A flashy publicity stunt outside a Houston federal courthouse accompanied accounting firm Arthur Andersen's not guilty plea to Justice Department obstruction charges. "As Andersen pleaded not guilty inside the courtroom, outside the firm launched a public relations blitz designed to portray government prosecutors as overzealous and heartless to the plight of its 28,000 U.S. employees," USA Today's Greg Farrell reports.
Fortune magazine recently spent six weeks investigating the Carlyle Group, the secretive investment firm with ties to the Bush administration that invests heavily in military contracting. Carlyle employs a raft of former government officials, including the Bush the senior as well as former Secretary of State Jim Baker, former Secretary of Defense Frank Carlucci and former British Prime Minister John Major.
In a new report, Defenders of Wildlife and the Natural Resources Defense Council examine the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). "While ALEC purports to be a 'good-government' group operating in the public interest, its sole mission is to advance special-interest legislation across the nation on behalf of its corporate sponsors and funders," the report says. "The organization's behind-the-scenes advocacy has been surprisingly effective -- leading, according to ALEC material, to the enactment of more than 450 state laws during the 1999 and 2000 state legislative sessions.
In Trust Us, We're Experts, PR Watch editors Sheldon Rampton and John Stauber examined the ways that industry PR manipulates science and gambles with your future. Now British science writer Colin Tudge is exploring similar themes. Whether the topic is pharmaceuticals or genetically modified foods, he says, "people distrust what scientists tell them. And they are perfectly right to do so. ...
In the wake of the Enron meltdown, Business 2.0 magazine is running several articles offering "free advice for the suddenly non-credible," in which PR gurus offer their recommendations for helping clients who have been caught lying, cheating or committing atrocities. Perhaps the most interesting comments appear in the reader response section, which invites people to comment on the financial status and standards of their own companies. Most of the responses suggest that Enron is not an isolated case.
The Global Climate Coalition, a front group for the auto, oil, coal and other industries responsible for most of the greenhouse gas emissions that are changing the climate, recently announced that has disbanded, explaining that it "has served its purpose by contributing to a new national approach to global warming.
Nearly 70 percent of Americans say they do not trust corporate America, according to a recent survey conducted for the Interpublic's Golin/Harris PR unit. According to O'Dwyer's PR Daily, the surveys says that the Enron meltdown is only one of a number of recent events that have created "a crisis of confidence and trust in the way we do business in America." Industries that are especially mistrusted include: oil & gas; insurance; investment brokers; utilities; airlines; telecom; advertising; the media; PR; accounting; chemical; pharmaceuticals; and management/consulting.
The stranglehold that a dozen giant corporations now exert on media in the US will tighten even more in the wake of a federal court ruling. The ill effects of corporate media control such as mind numbing content, self-censorship to serve advertisers, neglect of minority opinions and dissent, sensationalized if-it-bleeds-it-leads news, plagiarism of PR as 'news,' are all set to worsen. Schiesel and Carter write in the New York Times, "Investment bankers, start your engines.
"As the Enron scandal progresses, opportunistic politicians are trying their best to turn the company's name into political shorthand to discredit just about anything," writes Bryan Keefer. Terms like "Enronomics" and "Enronization" have entered the vocabulary as shorthand ways of discrediting political opponents. "In political parlance, 'Enron' has now become a verb and an adjective," Keefer writes.
"Just before the last presidential election, Bush campaign adviser Ralph Reed offered to help Enron Corp. deregulate the electricity industry by working his 'good friends' in Washington and by mobilizing religious leaders and pro-family groups for the cause. For a $380,000 fee, the conservative political strategist proposed a broad lobbying strategy that included using major campaign contributors, conservative talk shows and nonprofits to press Congress for favorable legislation.