes

Rick Berman, the king of corporate front groups and propaganda, has been caught on tape detailing his attacks on public-interest groups in the labor and environmental movements, including on efforts to increase the minimum wage for workers.  

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Scott Walker, ALEC and RNC Lies Unmasked In Court Ruling Tossing Wisconsin's Tough New Voter ID Law

The political fraud of policing the polls to prevent likely Democratic voters from casting ballots was unmasked by a federal judge in Wisconsin on Tuesday, who struck down that state’s tougher new voter ID law in one of the most forceful federal court rulings of 2014 upholding voting rights.   

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Right-Wing Front Group Poses as Journalists to Attack Investigation Into Political Money Laundering

The Franklin Center for Government & Public Integrity (through its Wisconsin Reporter and Watchdog.org websites) has aggressively attacked the government’s "John Doe" probe into possible campaign finance violations during Wisconsin's 2011 and 2012 recall elections. Its media outlets have also published new information about the apparent targets of the investigation, but they have omitted an important detail: Franklin Center has close ties to individuals and groups that may be caught up in the John Doe probe.

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Why is Google Funding Grover Norquist, Heritage Action and ALEC?

Google, the tech giant supposedly guided by its “don’t be evil” motto, has been funding a growing list of groups advancing the agenda of the Koch brothers.

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Billionaires' Mouthpiece Lies About Funding Source for Wall Street's Astroturf Group

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.

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What Does Wikileaks Have on Bank of America?

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is promising to unleash a cache of secret documents from the hard drive of a U.S. megabank executive. In 2009, he told Computer World that the bank was Bank of America (BofA). In 2010, he told Forbes that the information was significant enough to "take down a bank or two," but that he needed time to lay out the information in a more user-friendly format.

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What the Pentagon Pundits Were Selling on the Side


The Pentagon launched its covert media analyst program in 2002, to sell the Iraq war. Later, it was used to sell an image of progress in Afghanistan, whitewash the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay, and defend the Bush administration's warrantless wiretapping, as David Barstow reported in his New York Times expose.



But the pundits weren't just selling government talking points. As Robert Bevelacqua, William Cowan and Carlton Sherwood enjoyed high-level Pentagon access through the analyst program, their WVC3 Group sought "contracts worth tens of millions to supply body armor and counterintelligence services in Iraq," reported Barstow. Cowan admitted to "push[ing] hard" on a WVC3 contract, during a Pentagon-funded trip to Iraq.

Then there's Pentagon pundit Robert H. Scales Jr. The military firm he co-founded in 2003, Colgen, has an interesting range of clients, from the Central Intelligence Agency and U.S. Special Operations Command, to Pfizer and Syracuse University, to Fox News and National Public Radio.



Of the 27 Pentagon pundits named publicly to date, six are registered as federal lobbyists. That's in addition to the less formal -- and less transparent -- boardroom to war-room influence peddling described above. (There are "more than 75 retired officers" who took part in the Pentagon program overall, according to Barstow.)

The Pentagon pundits' lobbying disclosure forms help chart what can only be called a military-industrial-media complex. They also make clear that war is very good for at least some kinds of business.


Some disclosures we would have liked to see


Fox News analystTimur J. Eads works for the military contractor Blackbird Technologies. His job title there, "vice-president of government relations," is often used to describe someone who crafts lobbying strategies but may not take part in lobbying meetings. So, it's not surprising that Eads isn't listed on Blackbird's lobbying disclosure forms. (In 2007 and 2008, Blackbird lobbied Congress on "communications technologies" and the National Guard on "information systems.")

From 2001 to 2003, Eads was in the lobbying trenches for EMC Corporation, a multinational "information infrastructure" company. Eads helped lobby Congress and a long list of federal agencies -- including the Air Force, Army, Marine Corps, Navy and Coast Guard -- for "funding for data storage infrastructure." EMC's annual report (PDF) for 2003 lists the Air Force Materiel Command and Pentagon Renovation and Construction Program Office among its U.S. government clients.



