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.
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A 1998 internal Philip Morris memo, written by John Scruggs of Philip Morris Management Corporation’s Federal Government Affairs (lobbying) Office, describes a key public relations/lobbying technique that corporations use to dominate virtually the entire decisionmaking environment in which legislators operate. Scruggs calls it the “Echo Chamber Approach to Advocacy.” It involves making a corporation’s chosen message, or slight variations of this message, emanate from virtually every major source that can influence legislators’ decisionmaking: constituents, colleagues, opinion leaders, local and national media like TV, radio, newspapers, fundraisers, advertising, etc. Scruggs says “…[T]his repetition, or ‘piling on’ approach works” because the message emanates from those who have ” ‘the greatest degree of credibility’ with the legislator.” This memo was created by Philip Morris in the 1990s, but since then, due to the cigarette industry’s pioneering reputation of success at influencing legislators, the technique has doubtless spread and is now likely in use by many more corporations and industries.
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Sandy Hook victims
With lightening speed for a state legislature, New York became the first state to pass a comprehensive gun safety bill since the massacre December 14, 2012 at Newtown, Connecticut. New York’s gun control bill, passed and signed today, is the toughest in the nation. It expands the definition of “assault weapon” to include semiautomatic weapons to include those with just one feature commonly associated with military weapons, like a bayonet mount, flash suppressor or pistol grip. Previously the definition required two features. New York’s bill also revokes or suspends gun licenses held by people whom mental health experts determine to be a danger to society. The new law limits magazines to just seven rounds of ammunition instead of ten, and provides for enhanced monitoring of ammunition purchases to flag high-volume buyers. Gun licenses must be re-certified every five years. (They used to never expire.) The law increases penalties for illegal gun possession and for using a gun against emergency responders. “Common sense can win,” said New York Governor Andrew Cuomo as he signed the bill, less than an hour the New York State Assembly passed it by a vote of 104 to 43 . “You can overpower extremists with intelligence and with reason and common sense,” Cuomo said. The National Rifle Association called the law “draconian,” and said it was passed “under a veil of secrecy in the dark of night.” The bill passed on the second day of New York state’s 2013 legislative session.
Main source: Los Angeles Times, August 15, 2012
A Bushmaster .233 semiautomatic rifle, the kind that was used to slaughter 20 children in Newtown, CT. The National Rifle Association has campaigned to keep the gun legal.
In almost the blink of an eye, an online petition demanding sensible federal-level gun safety laws has gathered more than 230,000 signatures, and is continuing to gather signatures at a rate of almost 2,000 per hour. The response to the petition was so overwhelming that shortly after starting it, the woman who began the petition changed the goal for the number of signers to 250,000. The petition’s impetus was the December 14 bloodbath at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut in which a 20 year-old gunman entered the school and slaughtered 20 six and seven year old pupils and six adult employees who tried to save the children. The petition seeks closure of gun show loopholes that allow people to buy guns without background checks, an end to the online sale of ammunition, mandatory waiting periods for gun purchases during which thorough background checks are conducted, and mandatory psychological and medical evaluations prior to making gun purchases. The petition also requests that character references be provided and evaluated out prior to gun purchases. More accountability should be placed in the hands of retailers, the petition says. When patrons refuse wait periods, authorities should be notified. Gun handling training and testing should be mandatory, as should a renewal process that includes many of the above-mentioned evaluation terms. “Our second amendment rights are long overdue a reevaluation. How many more senseless and entirely PREVENTABLE shootings have to occur before we do something about Gun Control,” asks Staci Sarkin, the petition’s creator. The petition will be send to the House of Representatives. “As a citizen and constituent of this great country, I am asking that you take a firm stand and make a positive change by restricting access to guns and saving lives,” Sarkin’s petition states. Sign the petition here.
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.
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How do corporations influence entire media markets? A 1995 Philip Morris (PM) document shows one way in which corporations work to influence the larger media to manipulate larger public opinion. The previously-secret document shows that PM hired a Denver-based public relations agency to implement an ambitious and comprehensive plan aimed at influencing Colorado media outlets and thus shift public opinion more in the company’s favor.
