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Watching the spinners paid by US
March 10, 2005 10:44 AM   Subscribe

Ever wonder who gets the spin money from the government to sell us everything from wars to reforms to reconnect the Army with the American people. A rundown on the seven biggest PR firms doing business with the government, and their refusal to come clean about what it is they're doing with our tax money. PRWatch has much, much more, including exposing the funding and associations pushing Social Security "reform"
posted by amberglow (83 comments total)

 
"...In homes, a haunted apparatus sleeps,
that snores when you pick it up.

If the ghost cries, they carry it
to their lips and soothe it to sleep

with sounds. And yet, they wake it up
deliberately, by tickling with a finger.

Only the young are allowed to suffer
openly. Adults go to a punishment room

with water but nothing to eat.
They lock the door and suffer the noises

alone. No one is exempt
and everyone's pain has a different smell.

At night, when all the colours die,
they hide in pairs

and read about themselves --
in colour, with their eyelids shut. "

-Craig Raine, 'A Martian Sends A Postcard Home'
posted by clavdivs at 11:10 AM on March 10, 2005


Hmm.

Every company that recieves a government contract has to be audited by one of the big four accounting firms to ensure compliance with extremely rigid government spending requirements. There are precise guidelines which specifiy exactly how money is spent. After the audit of these companies, the reports are given to congress verifying compliance. So, in that sense, these companies do "come clean" on an annual basis.

Perhaps you think it is wrong for the Army to advertise and try to promote its agenda of getting new recruits. Perhaps you think it is wrong that the Army tries to "reconnect with the American people." But I would love to know how you think the Army could get recruits without doing so.

One thing is certain, though, there is no reason to be attacking the advertising companies for doing their jobs and complying with federal regulations. There is nothing unethical about having the federal government as a client. And there is nothing unethical about refusing to make a bunch of public news about how much one client gives you and what it was used for.
posted by dios at 11:49 AM on March 10, 2005


good article
posted by destro at 11:49 AM on March 10, 2005


Also, I don't know anything about this Center for Media and Democray, but I am beginning to wonder if everyone on the left has caught the John Kerry/Walther Socheck Vietnam syndrome. Right there in the middle of a piece about Social Security advertising, these people bring up the Gannon thing. They have nothing to do with each other.
posted by dios at 11:53 AM on March 10, 2005


Why'd you bring up John Kerry/Walther Socheck in a thread about Social Security? They have nothing to do with each other. Is it now illegal to draw a parallel?
posted by fleacircus at 12:34 PM on March 10, 2005


Do you really have to troll every thread, dios? The connection is with sleazeballs like Guckert getting paid by the White House to promote its agenda, while the same is done by PR groups to promote the White House's agenda on gutting Social Security. The connection is clearly outlined in the very paragraph you're referring to.
posted by AlexReynolds at 12:35 PM on March 10, 2005


Wow. Alex again calls someone a troll. Good job, Alex. Keep thinking that people can't reasonably disagree with you. Your reflexive resort to name calling every time someone challenges your position is lame.

It seems clear to me that the latest buzz word is Gannon. Hell that name must appear about several dozen times a day on this site alone as if it is The Most Telling Thing Evar. It seemed extremely contrived to force it into that article in an effort to suggest that companies with government contracts are as nefarious as when them Republicans planted some gay guy in the press corps.

The point is: there is nothing unethical for a company to except government contracts or to refuse to disclose its client's finances. Comparing a company refusing to disclose terms of a contract to an evil press corps member is done try to tie some thing to something people have preconcieved emotions about.
posted by dios at 12:51 PM on March 10, 2005


The point is: there is nothing unethical for a company to except government contracts or to refuse to disclose its client's finances. Comparing a company refusing to disclose terms of a contract to an evil press corps member is done try to tie some thing to something people have preconcieved emotions about.