Prior to EMC, Eads lobbied for the major defense contractor Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC). In 1999 and 2000, he was on SAIC's million-dollar-plus lobbying team, influencing federal spending on the armed services, foreign operations, national security and Veterans Administration, among many other appropriations bills.

Another Fox analyst and Pentagon pundit, John C. Garrett, has an even longer list of lobbying clients. He's worked for the Patton Boggs firm since at least 1999. Thanks to the Pentagon analyst program, Garrett offers clients the benefits of his "weekly access and briefings with the secretary of defense, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and other high level policy makers," as Barstow noted.

Garrett has helped Bushmaster Firearms lobby Congress, the Defense and Homeland Security Departments on the "procurement of small arms" and "foreign military sales of small arms." He's lobbied Congress and Homeland Security on "government smart card initiatives," for the Datacard Group; the Defense and Homeland Security Departments on "foreign military sales," for Empresa Brasileira de Aeronautica; on Homeland Security "open source intelligence and fusion center programs," for Factiva; the Defense Department on "federal battery purchases," for Interstate Batteries; and Congress and the Defense, Commerce, Homeland Security and Treasury Departments for "rules to prohibit or regulate foreign government subsidization of M&A [mergers and acquisitions] activity," for Terex Corporation, a multinational heavy equipment manufacturer.

And those are just some of Garrett's lobbying contracts in 2007.



The lobbying activity of Pentagon pundit and CBS analystJeffrey D. McCausland has been more focused on Iraq. He's the "director of national security affairs" at the Washington, D.C. law and lobby firm Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney.

McCausland lobbied on "private security contracting issues in Iraq," for Securewest International in 2004. The UK-based security firm announced that it had landed a $2.5 million contract with the Coalition Provisional Authority in March 2004, to supply "guards for the military complex at Umm Qasr as well as bodyguards for Iraqi and other personnel," according to the Herald Express in South Devon. At the time, Securewest vice-president Paul Singer said, "Kuwait and Iraq have long been our target markets. … We had a chance to visit the region only to realise how massive the market is." But when the contract ended in late 2004, Securewest decided against seeking more Iraq work. Singer explained, "It was always a difficult place to work and … the kidnapping and execution of 12 Nepalese workers caused great concern." Many of Securewest's staff are from Nepal or India.

But McCausland was hardly at a loss for clients. In 2003, he lobbied Congress and the Defense and Commerce Departments for "contract procurement in Iraq," on behalf of Al-Najat. In 2004, he lobbied on "government procurement / Coalition Provisional Authority" issues for Cross VetPharm, and on "business development in the Middle East," for Educational Testing Service. In 2004 and 2005, McCausland lobbied the State and Commerce Departments on "healthcare development in the Middle East," on behalf of Gemini Consulting.



Fellow CBS commentator Joseph W. Ralston is the last publicly named Pentagon pundit with a significant stack of of lobbying disclosure forms. "Soon after signing with CBS, General Ralston was named vice chairman of the Cohen Group, a consulting firm headed by a former defense secretary, William Cohen, himself now a 'world affairs' analyst for CNN," reported Barstow.

Not surprisingly, Ralston's lobbying clients include major military contractors. In 2006, he lobbied the Defense Department on "issues related to export of tactical fighter aircraft and defense technology," for Lockheed Martin; and the State Department on "federal funding of demilitarization efforts abroad," for General Dynamics. In 2006 and 2007, Ralston helped Fischer Properties identify "military family housing opportunities," and Pratt & Whitney find "market opportunities for military aircraft engines."


Multiple media mistakes, on lobbying and propaganda


As The Nation pointed out shortly after the U.S. invaded Iraq, many of the retired officers hired to provide war commentary had significant conflicts of interest. At the time, Fox and NBC brushed off questions about their military analysts' financial and other interests as irrelevant to or separate from their on-air commentary.



Today, the broadcast and cable networks are steadfastly refusing to cover or otherwise address the Pentagon military analyst program, with very few exceptions. In this case, though, the pundits' undeclared financial interests are only part of a larger and much more serious problem. These officers participated in a covert government program designed to shape U.S. public opinion -- an illegal program, and one that relied on the willingness of major media to play along, without asking too many questions. And that's exactly what happened.

