News Articles By

The Fix Behind Fixing Social Security

In late February, deputy White House chief of staff Karl Rove, National Economics Council director Al Hubbard, and Barry Jackson, a special assistant to the president who is handling Social Security reform, met with administration-friendly lobbyists for a "rah-rah" cheerleading session on Social Security privatization. According to The Hill, representatives from the conservative 60 Plus Association, the business funded Coalition for the Modernization and Protection of America's Social Security(COMPASS), America’s Community Bankers, the National Retail Federation, the Mortgage Bankers Association and the Business Roundtable heard the trio reiterate George W. Bush's commitment to "reform" Social Security. "Karl Rove talked about its importance to the president's agenda, and Al Hubbard talked about its importance to the economy," a spokesperson from the Roundtable told Bloomberg News.

Exposing the Echo Chamber Behind Social Security Privatization

The Bush administration ventriloquists are out in full force these days, breathlessly hyping "Personal Retirement Accounts" as a way to save Social Security by destroying it. For the average voter, getting a handle on what the Bush administration is proposing to do to Social Security is quite a challenge. The dozens of bobbing heads and clicking fingers, holding forth on cable news programming and the Internet is enough to make anyone's head spin.

The PR Plan Behind Big Tobacco's Big Victory

The tobacco industry won a big victory Friday when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled in its favor, against the U.S. Justice Department. The court's ruling means that the Justice Department cannot force the industry to disgorge $280 billion in past profits, even if it wins its fraud and racketeering case against the cigarette makers.

Little media attention has been paid to this important decision in a landmark case concerning a major public health threat. The near-invisible nature of the ongoing federal trial to determine whether Big Tobacco engaged in a conspiracy of fraud and deceit may represent another aspect of that very conspiracy - the successful efforts of tobacco industry PR to influence journalists. Internal tobacco industry documents shed light on the largely hidden phenomena of corporate tobacco lobbyists courting favor with editorial boards.

Call Me Stupid

Last Friday I happened to be on a conservative radio show where I pointed out that the big winners in Iraq's recent elections were Shiite clerics with a long history of friendship with Iran - not exactly the sort of people who are likely to be long-term supporters of the Bush administration's political agenda in the Middle East. If conservatives want to celebrate the election as a victory for Iraqi self-determination, I said, they should be "careful what you wish for." Now it looks like I need to give myself the same cautionary advice.

"Cash for Commentary" is Business as Usual

Blanquita Cullum #1Conservative commentators Armstrong Williams, Maggie Gallagher and Michael McManus have been outed recently for taking money under the table to endorse Bush administration programs. These cases are only the tip of a much bigger iceberg, as you can tell from looking at the images I'm attaching here. I wrote about it three years ago in a story that described the work of conservative direct marketer Bruce Eberle, whose Omega List Company specializes in raising money using mail and e-mail.

On a section of the website that has subsequently been removed, Omega List was quite straightforward about the fact that it pays conservative commentators to endorse clients and their causes. A series of web pages featured conservative radio show host Blanquita Cullum explaining exactly how the system works and how other radio hosts could get in on the gravy. "You do what you do best!" she said. "Get on the air and talk to your listeners! Drive them to your website by conducting a daily survey or a contest on the topic of your choosing." Eberle's "polling wizard" software, installed on the site, would then capture the names of respondents so that they could be hit up for money. "What happens next is a cakewalk," Cullum continued. "Omega will call you with an opportunity to send an endorsement e-mail to your list ... and receive a royalty for lending your name to a cause, organization or product you believe in. ... Omega gives you their specialized software absolutely FREE and presents you with an opportunity to earn an extra $25,000 or more annually."

No Shame

Photoshopped propaganda imageThanks to PR Watch forums contributor "El Gringo" for calling our attention to a really atrocious example of dishonest propaganda. The graphic at right is by Linda Eddy, an artist for the website, IowaPresidentialWatch.com. Owned by Roger Hughes, chairman of the Republican Party in Hamilton County, Iowa, the website spent the recent U.S. presidential election calling Democratic candidate John Kerry a habitual liar and comparing him to Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels -- which is awfully ironic in light of its own promotion of a big lie.

The image you see here might lead you to believe that the child in the picture has been made "glad" and secure thanks to the U.S. troop presence in Iraq. As "El Gringo" discovered, however, Lindy Eddy doctored the photograph. The original photo, taken by a journalist, depicted a young girl who had just received bullet wounds during a firefight in which her mother was killed and her father was wounded. Eddy doctored the photo by erasing the little girl's own face (which carries the listless expression you would expect from an injured child) and replacing it with someone else's face to make her look positively radiant and adoring.

Calling John Rendon

John Rendon is CEO of the Rendon Group, a secretive public relations firm that often provides behind-the-scenes advice to the U.S. military. Over the years, we've received dozens of phone calls from journalists who have sought interviews with Rendon about his work on behalf of the Iraqi National Congress, but no one has been able to get him to say more than "no comment."

We were a little surprised, therefore, when a telephone message was left for Rendon in our office by someone identifying himself as a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Air Force. A transcript of that message is as follows:

Pages