A new video titled “Pay Scott” posted on social media highlights Senate District 7 candidate Chris Kennedy’s promise never to accept corporate PAC money and shows the extent to which incumbent District 7 State Senator Ray Scott is currently relying on corporate donors based outside his district, including big insurance and telecommunications companies, real estate companies and XCel Energy.
Tim Pollard of “Back the Badge’s” board is the brother-in-law of Josh Penry, who, with Penry operates the astroturfing group EIS Solutions, which is pocketing much of the money raised to promote 1A
Ballot Measure 1A will increase the sales tax in Mesa County by 0.37% to fund the Mesa County Sheriff’s Office and the District Attorney’s office.
It sounds like a good idea, but much of the money behind 1A is coming from unaccountable sources, and the astroturfing groups promoting it may give some people pause. In particular, one big-money donor backing 1A is an aggressively pro-gun group that refuses to reveal its funders and works to push lawmakers out of office who support policies to reduce gun massacres in the U.S., like the one that occurred in Las Vegas on October 1, 2017.
The shady right-wing political front group Compass Colorado us using a new strategy against its opponents: filing frivolous ethics complaints against candidates, and then using the fact that a complaint has been filed to impugn the integrity of the candidate. Compass applied this strategy against Governor John Hickenlooper, who is running for a second term, last July. The group filed a complaint against the governor claiming he violated a gift-ban provision in a state ethics laws. Compass then put out a news release touting the complaint. But the state’s bipartisan Independent Ethics Commission rejected the complaint out of hand as “frivolous” before it ever set a hearing date for it. Compass Colorado promotes the news that a complaint has been filed against the candidate on its website and in press releases, but never mentions the complaint’s dismissal. Compass Colorado does not disclose its donors, its physical address or telephone number, or the names of its principles, staff or board members. Its executive director is Kelly Maher, a former Secretary of the Denver County Republican Party.
In this 1993 application for grant funding, Professor David M. Warburton of the University of Reading in the United Kingdom asks cigarette maker Philip Morris (PM) for £32,000 to perform a study on the human use of legal substances, like alcohol, caffeine, chocolate, food, tea and tobacco. Warburton told PM he believed the outcome of the study would “show that it is the total abstainer from substance use who is abnormal.” Philip Morris had previously funded Warburton from 1991-93 in the amount of $250,000. Warburton also organized and implemented the tobacco industry-funded front group “Associates for Research in Substance Enjoyment” (ARISE). ARISE “scientists” toured Europe between 1988 and 1997 promoting the idea that smoking was good for people and actually boosted immunity and extended life because it relieved stress and people enjoyed it. Several tobacco companies including Philip Morris and British American Tobacco funded the group secretly at arm’s length, and operated it through a UK-based PR firm which formed a “secretariat” to administer the group — a business structure that made it difficult to uncover the group’s funding.
In 2001, after ARISE had run its course, Professor Warburton (apparently in need of more funding) released a study showing that people are intimidated by television chefs, whom he said elevate pressure on average people to produce excellent dishes at dinner parties. These fears were causing a new syndrome to emerge, that Professor Warburton called “Kitchen Performance Anxiety” (KPA). The physical symptoms of KPA, according to Warburton, included mental blocks during cooking, a rapid heart rate, difficulty in breathing, nausea, and headaches. Warburton concluded that KPA was causing fewer people to hold dinner parties. BBC actually did a news report on KPA that highlighted the following comment from Prof. Warburton: “It is interesting that many guests don’t expect perfect food and would prefer that their host or hostess concentrated on good company and wine.” The “study” Warburton performed in which he discovered Kitchen Performance Anxiety was commissioned by the makers of the Piat d’Or wine. See the BBC report on KPA here. Professor Warburton is now an emeritus at the University of Reading, which promotes itself as among the top 1 percent of universities worldwide.
Center for Consumer Freedom’s Rick Berman, a.k.a. “Dr. Evil”
Rick Berman, the D.C. beltway corporate lobbyist who revels in the nickname “Dr. Evil,” is at it again, this time defending a dangerous New Hampshire “ag-gag” bill that would block the ability to build solid court cases against animal cruelty in commercial agricultural operations. Berman also penned an opinion piece in the Boston Globe opposing the “Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act,” a bill that would require federal agencies to buy food products only from farms that raise animals free from cruelty and abuse. Aside from the underlying question of why the Boston Globe would print anything by Rick Berman, a corporate sell-out who lacks completely in credibility, why does Berman persist in supporting something as distasteful and horrifically unpopular as animal abuse?