The media outlets that featured the Pentagon's pundits need to address both aspects of this debacle -- that they failed to identify or disclose conflicts of interest, and that they helped propagandize U.S. news audiences. NPR Ombudsman Alicia C. Shepard's recent column only mentioned the former. She pointed to NPR's new "detailed guidelines for vetting on-air guests and looking for potential conflicts of interests" as the solution. But those guidelines don't include questions about contacts with or materials provided by government officials, or trips funded by government agencies. Instead, Shepard concerned herself with the question of whether NPR analyst Robert Scales does or "does not spout the Pentagon's line."



Memo to Shepard: It's illegal for the U.S. government to propagandize its own citizens, regardless. And instead of debating shades of gray, shouldn't NPR be denouncing any propaganda attempt as antithetical to the ideal of a free press?

Increasingly, news audiences are realizing the many ways in which interested parties skew media coverage. Media outlets need to wake up to that reality and work to strengthen their safeguards in defense of the public interest. Their only alternative is to start composing their next weak and belated mea culpa, in a desperate attempt to protect their ever-dwindling credibility.

Announcing the 2007 Falsie Awards for the Biggest Fraudsters in the Media

Ladies and gentlemen, this is the year that the Falsies Awards have truly arrived!

Here at the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD), we've dearly treasured our Falsies since we gave the first awards out in 2004. After 12 months of reporting on the cynical, manipulative and just plain anti-democratic pollution of our information environment, we love adding an extra dash of humor to our work. But this year's Falsies Awards are extra super special.

Why, you ask? Well, more people responded to our Falsies Awards survey than ever before. Thanks to the more than 1,400 people who took part! Our Falsies are your Falsies, too.

In addition, this year marks the first time there was an organized campaign in favor of one of our Falsies Awards nominees. To find out who was stuffing our Falsies survey, read on.

As always, Falsies Awards winners must stop by CMD's office in Madison, Wisconsin, to collect their prizes. This year's winners will receive a pair of Groucho Marx glasses, to obscure your real identity; the Online Deception Kit, comprised of a sock, buttons and thread, to make your own puppet; and a five-gallon bucket of Mr. Flack's Special Greenwash Paint (warning: may not look green upon closer examination)!

With so many stellar nominees and few clear trends in the survey results, deciding on this year's winners was no easy task. Our panel of judges awarded the coveted Gold Falsie to two belligerent groups. The Silver and Bronze Falsies recognize spinners of environmental and health issues, respectively. Dishonorable mentions go to drug pushers, troop users and reporter wanna-be's. And thanks to the survey participants for nominating many worthy recipients for our Readers' Choice and Win Against Spin Awards!

Draw up your chair and prepare to be both amused and dismayed. The winners of the 2007 Falsies Awards are ...

Golden Falsie: "War More Years" and "For More Wars"

The only thing worse than failing to end a long, bloody and increasingly unpopular war might be trying to start a new one. All we are saying is that the joint winners of this year's Gold Falsie should give peace a chance.


Half of this year's Gold Falsie goes to the leadership of the U.S. Democratic Party. By all accounts, growing opposition to the Iraq war was a major factor in the Democrats' November 2006 election victories, which gave them control of both houses of Congress. What have they done with that mandate? Not much. The tension between the public's anti-war sentiment and the Democrats' political wrangling came to a head in early 2007, when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi promoted a "compromise" war funding bill with no specific timetables, no binding measures and no chance of becoming law. As CMD's John Stauber and Sheldon Rampton wrote at the time, a stronger Iraq amendment by members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus was deep-sixed by the Democratic leadership and ignored by the Democrat-aligned online advocacy group MoveOn.

The Iraq war funding triangulation continues today. In early December, the Wall Street Journal reported that Democratic leaders, in order to avoid being seen either as capitulating to Bush on Iraq or as under-funding the military, "are looking at the option of advancing more money for U.S. military operations in Afghanistan." Meanwhile, "responsible" war critics are being encouraged to wait for General David Petraeus's spring 2008 report, much as they were previously for Petraeus's September 2007 report. It reminds us of New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman's infamous, never-ending six month timeframe for evaluating progress in Iraq.