So government contractors shouldn't be held accountable for wasteful spending?
posted by eatitlive at 12:55 PM on March 10, 2005


eatitlive: that was the point of my first post. Part of the requirements for EVERY government contract is that it must be independently audited to make sure their in compliance with strict guidelines. And they super strict. Can't spend a federal dime on food or anything like that. I only know about this because my wife spent many years working for Ernst & Young's Government Contract Services group where she audited companies to ensure their compliance with federal contracts. If the companies were not compliant with even a penny, there were ramifications and penalities. So.... they are already held accountable.
posted by dios at 12:59 PM on March 10, 2005


Alex again calls someone a troll. Good job, Alex. Keep thinking that people can't reasonably disagree with you. Your reflexive resort to name calling every time someone challenges your position is lame.

Either you don't have the cranial capacity to understand what you're reading, or you're trolling: It's right there in the paragraph you're talking about.
posted by AlexReynolds at 1:12 PM on March 10, 2005


Alex.... here is a novel concept: I don't believe their contrived explanation! It still seems forced to add that buzzword in a document that didn't need it! Maybe I am wrong; maybe I am right. But fuck you for calling me a troll for merely expressing my opinion you intolerant bastard.
posted by dios at 1:17 PM on March 10, 2005


MetaFilter: Fuck you you intolerant bastard.
posted by loquacious at 1:19 PM on March 10, 2005


If the companies were not compliant with even a penny, there were ramifications and penalities. So.... they are already held accountable.

Except that those ramifications and penalities are often mere 'slaps on the wrist'-- like, say, cheap fines that large corporations can easily pay... before continuing the behavior that made them noncompliant in the first place.

See, for example, Halliburton.
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 1:20 PM on March 10, 2005


Dios, you need to look up the term astroturfing, because you do not understand that not-so-novel concept. Once you do, the connection between Guckert, Williams et al. and using firms that implement astroturf techniques to promote White House agendas will finally become clear to you.
posted by AlexReynolds at 1:20 PM on March 10, 2005


Every company that recieves a government contract has to be audited by one of the big four accounting firms to ensure compliance with extremely rigid government spending requirements. There are precise guidelines which specifiy exactly how money is spent. After the audit of these companies, the reports are given to congress verifying compliance. So, in that sense, these companies do "come clean" on an annual basis.

Actually they don't. Did you read the article at all?

... A recent House Committee on Government Reform investigation – launched after similar revelations about two other commentators besides Williams – identified Ketchum as the largest recipient of recent PR spending, with contracts totaling more than $100 million. Looking into federal procurement records for contracts with major PR firms since 1997, the committee's minority office also found that the Bush administration doubled the government's PR spending to $250 million, over its first term.

Yet there is little information about what that money was spent on. ...


Were the Armstrong Williams or Gallagher or McManus payments divulged to Congress? No. Did the accounting firms report those illegal expenditures to the proper authorities? No.
posted by amberglow at 1:21 PM on March 10, 2005


More: former Ketchum, and Armstrong, etc

and On Hardball, Ketchum executive falsely defended Bush's Social Security plan (about former Republican Congresswoman Susan Molinari, president and chief executive officer of the Washington Group, a division of Ketchum.)
posted by amberglow at 1:30 PM on March 10, 2005


oop--delete former from the first sentence.
posted by amberglow at 1:31 PM on March 10, 2005


amberglow, the statement "yet there is little information about what that money was spent on" means the government doesn't know? Or does it mean that the public/author doesn't know. Because I can assure you this: the government's Cost Accounting Standards for government contracts ensures that the government knows.

Whether the government makes the information public is a different discussion. I think they should. But this article is suggesting that companies have some duty to disclose to the public what the client is spending. Or, to put it in other ways, the objection should be over government spending money on PR period. There is no fault with the PR companies doing what they do.
posted by dios at 1:32 PM on March 10, 2005


Fuzzy Monster: the penalities can be more than a slap on the wrist. And I don't how a link to a MeFi search on the bogeyman Halliburton shows otherwise.
posted by dios at 1:34 PM on March 10, 2005


If you violate the cost accounting standards for government contracts, or, if the auditors find you in violation, the Inspector General will come and audit your company. If they find you failed to comply with Cost Accounting Standards, the IG can shut your entire business down and impose extreme civil penalites.
posted by dios at 1:40 PM on March 10, 2005


Well, let me walk you through it, dios: the metafilter search on Halliburton reveals a pattern of continued bad behavior by Halliburton that repeated Government penalities have failed to prevent.