Berman operates the Center for Consumer Freedom (CCR), an industry-funded front group that relentlessly attacks do-good organizations like the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Mothers Against Drunk Driving and the Center for Science in the Public Interest. Berman uses over-the-top rhetoric, calling people who research and expose the causes behind obesity “food control zealots.” He uses hyperbole and slippery-slope arguments, saying animal welfare groups like the Humane Society are “fighting to get rid of every dairy, pork, egg, beef, veal, and poultry farm across America by increasing the cost of production and hence increasing the price of food.” Hogwash. Whenever possible, HSUS works with commercial ag operations to reduce animal abuses like tail-docking of dairy cows and confinement of animals in horribly small spaces. The groups has been successful in doing so, but does pursue legislation to protect animals, too.
Excerpt from a Tobacco Manufacturers Association summary of tobacco-related activities in the western hemisphere, January, 20000
Rather than being a purely grassroots movement that arose spontaneously in 2009 as the media has led people to believe, the Tea Party developed partly as a result of tobacco industry efforts to oppose smoking restrictions and tobacco taxes beginning in the 1980s, according to a new study by researchers at UC San Francisco. In 2002, long before the mainstream media widely discussed tea party politics, Citizens for a Sound Economy (CSE), a nonprofit funded in part by cigarette companies since 1987 to support a pro-tobacco political agenda, started its “US Tea Party project.” Its website, http://www.usteaparty.com, stated “Our US Tea Party is a national event, hosted continuously online and open to all Americans who feel our taxes are too high and the tax code is too complicated.’’ In 2004, CSE split into the two tea party organizations: Americans for Prosperity (AFP) and FreedomWorks. Those two groups, say the study authors, have since waged campaigns to turn public opinion against tobacco taxes, smoke-free laws and health care reform in general. “If you look at CSE, AFP and Freedom Works, you will see a number of the same key players, strategies and messages going back to the 1980s,” said lead author Amanda Fallin, PhD, RN, also a CTCRE fellow. “The records indicate that the Tea Party has been shaped by the tobacco industry, and is not a spontaneous grassroots movement at all.”
Former Republican House Majority Leader Dick Armey, who recently left his job with the astroturf group Freedomworks, has a history of taking tobacco money and doing Big Tobacco’s bidding. The tobacco industry was a friend to Armey throughout his career on Capitol Hill, but Armey, who was an uneven ally to the industry while in the House, arguably became a more reliable ally when, under his guidance, FreedomWorks reflexively opposed higher cigarette taxes in states all across the union. Despite this, we found that some in the industry has less-than-complimentary things to say about Armey. We also found Armey engaged in dubious and dishonest tactics get new members an increase his group’s muscle while at FreedomWorks. Read all about Dick Armey’s tobacco ties and how he used FreedomWorks in a three-part series on my new blog at DeSmogBlog.com.
Salon.com reports a new “youth” front group has appeared consisting of young people who have ostensibly joined together to fight the federal debt. The group, called “The Can Kicks Back,” issued a press release November 12 announcing its creation and casting itself as a “nationwide grassroots campaign.” The Can Kicks Back gives no physical address on its website, but Salon.com reports the group shares the same address as the New America Foundation, which receives funding from the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, among other foundations and big corporations. Peter Peterson is a Wall Street hedge fund billionaire who, according to Huffington Post, has “has personally contributed at least $458 million to the Peter G. Peterson Foundation to cast Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and government spending as in a state of crisis, in desperate need of dramatic cuts.” Other prominent funders of the New America Foundation include Google, Microsoft, Nike, Merck, and Aetna insurance. Interestingly, Kick the Can’s advisory board consists mostly of older politicians like Alan Simpson, 81, former Republican senator from Wyoming, Erskine Bowles, 67, former Clinton chief of staff, Mickey Edwards, 75, former Republican congressman from Oklahoma. Salon.com reports that this isn’t Pete Peterson’s first attempt to form an astroturf “youth group” to agitate for cutting entitlement programs. In the 1990s Peterson funded two groups, one called “Third Millennium” and another called “Lead…or Leave,” basically to do the same thing. In fact, Jonathan Cowan, who headed up Lead…or Leave, now is on The Can Kicks Back’s advisory board.
Misleading May, 1971 ad in LIFE magazine ad encouraging sugar intake
The November/December issue of Mother Jones magazine has an explosive new analysis of more than 1,500 pages of internal documents from the archives of now-defunct sugar companies that reveals that for 40 years, the sugar industry engaged in a massive PR campaign to sow doubt about studies linking sugar consumption to disease. After a growing body of independent research started implicating sugar as a significant cause of heart disease, tooth decay, diabetes and other diseases, the sugar industry responded by developing a PR scheme that included secretly funding scientists to perform studies exonerating sugar as a source of disease. The sugar industry also secretly created a front group, the Food and Nutrition Advisory Council, that they stocked with physicians and dentists who were willing to defend sugar’s purported place in a healthy diet. Sugar companies also worked to shift the conversation about diabetes away from sugar and boost the notion that dietary fats, especially saturated fats, were a bigger culprit in causing heart disease than sugar.