No wonder that Congress's approval ratings have sunk even lower than President Bush's, or that Speaker Pelosi felt compelled to launch a PR campaign this autumn, touting the Democratic Congress's accomplishments. At least now they can say they've won an award!

The other cup of the Gold Falsie goes to Freedom's Watch, an influential Republican-associated lobbying group that advocates "peace through strength," as described by its spokesman, former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer. In August 2007, the group launched a multi-million dollar advertising campaign encouraging continued support for the "troop surge" in Iraq. The Freedom's Watch print and television ads alleged a connection between Iraq and 9/11, without directly claiming that Iraq was responsible for the terrorist attacks -- the same approach used by the Bush administration in the lead up to the March 2003 invasion.



More recently, Freedom's Watch has been pushing for war with Iran. In September 2007, the group's president Bradley Blakeman (a former assistant to President Bush) ominously stated, "If Hitler's warnings were heeded when he wrote Mein Kampf he could have been stopped." Just before Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's U.S. visit, Freedom's Watch ran a full-page New York Times ad that called him a "terrorist." In October, the group organized a forum with several American Enterprise Institute fellows, designed to prove that Iran poses a significant security threat to the United States. The following month, news of a focus group apparently funded by Freedom's Watch surfaced. "The basis of the whole thing was, 'we're going to go into Iran and what do we have to do to get you guys to go along with it,'" according to one participant.

In early December, when U.S. intelligence agencies reported that Iran had stopped its nuclear weapons program more than four years ago, Freedom's Watch ignored the news for several days. Finally, one of their blog posts approvingly pointed to an editorial which, in their words, argued that the intelligence report showed "we must continue to pressure Iran on their weapons program." That's right -- the weapons program that doesn't exist. Why let reality get in the way of well-funded war mongering? With that chutzpah, FreedomWatch truly deserves the most false of Falsies!


Silver Falsie: "Deleting Heating"

Speaking of alternate realities, this year's Silver Falsie goes to determined global warming skeptics who, when faced with evidence of climate change, simply remove it. Exhibit A is Philip A. Cooney, who headed the White House Council on Environmental Quality in between lobbying gigs for the American Petroleum Institute and Exxon Mobil. In March 2007, the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform released documents detailing "hundreds of instances" where Cooney had edited government reports to downplay the human contribution to and impacts of global warming. Cooney has no scientific credentials.


Exhibit B is the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB), whose "heavy-handed" editing "eviscerated" the October 2007 Congressional testimony of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's director on the likely health impacts of global warming. Her original testimony described "how many people might be adversely affected because of increased warming and the scientific basis for some of the CDC's analysis on what kinds of diseases might be spread in a warmer climate and rising sea levels." The OMB edits removed these details, cutting her testimony to less than half of its original length.

Exhibit C is the U.S. negotiators for the global warming statement released by the Group of Eight (G-8) industrial countries at their June 2007 summit. Draft documents revealed that the U.S. pressured other G-8 countries to remove commitments to reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, as well as an assessment that "tackling climate change is an imperative, not a choice."

These climate change cancelers have helped stymie attempts to address global warming for so long that hundreds of the world's most prestigious climate scientists recently issued an impassioned cry for action. Of course, the skeptics would not be so effective were it not for a larger network that funds, develops and promotes their brand of Flat Earth-ism: companies like Exxon Mobil; think tanks like the Competitive Enterprise Institute, American Enterprise Institute and Cato Institute (whose Jerry Taylor claims that "scientists are in no position to intelligently guide public policy on climate change"); and celebrities like Bjorn Lomborg and Czech president Vaclav Klaus. Take a bow, everyone!



Awarding a Falsie to groups spinning breastfeeding issues seems ... well, especially appropriate. Apparently the folks at Ban the Bags, a campaign against formula company marketing in maternity hospitals, agree. They posted a call for their members to participate in our Falsies Awards survey, and votes for the formula industry came pouring in. Is this spinning a survey on spin? Our judges were divided on that question, but ultimately decided to discount survey responses where people only voted on the formula industry nominee.

