Democracy

A Bad Week for Corporate Spies

From MAD magazineIf Cara Schaffer contacts you, be wary. Take emails and online comments from "activist2008" and "stopcorporategreed" with a grain of salt. Londoners, be on the lookout for Toby Kendall, a.k.a. "Ken Tobias." And activists everywhere should think twice before putting documents in the recycling or trash bins.

Over the past week, reporters and activists outed three different corporate spying operations. As John Stauber and Sheldon Rampton wrote in their 1995 book "Toxic Sludge Is Good for You!": "Movements for social and political reform have often become targets of surveillance. ... The public relations industry has developed a lucrative side business scrutinizing the thoughts and actions of citizen activists, using paid spies who are often recruited from government, military or private security backgrounds."

Last week's revelations show that these underhanded tactics are very much in use today. And they don't just impact the groups being infiltrated. By privileging corporate interests, effectively giving them the first and last word on an issue, they distort vital public debates.

Spinners Queue Up to Help China

Free Tibet protest in LondonThe Free Tibet Campaign in the UK has warned that "any PR agency that is trying to assist China in its twisted distortion of the truth would be potentially exposing itself to protests outside its offices." Despite this, PR Week reports that Ogilvy,

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Belarusians Give Bell Hell

In an open letter to British public relations executive Lord Timothy Bell, two directors of the Belarus Free Theatre accuse Bell of "making money on somebody's misfortune." Bell traveled to Belarus in March and met with President Alexander Lukashenko, who has been called "Europe's last dictator." Bell told Reuters, "I have been asked to make a proposa

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The Legion of Lobbyists Behind a "Consumer" Group

Consumers for World Trade (CWT), which describes itself as being a "network of consumers," is enthusiastic about everything from the right of the U.S. President to negotiate free trade agreements, slashing import duties and quotas on items such as footwear and apparel and opposing mandatory country-of-origin labeling. You'd be right in thinking this doesn't sound like a normal consumer group, but exactly who they are is not immediately obvious. A little digging though, reveals that CWT is just another front group trying to wrap a self-serving corporate message in a public interest name.

Featured Participatory Project: Help Find the Superdelegates Whose Endorsement is "Wobbling"

The Superdelegate Transparency Project on Congresspedia is picking up steam as it looks more and more likely that the superdelegates will decide the Democratic presidential nominee. Our citizen journalist-generated list of superdelegates is being covered by everyone from the New York Times to CNN (video link).

But as the pressure on them picks up, many superdelegates are switching sides or hedging their bets. We need your help to figure out who these "wobbling" superdelegates are.

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Lavishing Doctors with Drug Money

Medicines Australia (MA), the peak drug industry lobby group, has unveiled details of how much its 42 member companies (and one non-member) spent in the last half of 2007 on each one of over 14,000 events that were designed to promote their drugs to doctors.

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Canada's Canned Conservative Calls

Antique radioIf you hear pro-Conservative Party callers to radio shows in Canada, their opinions "might not be as spontaneous as they sound," reports Alexander Panetta. "Some of those apparently ad-libbed musings are actually being choreographed at the Conservative Party of Canada's national headquarters.

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Lobbying Wine in a PR Bottle?

According to the Tennessee Ethics Commission's staff, a public relations firm that set up a front group that's encouraging people to contact legislators needs to register as a lobbyist. At issue is a proposal to allow Tennesseans to order wine over the Internet. The Tennessee Wine and Spirits Wholesalers, which opposes the bill, hired the prominent Nashville firm Seigenthaler Public Relations.

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