MADISON--A Special Report from the Center for Media Democracy, part one of a new series. A gaggle of secretly funded DC groups has launched an expensive PR blitz in Wisconsin in support of Scott Walker's controversial efforts to undermine union rights, part of a national assault on worker rights. A few unions have also begun running public education ads, but their sources are not kept hidden from public view; union dues are used for collective bargaining and union members can choose to make a separate donation to a Committee on Public Education fund for advertising. The total amount of anti-union spending in the works by groups funded by corporations or corporate CEOs or their foundations is unknown. What is known is that many such groups hide behind tax provisions that allow them to keep the identities of their major funders secret, insulating from public scrutiny the wealthy financial interests they are fronting and that are largely bankrolling their general operations.
News Articles By Lisa Graves
(Editor's note: As we've noted, Josh Fox's documentary, GASLAND, is an Oscar contender this weekend, and the Big Gas industry has been doing everything it can to block this powerful film from winning. Below is the latest in this saga against a film which will open your eyes to the expanded drilling operations and the devastating consequences so far. Josh's film is just a day away from the Oscar ceremony. Visit our water portal page on SourceWatch to find out more about the dangerous practice of horizontal fracturing, "fracking," of the earth with a cocktail of chemicals. Here is a note from Josh on the latest news in the corporate PR spin campaign.)
From Documentary Filmmaker Josh Fox--
Something bizarre just happened at the Wall Street Journal. At 6 p.m. I was reading a home page story on WSJ.com called "Oscar's Attention Irks Gas Industry" by Ben Casselman which contained perhaps the most honest and revealing quote from the gas industry that I have read to date about their obsession with attacking my film GASLAND. The quote reads "We have to stop blaming documentaries and take a look in the mirror," said Matt Pitzarella, a spokesman for gas producer Range Resources Corp. Just thirty minutes later the quote mysteriously disappears, edited out and in its place is a far more typical spin controlled statement from Tom Price of Chesapeake energy saying, "We need to be able to respond objectively and accurately." Sounds like a robot at a PR agency, more than a person.
Madison, Wisconsin -- The Capital Times reported on Tuesday that Koch Industries had quietly opened a lobby shop in Madison. This news comes amid concerns about the influence of the company and the billionaire brothers who lead it, and the bankrolling of multi-million dollar ad campaigns like the one that helped sweep controversial governor Scott Walker into office.
In an email sent this week, the "Tea Party Nation" urged members to impersonate SEIU organizers at upcoming labor rallies in an attempt to embarrass and discredit the union and the protestors. Former Tea Party leader Mark Williams urged the plan, according to Think Progress.
The plan includes signing up with the Service Employees International Union, wearing SEIU T-shirts, and then approaching television crews and camera operators with signs that say things like "You OWE me" and "Screw the taxpayer." It also urged tea partiers, in disguise, to make outrageous comments to reporters to make the gathering look "greedy," and undermine the protestor's credibility with the press.
The plan even suggested that it would not matter if Tea Party Nation's planting of operatives became public because "the quotes and pictures will linger as de facto truth."
Madison, Wisconsin -- The Associated Press (AP) has been covering the Wisconsin protests this past week, in a way.
With the wave of cutbacks at papers across the nation, big and small circulation papers rely on the AP for wire stories that are re-published in local papers. It describes itself as "the largest newsgathering organization" in the world. With few national outlets having reporters located in Madison or Wisconsin, the AP is a dominant vehicle for sharing information about what is happening in the state with the rest of nation. The AP is also the dominant news feeder for Yahoo News, and Yahoo is now one of the top five most-trafficked websites in the world. So it matters whether the AP is fairly covering the news, in the headlines and in the bodies of its stories. (The Center for Media and Democracy is on record as a strong critic of corporate media, like the AP.)
Madison, Wisconsin -- A new investigation by the Center for Media and Democracy documents the big money funneled by one of the richest men in America and one of the richest corporations in the world to put controversial Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker in office.
This week's protests are a revolt in defense of the right of public employees to self-organize. But not all the protesters here are public sector workers, or their family members. Many have recognized the role of college and high school students in initiating and energizing these protests. But few journalists have yet noted the efforts of Hmong, African American, Latino, and other activists of color to deepen and broaden the protests.
Monica Adams of the Madison-based community justice organization, Freedom, Inc., is one activist who has tried to add some color to the standard portrayal of this uprising. In an unpublished submission to the Wisconsin State Journal, earlier this week, she wrote that:
Doesn't it seem like there are more negative political campaign ads than ever before?
It's difficult to watch almost any TV without being bombarded with repetitive ads "paid for" by some group that claims to be just like you, or like someone you want to be, like "Americans for Prosperity" and its so-called "Prosperity Network." But you can help fight back.
With most everyone else tightening their belts as the economy staggers back from the meltdown caused by Wall Street gambling, who can afford to blanket our airwaves with scary "independent" political ads? Wall Street. But these fat cats are trying to hide their role in this obscene wave of mid-term election spending by funneling their profits through front groups. Together we can shine a light on their efforts to take control of our democracy.
Investigative journalists Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez recently featured our investigations and analysis of BP's greenwashing and spin. The interview highlights our work responding to BP's involvement in California's environmental curriculum for primary and secondary students, a story broken by Rick Daysog and the Sacramento Bee.
The extensive interview, a transcript of which is available here, also highlights our continuing coverage of BP's use of toxic dispersants. It also helped spread the word about our objections to the judges siding with the oil industry against the proposed deep-sea drilling ban. The interview also discusses CMD's work exposing the millionaire fat cats behind the misleading attack ads against Senator Russ Feingold.
The Center for Media and Democracy was asked to introduce national populist leader Jim Hightower at Wisconsin's "Fighting Bob Fest," an annual gathering featuring progressive speakers and "carrying on the tradition of Robert "Fighting Bob" La Follette by providing a forum for progressive ideas" on national issues. Hightower is a New York Times bestselling author whose latest book is "Swim Against The Current: Even A Dead Fish Can Go With The Flow."