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Funding the Left

Back of one-hundred dollar billThe July 2006 issue of In These Times magazine carries an enlightening and overdue article about how the Left is funded, or not. The New Funding Heresies, written by Senior Editor Christopher Hayes, focuses on the relatively new group of very wealthy liberal and progressive funders called the Democracy Alliance. This group of close to one hundred donors has pledged to individually donate a minimum of $1 million over five years to organizations chosen from a docket that is vetted by the staff and board of the Alliance. In addition, each Democracy Alliance donor pays a $25,000 entry fee and annual dues of $30,000 to cover the operating expenses of the Alliance according to the article.

The Colbert Report: Sense of Humor Required

The morning shows and cable news outlets have been all over Steven Colbert's July 20 interview with Rep. Bob Wexler (D-Fla.) on the Colbert Report. We at Congresspedia think that Colbert's interviews are frequently hilarious and have created indexes of links to videos of the interviews that he and Jon Stewart have done with members of Congress. However, as we state at the top of the index pages, "It should be noted that the interviews often veer into pure comedy and should not be taken as on-the-record comments." So, when Colbert gets Rep. Wexler to discuss subjects like prostitutes and cocaine, we suggest you take Colbert's advice and recognize that, hey, "he's got a sense of humor."

We've now expanded our video link lists to include non-interview segments on both the Daily Show and the Colbert Report that pertain to Congress. Click through the above links to see them or read the rest of this blog entry for the list of interviews.

The Best War Ever: Lies, Damned Lies and the Mess in Iraq

Exactly three years ago our book Weapons of Mass Deception: The Uses of Propaganda in Bush's War on Iraq was published. Our publisher pitched it this way: "Rampton and Stauber take no prisoners as they reveal - headline by headline, news show by news show, press conference by press conference - the deliberate, aggressive, and highly successful public relations campaign that sold the Iraqi war to the American public.

War Is For Children: Reading, Writing and Recruitment

Cobblestone cover

As a child I absolutely adored Cricket magazine, published by Carus Publishing. I now have a twelve-year old daughter who likewise enjoys their magazines for kids, but the May 2006 issue of Cobblestone Magazine floored me with its blatant pro-military marketing pitch to children.

Chances are, depending on your age, that either you or your children have read one of Carus’ publications at home, school, the library, or a doctor’s waiting room. For the smallest tykes—those under seven years old—they offer Ladybug, Babybug, and Click magazines. For six- to nine-year olds they put out Spider, Ask, and Appleseeds. And for the “tweens,” Calliope, Cobblestone, Cricket, Dig, Faces, Muse, Odyssey, and Cicada.

Cosmetic Solutions: The Makeup Industry Gives Itself a Health Hazard Makeover

Breast cancer. Genital abnormalities. Distortion and damage of genetic material.

Common ingredients in cosmetic products have been linked to these hazards. As further research is conducted into the long-term and cumulative effects on cosmetics users, their children and the water supply that products are washed off into, more questions arise. Not that you'd know it by listening to the cosmetics industry.

From a Campaign for Safe Cosmetics <a href="" target="_blank">adAn important underlying issue is that the industry is largely self-regulated. While interstate trade in "adulterated or misbranded cosmetics" is prohibited, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not review new cosmetics before they are marketed and cannot order recalls of hazardous cosmetics. "Cosmetic firms are responsible for substantiating the safety of their products and ingredients," reads the FDA's own explanation.

The industry's trade group, the Cosmetic, Toiletry, and Fragrance Association (CTFA), likes this hands-off approach. CTFA has 600 member companies, including Aveda, Clairol, L'Oréal and Unilever, and standing committees on government relations, public affairs and international issues. Its website says CTFA promotes "industry self-regulation and reasonable governmental requirements." But reasonable to who?

