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WHAT? Democracy.
WHO? Decides.

pile of books, feather and ink

Historical Context

From 1969-1972 in the space of only 4 years by our collective citizen engagement, we made Congress enact public polices for the good of all of us from major environmental laws like “The Clean Air Act ,The Clean Water Act, The Endangered Species Act”, and a series of additional consumer-protection agencies, including the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA), the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).

In response to these government regulations brought on by public interest groups and environmentalists, businesses began to to cooperate together and added huge financial resources and professional advise to counter these advances. Currently in Washington, 5 Key operatives namely the Front Groups, Think Tanks, Public Relations Firms, Lobbyists and Media representing business interests before regulatory agencies and federal courts has mushroomed to unprecedented numbers .

Given this history the responsibility falls on us the American Citizens to stay engaged and ensure democratic processes are followed by our elected congressional members upholding the will of us the people by implementing sensible public polices.

illustration of 5 people huggin in circle, labeled media, PR Firm, Think Tank, Lobbyist, and front group

5 Key Operatives manipulate our public polices

In the hallmark book by Sharon Beder, “Global Spin”, the following facts are truly revealing about the 5 key operatives strategies and operations in orchestrating our public polices for their own interests.

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Front Groups
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Think Tanks
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PR Firms
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Lobbyists
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Corporations control
90% of all media
Front group logos holding hands

1. Role of Front Groups 

A Front Group is an organization that purports to represent one agenda while in reality it serves some other party or interest whose sponsorship is hidden or rarely mentioned. The names of corporate front groups are carefully chosen to mask the real interests behind them but they usually can be identified by their funding sources, membership and who controls them. The use of “front groups” enables corporations to take part in public debates and government hearings behind a cover of community concern. These front groups lobby governments to legislate in the corporate interest and campaign to change public opinion so that the markets for their corporate goods are not threatened.

TOP 5 Corporate Front Groups & their Funding Sources:

  1. The American Council on Science and Health (ACSH) is funded by food processing and beverage corporations like Burger King, Coca-Cola, as well as chemical, oil and pharmaceutical companies such as Monsanto-Bayer, Exon and others. The ACSH is one of many corporate front groups which allows industry-funded experts to pose as independent scientists to promote corporate causes.
  2. Wise Use Movement is supported by most anti-environmentalist groups, by companies in the resource extraction industry, timber, chemical and land development companies. They portray environmentalists as the enemy of the people.
  3. America’s Wetland Foundation (AWF) funded by the American Petroleum Institute, BP and a host of other oil industry companies, solicit taxpayer assistance for BP’s cleanup bill” for coastal damage resulting from the Deepwater Horizon spill.
  4. The Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy (CARE) is a fossil fuel advocacy organization. The group opposes environmental activism and the pursuit of “green,” or sustainable energy development, saying the pursuit of solar and wind power “will end the America we know and love.”
  5. The Non-Smoker Protection Committee is a front group partly-funded by R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company (RJR) that backed an initiative called the “Arizona Non-Smoker Protection Act”, that would have allowed smoking in all bars and some restaurants statewide, overturn smoking bans and restrict and prohibit cities from adopting strict smoking bans in the future.
Think tanks logos holding hands

2. Role of Think Tanks –

A think tank is an organization that engages in advocacy in areas such as social policy, political strategy, economics, military, technology issues and in the creative and cultural field. They are generally private, tax-exempt, research institutes. Their tax-free status depends on their ability to maintain a superficial appearance of political independence, so they present themselves as providing impartial, disinterested expertise. However, they are generally partisan, politically or ideologically motivated and practice the art of “directed conclusions”. 

These think tanks aim to influence government and set the agenda in a variety of policy arenas.Think tanks often employ former government officials and politicians, as this gives them influence in government and credibility in the media.