Dell Computers became the latest company to drop its membership in the American Legislative Exchange Council, the right-wing group behind the spread of voter suppression laws and “shoot first” laws like the one invoked by George Zimmerman, the man involved in the Trayvon Martin murder in Florida. Deborah Albers, Dell’s principal social strategies, wrote in a letter to ThinkProgress, that the company “will not be renewing our participation” in ALEC. Albers is based at Dell in Round Rock, Texas.
The Republican front group Compass Colorado is running billboards across the state that link President Obama with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The boards show a photo of President Obama alongside photos of Ahmadinejad and, varyingly, three lesser-known Colorado Democratic Congressional candidates: Representatives Joe Mikloski, Sal Pace and Congressman Ed Perlmutter. Above the photos, text says “Higher gas prices YES! U.S. Energy Independence NO!” The boards fail to mention that the U.S. does not buy any oil from Iran. By using their photos and names next to that of President Obama, Compass Colorado is unwittingly giving the three lesser-known candidates a free boost to their name recognition. Compass Colorado is run by Tyler Q. Houlton, who worked as communications director for former Colorado Rep. Tom Tancredo. Tancredo gained fame for his February 4, 2010 speech at the National Tea Party Movement Convention in which he said Barack Obama became president because of “people who could not even spell the word ’vote’ or say it in English.” Tancredo then proposed making people take “a civics literacy test” as a prerequisite to voting. Houlton also worked for Rep. Scott McInnis’ failed campaign for governor of Colorado. McInnis’ campaign tanked after journalists revealed McInnis had plagiarized an extensive essay about water law that a nonprofit group had paid him to write. McInnis blamed the plagiarism on an elderly research assistant and refunded the $300,000 to the organization that paid him. Compass Colorado does not reveal its funders.
A group of energy industry-affiliated, right-wing groups is readying a massive PR plan to try and turn American public opinion against the renewable energy industries. The UK Guardian obtained a confidential draft memo written by Illinois anti-wind power attorney Rich Porter that outlines a massive PR campaign to change public opinion towards wind and solar power among “citizens at large.” The goals of the campaign, according to Porter’s memo, are to “A) Cause the targeted audience to change its opinion and action” based on anti-wind messaging, “B) Provide credible counter message to the (wind) industry, C) Disrupt [wind] industry message with countermeasures, D) Cause subversion in message of [wind] industry so that it effectively becomes so bad no one wants to admit in public they are for it (much like wind has done to coal, by turning green to black and clean to dirty.) Ultimate Goal: Change policy direction based on message.” The memo suggests teaming up with established groups like Americans for Prosperity, the American Legislative Exchange Council, the Heartland Institute, the Brookings Institute, the Cato Institute and other climate change deniers. It also suggests developing derogatory names for wind energy, like calling it “puff power” and “breeze energy.”
The tobacco industry’s front group, “Californians Against Out-of-Control Taxes and Spending,” is spending millions to run a 30-second TV ad opposing Proposition 29, a ballot measure to increase in the state’s cigarette tax. The ad features an unlikely ally: a female, African-American doctor named LaDonna Porter, M.D. Prop. 29 would increase California’s 87-cent per pack cigarette tax by an additional $1.00 to fund cancer research, smoking reduction programs and enforcement of tobacco-related laws. In the ad, Porter, stands in an examination room wearing a white lab coat and says she’s against smoking, but she finds Proposition 29 flawed. “Not one penny” of the funds generated by the measure will go towards new funding for cancer treatment, Porter says, and she raises the specter that the money could be spent out of state. The ad is consistent with the tobacco industry’s longtime strategy of getting doctors to endorse their products and back their favored policies. Still, it has generated outrage. The African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council in Oakland, California sent a scathing open letter to Dr. Porter expressing shock and outrage that she is working for Big Tobacco. It’s not the first time Dr. Porter has worked for Big Tobacco. In 2006, as LaDonna White, she starred in a tobacco industry-backed ad opposing Proposition 86, yet another measure to increase taxes on cigarettes and chewing tobacco. Dr. Porter has also lent her credibility to the pharmaceutical industry to fight an initiative that would have put a dent in drug companies’ profits.
A new study reveals PR strategies transnational tobacco companies use behind the scenes to derail, delay and undermine public health policies in low- and middle-income countries. The authors uncovered six core strategies tobacco companies use in Thailand to interfere in tobacco control policymakin: (1) doing business with “two faces,” (2) working to influence people in high places, (3) “buying” advocates inside grassroots organizations, (4) putting up deceptive fronts, (5) using intimidation, and (6) undermining controls on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship. The companies often apply several of the strategies simultaneously. Public health advocates in poorer countries have successfully counteracted these strategies by remaining vigilant to spot them, excluding tobacco companies from policymaking, restricting cigarette sales, keeping up pressure on the companies and working to assure adequate resources are dedicated to enforcing tobacco control regulations. The entire text of the article is available free in PDF form here.