The document, titled “PM Media Action Network – Media Plan for Colorado,” was written by public relations firm Russell, Karsch & Hagen, based in Denver. It states:
“[We] will begin to reshape public opinion through the media…” and “…[W]e are confident we can continue to shift the media’s view, and, ultimately the view of the general public…toward issues affecting the industry.”
In keeping with PM’s internal adversarial view of public health efforts to reduce smoking, Russel, Karsch planned to develop a “War Book” of “key issues and message points we believe will be effective in Colorado.”
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Guest post by Ken Gordon, former Majority Leader of the Colorado Senate
Former Colorado Senate Majority Leader Ken Gordon
It would take you less than an hour to drive from Columbine High School to the Century 16 movie theater in Aurora. Both venues are in the suburbs of Denver and subject to the laws created by the Colorado Legislature.
Few politicians have mentioned laws when talking about the shooting in Aurora. The following story will help explain this reluctance.
I was the Minority Leader in the Colorado House when the Columbine shooting occurred.
Most of the guns used at Columbine were bought at the Tanner Gun Show in Adams County. Robyn Anderson, a friend of the Columbine shooters, Harris and Klebold, went with them to the show, and helped them buy the guns. She testified in a House hearing that they purposefully bought guns at tables that were not federally licensed dealers, because they did not want to give their names and addresses for a background check.
Following Columbine, I sponsored the legislation to require background checks for any purchase at a gun show. We referred to it as “closing the gun show loophole.”
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A product for people who have something to say
Now anyone can spread his or her own ideas or point of view around town for cheap. ThoughtOnBoard, a simple product that puts free speech back in the hands of real people, launched a new e-commerce website just in time for the run-up to the 2012 general election. “Average working people can now take back their right to free speech with ThoughtOnBoard,” said Anne Landman, author of AnneLandmanBlog.com and inventor of ThoughtOnBoard. ThoughtOnBoard, a dry-erase sign that sticks to glass facing outward, lets you say whatever you want, whenever you want, and change it fast. Write or draw anything you want on it and post it in a car, home, shop, restaurant, garage or store window. Change it fast. It’s no censorship, no holds-barred free speech — the perfect way to weigh in on today’s quick-moving political campaigns. ThoughtOnBoard has a zillion uses. Use it to promote events, daily specials, say “Wipe your feet,” “Shh…baby sleeping.” The only limit is your imagination. ThoughtOnBoard has been sold locally for 22 years, and just recently launched into the world of e-commerce, making it more widely available. Check out the new ThoughtOnBoard.com website to see some of the fun and innovative ways people are using it.
Pete Meersman, of the Colorado Restaurant Association
Citizens of Lakewood, Colorado, this spring pushed to enact a stricter smoking ordinance in their city, but met resistance from the Colorado Restaurant Association (CRA), a longtime ally of the tobacco industry. Citizens wanted to make outdoor dining areas, all parks and recreation areas and sidewalks around hospitals smoke free. They also recommended prohibiting smoking inside tobacco retail businesses, to protect employees from exposure to secondhand smoke. In 2001 (pdf), Philip Morris created a front group called the “Colorado Indoor Air Coalition” (CIAC) to promote the notion that providing adequate ventilation in restaurants was the only solution to the problem of secondhand smoke — a tobacco industry strategy to block workplaces from going 100 percent smoke-free. One of the organizations helping Philip Morris head up the CIAC was the Colorado Restaurant Association. So it was no surprise that in 2012, Pete Meersman of the Colorado Restaurant Association appeared at Lakewood City Council meetings to lobby against the changes citizens sought, saying “The anti-smoking people will not be satisfied until no one smokes.” Opponents argued that the new, stricter smoking rules would be unfair to businesses that made capital outlays to meet the older smoking law, like installing more powerful ventilation systems or creating separate patios for non-smokers. But an ever-increasing amount of data now show that heart attacks fall precipitously when effective smoking restrictions are enacted. In Greeley, Colorado, one study (pdf) showed that heart attacks fell 27 percent after a tough new smoking ordinance was passed in 2003. A similar study in Pueblo, Colorado found approximately the same reduction in heart attack admissions to hospitals after a smoking ban went into effect. In the end, though, the City of Lakewood caved to tobacco industry arguments and enacted a watered-down ordinance that failed to include many of the new provisions citizens sought, showing Big Tobacco is still a powerful force on the local level in Colorado, aided by its ally, the Colorado Restaurant Association.