There's no question that the formula industry, represented by the International Formula Council (IFC), deserves the Bronze Falsie. The September / October issue of Mothering Magazine reported on "stealth" websites that "appear to be grassroots advocacy sites, but are actually mouthpieces for the formula industry." They include MomsFeedingFreedom.com, an IFC website that opposes restrictions on formula marketing in hospitals as attacks on "women's access to information to make a legitimate choice."


Bronze Falsie: "Impeding Breastfeeding"


In August 2007, the Washington Post reported on an IFC lobbying campaign that succeeded in getting the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to pull ads that dramatically illustrated the increased health risks faced by babies who do not breastfeed. The IFC portrayed the ads as "scaring expectant mothers into breast-feeding," and hired a former Republican National Committee chair and former Food and Drug Administration official to lobby HHS. It probably didn't hurt that most formula companies are "divisions of large pharmaceutical companies that are among the most generous campaign donors in the nation."

For portraying accurate health information as alarmism and intrusive marketing campaigns as "freedom" -- not to mention helping to keep U.S. breastfeeding rates well below those of European countries -- this Falsie's for you, IFC!



The level of deception throughout 2007 simply can't be adequately conveyed by our top Falsies Awards recipients. So we hope that you have some indignation left for the following winners of Dishonorable Mentions:

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How Reporters Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Nuclear Front Groups

"We just find it maddening that Hill & Knowlton, which has an $8 million account with the nuclear industry, should have such an easy time working the press," concluded the Columbia Journalism Review in an editorial in its July / August 2006 issue.


The magazine was rightly bemoaning the tendency of news outlets to present former Greenpeace activist Patrick Moore and former EPA chief Christine Todd Whitman as environmentalists who support nuclear power, without noting that both are paid spokespeople for a group bankrolled by the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI). NEI represents nuclear power plant operators, plant designers, fuel suppliers and other sectors of the nuclear power industry. Hill & Knowlton is NEI's public relations firm, though it's not the only firm working to build support for nuclear power.


Thanks in part to an ongoing, multifaceted PR push -- along with very real concerns about energy prices, rising energy demand, aging infrastructure, sustainability and global warming -- nuclear power is attracting serious attention from reporters and policymakers alike. The question is whether a vital public debate over energy choices is being skewed by deep-pocketed interests with a dog in the fight.


The dangers of such distortions are especially acute at the state and local levels. That's where efforts to extend the licenses of existing nuclear power plants, to maintain or expand nuclear waste storage facilities, and to site new proposed nuclear power plants, are made or broken. And that's where pro-nuclear campaigners appear to be focusing, adopting the mantle and tactics of community groups while steadfastly refusing to provide details on their operations.




Persistence Pays Off

All manner of businesses promote themselves every day, but the nuclear power industry's need for good PR is tremendous. No new nuclear plants have been ordered in the United States since 1979, the year of the Three Mile Island meltdown. The Yucca Mountain national repository for nuclear waste -- originally scheduled to open in 1998 -- is now slated to begin accepting waste in March 2017. Experienced nuclear engineers are becoming scarce; nearly 30 percent of the industry's workforce "will be eligible to retire within five years," the Scripps Howard News Service reported in April 2006. And even with what one Forbes columnist described as "all this corporate welfare," potential "investors remain wary of construction risks" for new nuclear power plants, explained an energy sector analyst.


The industry's future is so precarious that Exelon Nuclear's head of project development warned attendees of the Electric Power 2005 conference, "Inaction is synonymous with being phased out." That's why years of effort -- not to mention millions of dollars -- have been invested in nuclear power's PR rebirth as "clean, green and safe."


The nuclear power industry has been promoting itself as part of the solution to global warming for a decade. Industry representatives appeared en masse at a 1998 climate change conference in Buenos Aires, according to environmental consultant Alan Tate. "They inundated the international negotiators, including with what appeared to be a number of front groups like Students for Nuclear Power," he told reporter Liz Minchin. By 2005, nuclear industry spokespeople were "giving much more polished performances at climate meetings and negotiations."

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