"Cause-Related Marketing": Why Social Change and Corporate Profits Don’t Mix

In the 1980s, a new form of marketing was born: Cause-Related Marketing (CRM), a hybrid of product advertising and corporate public relations. CRM aims to link corporate identities with nonprofit organizations and good causes. As a tax-deductible expense for business, this form of brand leveraging seeks to connect with the consuming public beyond the traditional point of purchase and to form long-lasting and emotional ties with consumers. However, what might seem like a fair exchange between corporations in search of goodwill and non-profits in search of funds also raises a range of troubling social, political and ethical questions.

CRM is, first and foremost, a market-driven system. Therefore, a non-profit organization's chance of obtaining CRM funding hinges on its ability to complement sales messages. However, it is often the case that vital social issues are only -- or are best -- addressed by "edgy" groups or by using controversial tactics.

Kill The Messenger? Pro-War Advocates Should Blame Themselves for the Mess in Iraq

Journalists! Let's get 'em!

As conditions in Iraq continue to deteriorate, supporters of the war are casting around for someone to blame, and journalists are becoming an increasingly popular scapegoat — an ironic turn of events, since the mainstream media's uncritical support for the war helped get us into this mess in the first place.

John Rendon's Long, Strange Trip in the Terror Wars

John Rendon
John Rendon

In his hippie youth as a Merry Prankster, Stewart Brand bounced around San Francisco in Ken Kesey's day-glo bus, dousing people with LSD-laced Kool-Aid at the legendary Acid Tests. Those were strange days, but his latest trip is also bizarre. Brand and his Long Now Foundation are bringing to San Francisco John Rendon, the elusive head of the Rendon Group, one of the CIA's favorite PR firms.

John Rendon is the self-described "information warrior” who, under contract with the CIA, named and nurtured the infamous Iraqi National Congress. INC leader Ahmed Chalabi was a Rendon protégé embraced by the Project for a New American Century and other advocates of war with Iraq. Rendon and Chalabi probably did as much as anyone to deceive the US into war.

Money Funny

Scrooge McDuckWe got an email from Eveline Lubbers today, asking, "Could you please let us know when the money will come?"

Eveline works with a Europe-based group called SpinWatch, whose activities there are broadly similar to the work that we do in the United States at the Center for Media and Democracy. SpinWatch monitors the European PR industry, corporate lobbying, front groups, government spin, propaganda and other tactics used by powerful groups to manipulate media, public policy debate and public opinion.

Eveline's joke about having us send money came after she came across a blog posting by Lene Johansen, who also writes for a couple of conservative, corporate-funded think tanks including Tech Central Station. Johansen said that CMD "runs SpinWatch" and urged people to "check out CMD's dirty little funding secrets at"

For the record, CMD does not run SpinWatch, and we won't be sending Eveline a check, much as we think she deserves one. (If you want to send them money, they do accept donations online — but if you send the money to us instead, we promise not to share.)

Congresspedia takes on constitutional amendments

As part of the expansion of Congresspedia beyond articles on individual members of Congress, we've recently created pages on the Federal Marriage Amendment and flag burning amendment. We've also created pages on the process to amend the Constitution and integrated existing pages on the Constitution itself.

The last vote on the flag burning amendment was on June 27, 2006, when it failed to gain the necessary two-thirds majority in the U.S. Senate. The vote was 66-34 in favor, with Republicans voting in favor by 52-3, and Democrats voting against by 30-14. There was one amendment to the amendment, offered by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), which would have turned the constitutional amendment into a simple law and ban "flag desecration" only if it was done in conjunction with the destruction of federal property (if the flag belonged to the government), an incitement of violence or an attempt to intimidate someone. The amendment, which required a simple majority, failed in a 64-36 vote against it.

In looking over the transcripts of the debate, we noticed that senators both for (Dianne Feinstein) and against (Daniel Inouye) the amendment were constantly debating whether or not it was the flag burning or the constitutional amendment to ban flag burning that was more offensive to veterans. Being committed to dealing in documented facts rather than rhetoric at Congresspedia, we decided to take a look at how the veterans in Congress actually voted on the amendment.