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) based in Madison, Wisconsin is pushing back against a new coalition, “Stand up for Religious Freedom,” led by the Pro-Life Action League and Citizens for a Pro-Life Society, that is leading a nationwide rally June 8 to “stop the HHS mandate.” The religious groups oppose a provision in the Obama administration’s new health insurance law that requires most private health insurers cover FDA-approved prescription contraceptive drugs and devices, including the “morning after pill.” The Department of Health and Human Services’ so-called mandate includes an exemption for religious employers who object to contraception, and the rule does not apply to any churches, but that doesn’t go far enough for these organizations, which are trying to block all financial assistance with contraceptives. Moreover, the Catholic Bishops have introduced into Congress the so-called “Respect for Rights of Conscience Act,” which goes even further than banning financial help with contraceptives. The Bishops’ bill would allow any private employer with a “religious or moral objection” to veto coverage for specific treatments for employees. For example, an employer who is a Jehovah’s Witnesses could bar coverage of emergency blood transfusions for its employees, and a Southern Baptist or Mormon employer could deny prescription birth control to its single, female employees.
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The retail giant Wal-Mart is joining other big businesses in ending its membership in the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the conservative corporate bill mill that helps spread “shoot first” laws like the one linked to the killing of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin. In a letter to ALEC, Wal-Mart Vice President Maggi Sans wrote, “Previously, we expressed our concerns about ALEC’s decision to weigh in on issues that stray from its core mission ‘to advance the Jeffersonian principles of free markets’” Sans said. “We feel that the divide between these activities and our purpose as a business has become too wide. To that end, we are suspending our membership in ALEC.” Other large corporations that have already left the organization include Coca Cola, Pepsi, Kraft Foods, Intuit and others.
Twenty advertisers have now officially pulled their ads from Rush Limbaugh’s show on KGVO talk radio in Missoula, Montana, and the airwaves went dead during his show not once, but twice — and for more than a minute each time — on Friday, May 20th. Another sign Limbaugh could be in trouble in Missoula: KGVO has started broadcasting brief comedy bits during what would normally be blocks of advertising time on Limbaugh’s show, according to listeners from RushOutOfMissoula.com, the effort to push Limbaugh off the radio in Missoula. RushOutOfMissoula.com posts a frequently-updated list of current advertisers on Limbaugh’s show on their web page, along with the businesses’ contact information, and asks people to contact the businesses and ask them to “stop putting money in that bully’s pocket” by pulling their ads. The web page urges callers to remain polite and respectful. Many advertisers have pulled their ads as a way to remain neutral in the conflict. Businesses still advertising on Limbuagh’s show on KGVO include Allegiant Airlines, Adair Jewelers, Air Quality Mechanical, Bagels on Broadway, Edward Jones, Furniture Row, Hoagieville, Lithis Chrysler, The Montana Club, the Ravalli Family of Banks and Time Rental. Jim Adair, owner of Adair Jewelers — one of the remaining local advertisers on Limbaugh’s show in Missoula — is fighting back by increasing his ads on the show, and running ads saying he is being blackmailed by people who want to take all talk radio off the air. RushOutOfMissoula.com reports that 1,751 people have now signed their petition asking KGVO to take Limbaugh off the radio in their town. RushOutOfMissoula.com was organized after Limbaugh carried on a three day tirade against Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke late last February in which he called her a “slut” and repeatedly derided and insulted her for testifying before Congress about the need to fund women’s health care.