TOP 5 Corporate Think Tanks and their Funding Sources:

  1. The Heritage Foundation, is an extremely influential think tank which promotes deregulation of industry and unrestrained free market and privatization, including sell off of public lands. It is funded by the Koch brothers and clients in the tobacco industry taking positions favorable to their industry, such as opposition to raising tobacco taxes and regulations on vaping.
  2. Cato Institute, apposes environmental regulation and promotes free-market environmentalism and has clients like, The American Petroleum Institute, Exxon, Monsanto, Philip Morris, Coca-Cola.
  3. The Brookings Institute, a larger and more respectable left or center think-tank, less dependent on corporate funding it has a large endowment . Nevertheless it has been moving to a more conservative stance for some years with an antigovernment free-market economics mindset.
  4. American Enterprise Institute, is another influential think tank that advocates for lower taxes, fewer protections for consumers and the environment, and cuts to the social safety net, clients include the tobacco industry.
  5. Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, main concerns are such things as ‘welfare reform’ (dismantling social programs), ‘faith-based initiatives’ (blurring the distinction between church and state), and ‘education reform’ (destroying public education).
PR logos holding hands
$ 0 M
Edelman
$ 0 M
Weber Shandwick
$ 0 M
Fleishman-Hillard
$ 0 M
Ketchum
$ 0 M
Burson-Marsteller

3. Role of Public Relations Firms –

A public relations firm (PR) is a professional services organization, generally hired to conceive, produce and manage messages to the public through the media on behalf of a client, with the intention of changing the public’s actions by influencing their opinions. Messages are often in the form of news distributed in a non-personal form which may include newspaper, magazine, radio, television, Internet or other form of media.

Much of the the news people read or watch on television is manufactured by PR firms through press releases rather than discovered by journalists. According to various studies, press releases are the basis for forty to fifty per cent of the news content.

Today public relations is a multi-billion dollar industry. The top fifty us-based public relations companies charged over $1.7 Billion in fees. The industry employs over 200,000 people in the US and there are more public relations personnel than news reporters.

TOP 5 Corporate PR Firms Financial Spend in Congress:

  1. Edelman ( 893M).
  2. Weber Shandwick ($805M).
  3. Fleishman-Hillard ($570M).
  4. Ketchum ($550M).
  5. Burson-Marsteller ($463M).
    www.holmesreport.com
Lobbying logos holding hands
$ 0 M
Akin, Grump et al
$ 0 M
Brownstein Hyatt et al
$ 0 M
BGR group
$ 0 M
Squire Patton Boggs
$ 0 M
Holland & Knight

4. Role of Lobbying Firms –

Lobbying firms are specialist companies that primarily represent clients to politicians and government regulators. While there are no clear boundaries between what is lobbying and what is PR, lobbying firms often play specific roles within a broader campaign plan.

Lobbyists raise gobs of money for elected officials, they write laws themselves and lobbyists effectively bribe members of Congress with lucrative job offers to become lobbyists luring them with massive salary raises.

The phenomenon of members of Congress heading off to work for lobbying firms and their clients is know as “the revolving door.” In the 1970s, less than 5% of retiring legislators went on to become lobbyists. Now, half of retiring senators and a third of retiring house members become lobbyists.

Top 5 Lobbying Firms  Financial Spend in Congress:

  1. Akin, Grump et al ( $38M)
  2. Brownstein Hyatt et al ( 31M)
  3. BGR group ( $27M)
  4. Squire Patton Boggs ( $24M)
  5. Holland & Knight ( $24M)

5. Role of Media –

6 CORPORATIONS CONTROL 90% OF THE MEDIA IN AMERICA

The Media, with its profile of truth seekers , serves the role that corporate front groups or think tanks fulfill for corporations. They push the corporate view while appearing to be independent of the corporation that will gain from it. Clearly journalists and their editors are only one of the filters through which news stores must pass. The news is not what reporters report but what editors and owners decide to print or broadcast. Editors are free to cut, edit or drop stories without consulting the journalist who wrote them.

The daily tonnage of output of propaganda and publicity has become an important force in our US life. Seventy percent (70%) of what is on cable is owned by the “Big 6”; half of the contents of the best newspapers is derived from publicity releases; nearly all the contents of the lesser papers are directly or indirectly the work of PR firms.

The reliance of journalists on sources such as PR personnel and government officials is referred to as source journalism, as apposed to independent investigative journalism. Even trusted public organizations like Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) has so much oil company money sponsoring its programs that it was nicknamed the Petroleum Broadcasting Service. FAIR’s study on PBS programming found they used mainly corporate conservative sources and rarely used public interest groups such as environmentalists in their reporting.
www.fair.org PDF Study: PBS

The same trend was reported by FAIR on National Public Radio’s (NPR) Morning Edition segment which often looks to a trusted roster of think-tank sources when seeking “expert” opinions. In the study FAIR found that sources from left-of-center think tanks were underrepresented, while right leaning think tank sources were appearing almost twice as often. “The contrast between Morning Edition’s use of clearly conservative and clearly progressive think tanks was stark: Analysts from the former appeared more than three times as often as interviewees from the latter.”
www.fair.org PDF Study: NPR