If they find you failed to comply with Cost Accounting Standards, the IG can shut your entire business down and impose extreme civil penalites.

You don't really believe the Government is going to shut down Halliburton any time soon, do you?
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 1:47 PM on March 10, 2005


so when is Ketchum being shut down? and the others? What they did was illegal: Mr. Walker, who as comptroller general is chief of the Government Accountability Office, Congress's investigative arm, said in his letter: "While agencies generally have the right to disseminate information about their policies and activities, agencies may not use appropriated funds to produce or distribute prepackaged news stories intended to be viewed by television audiences that conceal or do not clearly identify for the television viewing audience that the agency was the source of those materials."

"It is not enough," he added, "that the contents of an agency's communication may be unobjectionable."

posted by amberglow at 1:48 PM on March 10, 2005


amberglow: the "agency" means the governmental agency, not the ad agency.

fuzzy monster: I am not familiar with any CAS violation by Halliburton. From my understanding, the complaints about Halliburton have stemmed from other things, not compliance. So unless it is a compliance issue, then it doesn't relate to these PR companies. If Halliburton has had compliance issues, tell me. I'll take your word for it ;)
posted by dios at 1:52 PM on March 10, 2005


Companies have some duty to disclose to the public what the client is spending...

They're my tax dollars; therefore, I'm the client. Now tell me what my money's being spent on.
posted by all-seeing eye dog at 1:58 PM on March 10, 2005


So.... they are already held accountable.

If they're already accountable, then what's the justification for a "public education campaign" that has to account for its spending but won't reveal to the public where the money went? Unlike the PR firms' other clients, the federal government is not entitled to any business confidentiality. The details of all these deals should be available for public scrutiny.

At best, they government is wasting tax money in attempts to make policy popular -- an absurd effort, considering the whole majority rule thing that is the basis for democracy. The worst, I suspect, would be that the government is outsourcing propaganda to PR firms in an attempt to skirt federal rules against covert communications. That some of these companies seem intent to obscure the details of their work for the government doesn't ease my suspicion.
posted by eatitlive at 1:58 PM on March 10, 2005


Let me try it this way: the inquiry should be focused on what the government is spending money. The government has the duty to tell you on what it is spending its money.

The private company, who has a client that just happens to be the federal government, has no duty to disclose to the public what money it spent. It only has a duty to comply with Cost Accounting Standards.

Why is this uproar not directed at the government agencies themselves? As amberglow pointed out, there are rules what government agencies can spend money on. From where does on get the idea that the contracting company has a duty to disclose what clients it has and on what money is spent?
posted by dios at 2:04 PM on March 10, 2005


From where does on get the idea that the contracting company has a duty to disclose what clients it has and on what money is spent?

Because it's OUR MONEY being spent by the govt and given to these companies. We have an absolute right to know unless national security/spy stuff is at stake. These companies are acting on the government's behalf, which is our behalf--we are paying these companies and are entitled to a full accounting from both them and the government on how our money is being spent.
posted by amberglow at 2:14 PM on March 10, 2005


They may not be required by law to divulge, but It's OUR MONEY, and thus they are ethically bound to tell us what they are spending our money on.
posted by destro at 2:16 PM on March 10, 2005


I'd love to see the information in this article presented graphically, with teh relationships between companies, organizations and individuals. (I mean something like this NYT illustration of the Swift Boat connections.) A good illustration can be more effective than a page of text.
posted by pmurray63 at 2:18 PM on March 10, 2005


Why is this uproar not directed at the government agencies themselves?

I'd say it's because PR companies are skeezy, because the conservative pundits they bought off have acted unethically, and because the government agencies involved so far have been relatively small-fry.