Nurses rally in Chicago to support the Robin Hood Tax
Nurses led a rally in Chicago May 18 ahead the NATO summit to boost the idea of instituting a “Robin Hood Tax,” a tiny tax on financial institutions’ transactions that would be used to offset drastic cuts in education and social services, and provide health care to Americans. Also called a Financial Speculation Tax, the tax has the support of Warren Buffett and Bill Gates, as well as President Hollande of France, Chancellor Merkel of Germany, Prime Minister Zapatero of Spain and other world leaders, as well as Nobel prize winning economists Joseph Stiglitz and Paul Krugman. The Robin Hood Tax on bankers would be less than one-half of one percent on deals over $100, and would apply to transactions like trades in derivatives, stocks, bonds and foreign currency exchanges. The charge would total less than one half on one cent on every $100 worth of transactions. Most ordinary people worldwide would never feel it, but experts estimate it would generate hundreds of billions of dollars each year to fight poverty and support public services like education and health care. National Nurses United teamed with National Peoples’ Action and local community groups to organize the rally. The were joined by veterans, members of the Occupy Movement, unions and others. The rally was part of a “global week of action” in support of the Robin Hood tax, with rallies also happening in Europe, Africa and on Mount Fuji in Japan.
Procter and Gamble products
Procter and Gamble, makers of Tide clothing detergent, Dawn dish detergent, Bounty paper towels and other well-known products, has become the 13th company to flee the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) amid growing controversy over the group’s political operations. Procter and Gamble is the largest packaged goods company and advertiser in the U.S., and it joins twelve other major companies, including Kraft Foods, Intuit, Blue Cross, Coca Cola and Pepsi Cola in opting not to renew its membership in ALEC for 2012. ALEC has been identified as a source spreading “Shoot First” laws, like the one that Trayvon Martin’s death in Florida brought into the spotlight, as well as school voucher bills, anti-immigrant bills like Arizona’s SB1070, and voter suppression laws that are sweeping across the country. A New York Times article reported that the good-government group Common Cause has filed an IRS complaint about ALEC, saying ALEC functions as a lobby group despite its IRS designation as a charity. Federally-designated charitable groups are subject to sharp restrictions against lobbying under IRS rules.
Source: Talking Points Memo, April 23, 2012
A front page article in the New York Times on April 21, 2012 exposes the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) as a stealth business lobbyist that pushes pro-business, anti-public interest legislation in state capitols from coast to coast. ALEC is a little-known, non-profit organization that brings state legislators together with corporations to draft model legislation favoring businesses. The group has a sophisticated system for shaping state-level legislation. Legislators pay a nominal $50 fee annually to join ALEC, but corporations pay dues ranging from $7,000 to $25,000 per year, which affords them guaranteed access to legislators at upscale events like cigar receptions, conferences and pigeon shoots. Businesses use these opportunities to promote new laws to legislators benefiting the companies’ bottom lines. ALEC claims to be bipartisan, but of 104 leadership positions in the organization, Republicans fill all but one, and the policies ALEC promotes are almost exclusively right-wing. ALEC’s role as a driving force behind the wave of “Stand Your Ground” or “Shoot First” laws sweeping the country has made the group a target of public anger.
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Clear Channel digital billboard advertises itself
Last year, citizens of Rapid City, South Dakota — a town besieged by billboards — passed an initiative banning construction of any more of those quick-changing, super-eye-catching digital billboards within the City. The highly popular measure passed by a 2-1 vote. But outdoor advertisers quickly retaliated by pushing a bill through South Dakota’s state legislature to block local authorities from banning “any advertising technology” within their limits. Senate Bill 157 would effectively make it illegal for local municipalities to ban digital billboards. Outdoor advertisers and digital sign manufacturer Daktronics argue such bans will cost jobs and threaten the industry’s image. South Dakotans are not alone in trying to fight digital billboard blight and the powerful advertising lobby. A similar bill to block local control over outdoor advertising was introduced in Salt Lake City, and Arizona has been fighting to ban digital billboards as well, saying they violate the state’s ban on intermittent lighting along roads. An organization called Scenic America works to protect the quality and safety of America’s scenic roadways, and offers technical assistance for local efforts to control the spread of digital billboards, as well as other roadside blights.
Source: ScreenMediaMag.com, February 2, 2012