"The rise of Tony Feather from congressional intern to successful lobbyist is a story of loyalty, of good deeds rewarded -- and of Republicans taking care of their own," the Washington Post writes.
"Pharmaceutical companies are pouring millions of dollars into patient
advocacy groups and medical organisations to help expand markets for their
They are also using sponsorships and educational grants to fund
disease-awareness campaigns that urge people to see their doctors.
Many groups have become largely or totally reliant on pharmaceutical
industry money, prompting concerns they are open to pressure from companies
pushing their products.
An investigation by The Age newspaper has found:
"Letters from hometown soldiers describing their successes rebuilding Iraq have been appearing in newspapers across the country as U.S. public opinion on the mission sours," reports Ledyard King. "And all the letters are the same." A newspaper in Olympia, Washington noticed the pattern after receiving identically-worded letters from two different soldiers with the 2nd Battalion of the 503rd Airborne Infantry Regiment.
"What seemed to be a groundswell of protest materialized last week when WorldCom Inc. lawyers arrived at federal court for a hearing on whether the company's agreement to pay a $500 million fine was sufficient punishment for its mammoth fraud. ... Outside the courthouse, a small group of demonstrators rallied" including the Gray Panthers. "The outpouring, though, was hardly spontaneous. Several of the opponents, including protest organizers and petitioners, had ties to Issue Dynamics Inc.
"Readers have a right to assume that what they read on the letters page is not canned public relations material," Boston Globe Editorial Page Editor Renee Loth said. Responding to unknowingly running GOP "astroturf" form letters, the Globe is instituting a new policy to "confirm original authorship on any letter that could be part of an organized campaign." Globe Ombudsman Christine Chinlund writes that while readers may find the fake grassroots letters-to-the-editor offensive, in political campaigning circles, there is bipartisan support.
"Newspapers and political organizations are engaged in technological one-upmanship over 'AstroTurf' - letters to the editor that look like authentic grass-roots responses from readers but are not," reports Jennifer Lee.
"It looks like the Bush Administration is astroturfing, trying to artificially create the appearance of a grassroots movement supporting their policies," writes Jules Agee.
After a recent article in the British Medical Journal detailed drug company sponsorship of medical meetings on "female sexual dysfunction," a PR firm with clients in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industry has launched a global campaign to "counter" the BMJ report. Michelle Lerner of the HCC De Facto PR firm said it would "violate ethical guidelines" to disclose the identity of her client.
Every February the powerful Public Affairs Council (PAC) holds its annual National Grassroots Conference for Corporations and Associations in some lovely southern location. PR Watch wanted to attend and report on this year's confab in Key West. We covered the 1997 conference and uncovered a goldmine of hidden information on how corporations wage powerful campaigns at the grassroots to promote their special interest agendas.
PR Watch has reported in the past on the questionable tactics of Bonner & Associates, which specializes in "astroturf" (artificial grassroots) organizing for corporate clients. Earlier this year, Jack Bonner was charged with ethics violations in Maryland, but the Maryland State Ethics Commission has cleared him of charges that he used deceptive tactics on behalf of the pharmaceutical industry.