It doesn't look like Congress will launch a full investigation into the Bush administration's PR spending anytime soon (if they were to do this, the PR firms' spending would certainly be under subpoena). But that spending has already set a record high during Bush's first term, so we'll probably get a few more chances at appropriate outrage.
posted by eatitlive at 2:30 PM on March 10, 2005


Chomsky called it Manufacturing Consent
posted by Merik at 2:31 PM on March 10, 2005


So unless it is a compliance issue, then it doesn't relate to these PR companies. If Halliburton has had compliance issues, tell me. I'll take your word for it.

Here's how it relates: these companies take taxpayers' money, break the law and are either never punished, or are punished by a slap on the wrist: like this.

Do you think Halliburton not being able to account for 1.8 Billion Dollars conforms to Cost Accounting Standards?

You don't have to take my word for it. Just ask The Pentagon.
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 2:32 PM on March 10, 2005


amberglow or destro: why aren't you just demanding a disclosure of congress's budget? I'm all for full disclosure, but why isn't the burden on the federal government to disclose expenditures? I'm just looking for the most efficient thing. I fail to see why the private company has the burden to incur the expense of doing special disclosures of money from the federal government. It seems far more efficient and reasonable to be demanding the federal government do the disclosing. These companies already go through the expense of paying for auditors to generate reports which these companies give to Congress.

Why not just be bitching about Congress here?
posted by dios at 2:33 PM on March 10, 2005


Ah. The ever-popular Congressional Inquiry Into Congressional Malfeasance Plan.
posted by sonofsamiam at 2:35 PM on March 10, 2005


Fuzzy: I can't speak to the Halliburton thing because I don't know what all went on there. But I can tell you this: there have been companies which have been recieved fatal punishments (usually smaller ones). Maybe it has something to do with the fact that Halliburton is so big that the government isn't willing to divorce themselves from a company that is largely the only company of its class. But, I concede that that particular company has taken a slap on the wrist.

eaitlive: thanks for answering my question before I asked it again. ;) I'm not sure why the PR companies are skeezy, though.
posted by dios at 2:38 PM on March 10, 2005


I will easily bitch about the government's part in this, but I already know that it takes a FOIA request, which will take a long time. I'm quite certain somebody has already filed the request.

Better luck is to be had trying to shame these companies into revealing.
posted by destro at 2:40 PM on March 10, 2005


While I'm as appalled as anyone here at the government using our money to promote what are in many cases the purely political agendas of the party in power, I will say that I don't think it's the contractor's job to reveal to the press what they're doing -- it's the government's job to disclose that. Typically, PR and advertising firms get fired for talking to the press about their work for the client without the client's permission. The fact that the client is the government wouldn't change this -- it merely places the onus on the client to be transparent -- what with being the government of a free society and everything. So while I'm all for the spirit of this article I'm not sure they're barking up the right tree.
posted by George_Spiggott at 2:58 PM on March 10, 2005



posted by monju_bosatsu at 3:19 PM on March 10, 2005


excellent monju : >

(altho it leaves out a lot)
posted by amberglow at 3:28 PM on March 10, 2005


Yeah, the diagram has *only* the links identified in the article. I didn't feel like wading through source watch right now and pulling out all the connections. I'd be at it all night.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 3:31 PM on March 10, 2005


Also, the layout is a bit shite. Sorry.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 3:31 PM on March 10, 2005


Wow, monju, nice job in that amount of time. I started working on one myself in Visio, but yours blows it away. Like you, I get the feeling it would take all night or longer to go beyond what's in that article. Would you mind if I post it at my blog devoted to this topic (crediting you, of course)?
posted by pmurray63 at 3:43 PM on March 10, 2005


Go for it. If I can find a little time, I might put together a more extensive--and prettier--version.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 3:53 PM on March 10, 2005


The DCI Group does a lot of astroturfing for Bush and friends. They were involved with "artificial grassroots" campaigning for the Bush-sponsored Medicare gutting in addition to using children to shill for the proposed Social Security gutting, as well as support for No Child Left Behind and pork barrel funding for Cheney's home state.
posted by AlexReynolds at 4:06 PM on March 10, 2005


Maybe it has something to do with the fact that Halliburton is so big that the government isn't willing to divorce themselves from a company that is largely the only company of its class.