Revenues of the TOP 6 Media Giants

Disney
$220 Billion $
Comcast
$209 Billion $
AT&T
$203 Billion $
Sony
$95 Billion $
ViacomCBS
$17.5 Billion $
News Corporation
$6.6 Billion $

Total: $751 Billion

American Inequality

man running away with bags of cash

American Income Inequality

 Income Inequality has become so pronounced that America’s top 10 percent now average more than nine times as much income as the bottom 90 percent. Americans in the top 1 percent tower stunningly higher. They average over 39 times more income than the bottom 90 percent. But that gap pales in comparison to the divide between the nation’s top 0.1 percent and everyone else. Americans at this lofty level are taking in over 196 times the income of the bottom 90 percent. 

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Man laying on pile of cash to protect it

American Wealth Inequality

The most visible indicator of wealth inequality in America today may be the Forbes magazine list of the nation’s 400 richest. In 2018, the three men at the top of that list — Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, Microsoft founder Bill Gates, and investor Warren Buffett — held combined fortunes worth more than the total wealth of the poorest half of Americans. 

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A man standing on a larger pile of cash than the woman next to him

American Gender Inequality

Female-dominated occupations — such as childcare and service — continue to occupy the lower rungs of the U.S. wage ladder. Women make up 63 percent of workers earning the federal minimum wage, a wage rate stuck at $7.25 since 2009. By contrast, women represent only 5 percent of CEOs at Fortune 500 firms. CEOs took home $13.1 million on average in 2016.

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Illustration of large hand picking up a white man in a line of people with diverse backgrounds

American Racial Inequality

The median Black family, with just over $3,500, owns just 2 percent of the wealth of the nearly $147,000 the median White family owns. The median Latino family, with just over $6,500, owns just 4 percent of the wealth of the median White family. Put differently, the median White family has 41 times more wealth than the median Black family and 22 times more wealth than the median Latino family. www.inequality.org

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bar chart of consolidation

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Profit Margins - US vs EU

Lobbying Expenditures - US vs EU

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Benchmarking & Best Practices

Two independent studies by researches at NYU as well as MIT  reveal the following facts:
PDF Study: MIT
PDF Study: NYU

  1. While US companies have used their growing market power for profit to raise prices, limit wage growth, and dramatically increase overall net earnings in recent years, profit rates in the EU have remained relatively unchanged for the last 25 years. The fact is that in smoothly functioning markets profits are supposed to be minimal because any excess should attract competitors and force price reductions.
  2. The total amount of money spent on lobbying in Europe is half that of the United States, and while nearly 90 percent of all lobbying money in the United States comes from business, in the EU it’s more like 70 percent.
    This is what you’d expect in a democratic system with more independent regulators.                       In recent years US industries are becoming increasingly consolidated, with fewer businesses competing for customers and higher corporate profits as a result. The top four manufacturing firms control 43 percent; the top four retail trade firms control 30 percent of US sales.   Europe’s ( EU) democracies by contrast are encouraging competition and fighting monopoly power in a way that the United States no longer does. With stiffer regulation and more aggressive antitrust enforcement, EU officials actively intervene to keep individual companies and cartels from accumulating too much control. There’s no sign of this growing consolidation in European industries ranging from health care to manufacturing.
Illustration of puzzle pieces forming a light bulb, which connects people

Engage to Change “Our Status Quo”

  1. Demand that unbiased, academic experts are consulted as resources for evidence based data for public policy issues of Economy, Environment, HealthCare,Women’s and LGBTQ Rights, eliminating the industry funded pundits representing Think tanks , PR Firms and Lobbyists with their questionable credentials.
  2. Demand that media stop using employees of think tanks as being independent experts and get their evidence based facts from experts in universities doing original research.
  3. Demand Investigative journalism from media as apposed to Source journalism where the public policy narrative is created by PR firms. This will make a paradigm shift for a healthy public policy debate based on evidence and facts.
  4. Demand change in media moderators during political debates with independent academic experts in order to have meaningful public policy discussions that are relevant to us the people and not based on the questions created by the 5 operatives to benefit themselves.
  5. Demand changes in legislation to bar any government employees from becoming lobbyists at least 10 years after leaving office.