Lisa Graves, CMD Executive Director With the flood of opinions about the meaning of the 2010 election results and the hundreds of millions spent by front groups and special interests, I'll be taking a deeper look at the results, spending reports and other research in the coming days.
Some of the spending data is in, and some will remain concealed, but we will be digging through it to give you the Center's unique perspective on what it means for PR, for public policy, and for our democracy.
So, please look for our upcoming analysis, which we'll email and post online in the coming weeks. This weekend, PRWatch.org will be offline as we prepare to launch major upgrades to this website, but we will be back online next week and our redesigned website should be live later this month for you to use and explore.
It’s the day before a hotly-contested national election, where it appeared the rabble was well positioned to deliver a colossal spanking to the elites who have for too long ignored their plight, so what does Team Obama do?
They have a press conference to talk about their eagerness to complete the Korea Free Trade Agreement negotiated by President Bush. "The president has long said we want to try and address the outstanding issues regarding the Free Trade Agreement in order to bring it forward for approval," said Mike Froman, Obama’s deputy national security advisor for international economic affairs. “[W]e're going to put every effort into achieving ... an acceptable agreement, a satisfactory agreement, by the time the president comes to Seoul," he told a news conference on Monday.
Are these people nuts?
The progressive advocacy group One Wisconsin Now has uncovered a plan by the Wisconsin Republican Party, Americans for Prosperity, and local Tea Party groups to engage in what One Wisconsin Now is calling a “voter suppression” scheme. The GOP and Tea Party groups have denied the existence of such a plan, instead claiming that their efforts are aimed at preventing alleged "voter fraud."
The voter-suppression charge arises from right-wing groups training “election observers” to challenge people they somehow suspect of voting fraudulently in Wisconsin’s elections. Americans for Prosperity is paying for a series of mailings targeted at communities of color, to assemble a list of “ineligible” voters that Tea Party election observers will challenge at the polls. Such challenges are not only intimidating and intrusive, but contribute to long lines at polling stations, further discouraging voters.
CMDs Senior Fellow on Health Care, Wendell PotterThe Center for Media and Democracy's Senior Fellow on Health Care, Wendell Potter, has a new tell-all book coming out November 9, Deadly Spin: An insurance company insider speaks out on how corporate PR is killing health care and deceiving Americans. The book details disinformation campaigns that health insurers use to cover up their misdeeds and manipulate public policy, reveals insurers' public relations tricks, like commissioning bogus scientific studies, working through fake "grassroots" organizations, and disseminating rhetoric designed to scare the public. (Think phrases like "socialism" and "death panels," that Wendell reveals were created by health insurance companies.) Wendell tells about the methods insurers use to "dump the sick," discusses the skyrocketing premiums and high deductibles that are putting health care out of reach for working people, and discloses the outrageous salaries that insurance companies executives make while denying care to patients. As the former head of Corporate Communications for CIGNA, Wendell is uniquely to qualified bring this important information to the public. The book, published by Bloomsbury, can be ordered at Amazon.com.
Fred Malek (from YouTube)The Center for Media and Democracy continues its series exposing the right-wing political operatives, billionaires, and corporate executives behind the American Action Network (AAN), the group running grossly misleading ads attacking Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold. This week, we highlight AAN board member and CREEP-er, Fred Malek.
Our past articles have suggested that AAN is attacking Russ Feingold as revenge for his votes for financial reform, and against TARP and the Wall Street bailout. We have demonstrated that some of AAN’s board members benefited personally from TARP and the Wall Street bailout, and are trying to convince voters to support corporatist candidates who will do their bidding and stall needed financial reforms. We’ve also noted how the Washington, D.C.-based AAN operates under a veil of secrecy, collecting over $25 million from anonymous corporate donors. American Action Network Chair Fred Malek is well versed in punishing those considered “disloyal” and carrying out acts of deception.
A variety of media outlets are reporting that the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal, Employees (AFSCME) is spending $87.5 million on election activities in 2010, making it the “big dog” in spending for the campaign season. The Center for Media and Democracy is a nonpartisan organization, and encourages voters to be skeptical about campaign messages from outside groups regardless of whether they are supporting Democrats or Republicans. However, we feel it necessary to point out that AFSCME’s spending does not equalize the playing field.
First, although AFSCME may be the single biggest spender, the “big dog” title is a little disingenuous, as the corporate-funded interest groups supposedly outspent by the union are numerous and coordinated. Karl Rove’s organization, American Crossroads, is spending $65 million, and it shares office space and harmonizes its activities with American Action Network, which is spending $25 million.
An activist group called SpeechNow.Org is running ads against Senator Russ Feingold. It blames him for the deficit and claims that clean election laws he spearheaded are “attacking free speech.” But who’s really behind SpeechNow’s folksy, cartoon attack ads?
The Money Bags: One funder is multi-millionaire Fred Young, the heir of the Young Radiator fortune in Racine. He sold his Wisconsin company for over $70 million in 1998 to a group that quickly merged with Wabtec Corporation, a multinational with a history of outsourcing jobs to make goods in China and elsewhere. But even before Young sold the company, he worked to ship well-paying Wisconsin jobs out of state. Back in 1991, Young Radiator closed its Racine plant and fired 120 Wisconsin workers in order to boost his profits by outsourcing work to Iowa and Tennessee plants that did not give union-negotiated benefits. Young donated over $100,000 last month to fund attacks against Feingold, constituting the bulk of the funding. With millions in profits from helping to sell out Wisconsin’s industrial base and time on his hands, Young has become involved in Washington, D.C.-based groups, like SpeechNow.
Doesn't it seem like there are more negative political campaign ads than ever before?
It's difficult to watch almost any TV without being bombarded with repetitive ads "paid for" by some group that claims to be just like you, or like someone you want to be, like "Americans for Prosperity" and its so-called "Prosperity Network." But you can help fight back.
With most everyone else tightening their belts as the economy staggers back from the meltdown caused by Wall Street gambling, who can afford to blanket our airwaves with scary "independent" political ads? Wall Street. But these fat cats are trying to hide their role in this obscene wave of mid-term election spending by funneling their profits through front groups. Together we can shine a light on their efforts to take control of our democracy.
We hear it everywhere this election season. Candidates, ads and TV pundits say we have "too much big government!" Virtually any attempt to regulate or tax any industry is a government intrusion into our lives. Candidates say they want less government. What's up with this ubiquitous, anti-government theme?
The "Government intrusion" argument is a powerful propaganda theme that has been around for a long time, and one that big businesses often use to manipulate public opinion. As with so many other corporate-derived propaganda tools, the anti-government theme originated largely with the tobacco industry, which has relied on it for decades to get its way in public policy.