If you think that's the only reason why the US government is disregarding a lot of questionable Halliburton behaviour, then you are a very naive person indeed. I wish I could be that naive, I'd be much happier, I'm sure.
posted by clevershark at 5:28 PM on March 10, 2005


The fact that the client is the government

Again: Tax-payer over here... Ultimately, I'M the client. (Deny me that point in public: I dare you.) You see, this "government" of which you speak: It works for me. I pay its salary. True, the government also does some work on the side for these imaginary friends it has called corporations (which the poor confused dear seems to think are people, too), but you know what? Any money the government gets from those corporations is mostly mine, too (corporations are just make-believe, after all).

The big boss, in other words, is actual people like me. So by extension, those PR firms the government hired with my money, they work for me. Now, if this government of mine is so afraid of getting fired that it's resorted to hiring other people behind my back (with my own money, even) to convince me it's doing a good job, then wouldn't I have to be crazy not to be suspicious of its motives?
posted by all-seeing eye dog at 6:02 PM on March 10, 2005


PR professionals are doing some soul searching on Williams, Ketchum, etc. Maybe not enough, yet, but I'm noticing a growing awareness (page down to link for "Pay to Play PR is Not On")
posted by tizzie at 6:03 PM on March 10, 2005


George_Spiggott: I know you're point is that the onus is on the government to be transparent, but in a representative democracy, the government is just supposed to be the middle man (sort of an administrative staff) for the people who really call the shots, the tax-payers. So there's no conflict for the PR firms at all: Their client really is the tax-payer that the government is supposed to represent by proxy. So where's the ethical conflict in telling your client what services you provided for them?
posted by all-seeing eye dog at 6:08 PM on March 10, 2005


related: Next Week is Sunshine Week: a campaign for government openness and transparency, will be observed March 13-19, with many newspapers weighing in with articles and editorials. While the national campaign was mounted by the Associated Press and more than 50 news organizations, local media and organizations are sponsoring events in their communities.

The blogosphere will also participate with 'Blogshine Sunday' on March 13. Coordinated by FreeCulture.org, the event will allow bloggers to spotlight their own experiences. More information can be found at blogshine.org.

posted by amberglow at 6:59 PM on March 10, 2005


Isn't this sort of thing subject to a freedom of information request?

I sympatise with with Americans. In Canada we're having our own government-PR firm funding scandal. So who is the American equivalent to the Auditor General?
posted by Popular Ethics at 7:16 PM on March 10, 2005


Oh great. Another dios filter. How about responding to literate people who read the threads.

Still, this is a very good post amberglow.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 8:18 PM on March 10, 2005


Do you really have to troll every thread, dios?

Oh, Oh, is this a one troll thread or can anyone get in on the trolling?

{Berek prepares his plus twenty sword of sacasm, adjusts tinfoil beanie for protection from counterattack.}

posted by berek at 8:43 PM on March 10, 2005


SARCASM, damnit!
Plus twenty sword of sarcasm!
posted by berek at 8:44 PM on March 10, 2005


Most of the "But I AM the client" whiners whining at dios don't appear to be reading or comprehending (or just don't care) what he's saying: that it's not a PR firm's job to disclose what the goverment is spending the taxpayers money on. The FOIA angle is valid. Arguing with dios over whether or not the information should be publically disclosed is silly: he already agrees that it should.

The argument that you can't count on the goverment to reveal it's own malfeasance has some potential, but it looks like all the dirt on Ketchum mentioned in the article was discovered and revealed by the government. Also, the article reveals violations committed by Ketchum employees. Why, then, would anyone think we can depend on the reliability of information released by the PR firms themselves any more than govermental investigations?

