On April 21, the 60 Plus Association, a front group that FireDogLake reported in 2009 is "almost fully funded by the pharmaceutical industry," started running 60-second radio ads in 30 Congressional districts thanking Republicans for voting for House Budget Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan's budget plan, which would phase out the current Medicare program completely for those under 55 years of age. 60 Plus president Jim Martin says it is "absolutely true" that Ryan's plan will phase out Medicare for those under 55, but at the same time says, "at least [Ryan is] trying to save Medicare for the future." The ads misleadingly state that Ryan's plan will "protect Medicare and keep it secure for future retirees." The group also misleadingly asserts that the GOP's budget proposal, which will turn Medicare into a voucher system, will make "no changes for seniors on Medicare now or those who will soon go on it." The ad campaign cost the 60-Plus Association $800,000.
The Candies Foundation, whose mission is preventing teen pregnancy, hired America's most famous unwed teen mother, Bristol Palin, as its paid spokesperson. The Foundation paid Palin $332,000 for less than a month of work during 2009-2010 to promote the idea to teenage girls that having premarital sex is a bad idea. Palin appeared in video and print public service ads, attended two town hall meetings and conducted media interviews to help Candies "create awareness about teen pregnancy." In one print ad, Palin appears with her son Tripp on her lap, against a black background and looking dour with her face scrubbed of makeup (far from the glamorous appearance she assumed for her stint on Dancing with the Stars), alongside the quote, "I never thought I would be a statistic ... More than 750,000 teenage girls will become pregnant this year. Pause before you play." The Candies Foundation was started by Neil Cole, who also heads the Candie's brand of fashion clothing, which targets teenage girls. Ads for Candies clothing typically feature young females and celebrities in attention-grabbing, overtly sexualized poses.
Today will go down in the public relations history books as the day health insurers and their allies began a coordinated campaign to ensure that the health care reform law is implemented in ways that will benefit them way more than the rest of us. Today is the day they plan to launch their brand new front group -- drum roll, please -- the Choice and Competition Coalition (CCC). But first, a bit of context.
In a chapter of my book, Deadly Spin, entitled "The Playbook," I explain the remarkable track record that big corporations and their lobbyists have in getting the American public to buy the bill of goods they're selling. They bring out the Playbook, I note, for a single objective: to influence public policy by manipulating public opinion.
The Playbook comprises a set of activities that have long worked beautifully for industries fighting proposed new laws, regulations or taxes that are designed to make them behave in more socially responsible ways.
Democrats who think Paul Ryan and his Republican colleagues have foolishly wrapped their arms around the third rail of American politics by proposing to hand the Medicare program to private insurers will themselves look foolish if they take for granted that the public will always be on their side.
Rep. Ryan's budget proposal would radically reshape both the Medicare and Medicaid programs. It would turn Medicaid into a block grant, which would give states more discretion over benefits and eligibility. And it would radically redesign Medicare, changing it from what is essentially a government-run, single-payer health plan to one in which people would choose coverage from competing private insurance firms, many of them for-profit.
On March 18, 2011, the Cleveland Leader reported that Charles and David Koch -- billionaire owners of Koch Industries, an energy conglomerate that also makes a list of familiar household products like Brawny paper towels, Dixie cups, Lycra and StainMaster carpet -- are funneling $5.6 million to the corporate astroturf group FreedomWorks to run a television ad campaign in Ohio that scapegoats public workers. The ad depicts public workers and their unions as enemies and blames them for budget deficits in Wisconsin and Ohio. It features a discredited and deceptive Fox News video clip of protesters taken in a different state to try and depict Ohio's public-sector union workers as being mean and aggressive.
Billionaires Charles and David Koch of Koch Industries are funneling $5.6 million through the astroturf group FreedomWorks for an Ohio TV ad campaign starting March 18, 2011 that continues the attack on labor unions that Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker started in February. FreedomWorks, a non-profit group heavily involved with organizing the Tea Party, does not disclose its corporate donors. The 30-second TV ad focuses on Ohio, but features discredited Fox News footage taken of an out-of-state protest, inserted in the ad order to depict Wisconsin union protesters as being aggressive. The ad blames unions for what it claims is a debt "crisis" in Ohio. It says, "We won in Wisconsin, but the fight must go on," and urges viewers to call a phone number to "Thank Governor Kasich for leading the fight against Union corruption in Ohio."The ad doesn't mention that a Wisconsin judge temporarily blocked implementation of Governor Walker's anti-union bill over a potential violation of open meetings laws incurred in the way the highly-contentious bill was pushed through Wisconsin's legislature.
On February 28, the O'Reilly Factor aired a video news segment by Fox Channel reporter Mike Tobin, who was shown reporting from inside the state capitol building in Madison, Wisconsin. "News" footage aired during his broadcast of goings-on outside the capitol depicts an angry, out-of-control, crowd of pro-union protesters yelling and pushing people around. But the protesters in the video are wearing shirtsleeves and standing on a street lined with tall palm trees and other green, leafy foliage -- and that is absolutely not February in Madison, where no palm trees live outside of greenhouses and where temperatures have been well below freezing for most of the winter. Fox clearly used out-of-town footage to depict the "violence" it is hyping as happening in Madison. The segment is two minutes, nine seconds long, and the palm tree footage occurs at the 1:42 mark, as wording on the screen says "Union Protests."
While news coverage has focused on how Governor Scott Walker's budget repair bill attacks the state's 300,000 public sector workers (and by extension, the entire middle class), the law is increasingly recognized as an attack on the poor. It curtails (and perhaps eliminates) access to the Medicaid programs relied upon by 1.2 million Wisconsinites, limits access to public transportation, and hinders rural community access to broadband internet. The bill keeps the poor unhealthy, immobile, and uninformed.
Governor Walker and the GOP have said they will not balance the state's alleged "budget deficit" by raising taxes and increasing revenue. Instead, they will focus on decreasing expenditures in a way that disproportionately impacts the poor and middle class. At an event at Wisconsin Law School on February 24, former U.S. Solicitor of Labor and professor emeritus of law Carin Clauss said, "We have to acknowledge that we are imposing what amounts to a de facto tax hike" on the poor. She noted that "this bill will kick people off medicare, require increased payments into health and pension funds," and "could hamstring mass public transport," all of which decrease take-home pay and increase costs for poor- and middle- class Wisconsinites.
In a new revelation about Governor Walker's "Budget Repair" bill, the Center for Media and Democracy has learned that a provision of the measure allows the sale of "any state−owned heating, cooling, and power plant" and does this "with or without solicitation of bids."
And just who could be a recipient of no-bid state sales of publicly-owned heating, cooling and power facilities? According to the Rachel Maddow Show and other outlets, that could be companies controlled by the brothers David and Charles Koch, owners of Koch Industries, and big financial supporters of Governor Scott Walker. The Koch brothers have also funded groups that are attempting to create a crisis atmosphere over the state's budget, leading up to the attempt to pass this bill that could result in the low-cost transfer of state assets to their company.
Wisconsin's embattled Governor Scott Walker took large donations from Koch Industries in the run-up to the 2010 election that swept him into office. OpenSecrets.org reports that Koch Industries donated a total of $43,000 in two separate contributions -- $15,000 on July 8, 2010 and another $28,000 on September 27, 2010 -- to the Friends of Scott Walker Political Action Committee (PAC), to help get Walker elected governor.