Congressional Inquiry Into Congressional Malfeasance vs Corporate Inquiry Into Corporate Malfeasance : FITE!
posted by techgnollogic at 9:17 PM on March 10, 2005


dios tattooed "I WIN" on his ass
posted by Satapher at 9:56 PM on March 10, 2005


Is that one word on each cheek?
posted by AlexReynolds at 10:15 PM on March 10, 2005


monju: i posted you chart a few places and some folks had some additions if you want--

This is great.  Just a couple of problems. USA Next is a member of the Alliance for Worker Retirement Security and Compass, not the other way around.  

There should be an arrow from Derrick Max to Cato, since he wa their director of government affairs in the late nineties.  He was also formerly employed by AEI, during the Clinton Health care debate.

There should be arrows from Charles Schwab to COMPASS as well.


There should be an arrow connecting USA Next, Progress for America, and Swiftvets, with Texans for Lawsuit and Bob Perry in the middle.  Perry & TLL gave ~10,000 to USANext in 2002, over two million to Progress for America in the 2004 cycle (around the time of the convention) and gave $500,000 in start up money to Swiftvets.

posted by destro at 10:45 PM on March 10, 2005


"Most of the "But I AM the client" whiners whining at dios"

Most of the "But PR firms aren't obligated to the tax-payers whose money they spent" whiners just want to institutionalize exceedingly narrow definitions of personal and social responsibility so they can be shielded from responsibility in a nice, compartmentalized little world in which bureacratic processes trump more fundamental ethical principles and common sense. Don't be fooled: The PR firms are the whiners ("Why should it be MY responsibility to come clean? Oh, poor me--the government made me do it!").

As for the freedom of information stuff, if the fed's are like the state gov't, they do everything they can to avoid honoring those requests, w/out violating the letter of the law. Procedures and regulations are increasingly used that way these days: As a way to shield against accusations of wrong-doing and to create the appearance of propriety where in reality there's rampant abuse. I know how the system works because I actually work as a process analyst .

By your pathetically limp-wristed standards, "techgnollogic" someone who tries to warn you that a runaway freight car is speeding your way is a whiner. Fine. If that's what you think, just stand there like an idiot. I really could care less.
posted by all-seeing eye dog at 6:52 AM on March 11, 2005


Hey you, Amberglow, mosey on over my way.
posted by troutfishing at 6:54 AM on March 11, 2005


Sorry, I'm just whining that the law shouldn't be surrendered to random people's "ethical principles and common sense."

Funny how PR firms and their employees deserve no rights or legal standing whatsoever on account of ethical principles and common sense, but enemy combatants captured waging war against the United States each deserve 8 Johnny Cochranes and evidentiary procedure and really should be released since the 19 year old PFC who captured them didn't Mirandize them in Arabic.
posted by techgnollogic at 7:58 AM on March 11, 2005


We're not saying they deserve no rights or legal standing--we're saying they must divulge what they're doing with our money, just like other orgs that get our money have to divulge. There are laws and regulations about it--for a comparison, see "faith-based funding" and those rules and laws and regs.
posted by amberglow at 8:50 AM on March 11, 2005


What "random people's 'ethical principles...'" do you mean, technollogic? I'm talking about the people who run the PR firms. They're the ones who should be guided by ethical principles and common sense. It's the PR firm's responsibility to make the connections and realize that they're morally obligated to disclose what they're being paid to do with "random people's" (read: tax-payers) money. Not because they have to under the law, but because it's the RIGHT thing to do. If in your view, other human beings are just white noise (just "random people"), then that probably explains a thing or two about your insistence on putting the letter of the law before conscience. Back in the days before psychology became normative, the inability to make sound moral judgments in the absence of prescribed rules and penalties was considered a sign of arrested social development or even of sociopathic tendencies.

If you think it's impossible to make sound moral judgments without an instruction manual, then maybe you have sociopathic tendencies (seriously). I'd get that checked out, if I were you.
posted by all-seeing eye dog at 10:07 AM on March 11, 2005


Your argument is that it's ok for people to break or ignore the law if they personally feel it's the right thing to do?
posted by techgnollogic at 10:19 AM on March 11, 2005


techgnollogic, that's the plot of 90% of American movies and books.
posted by sonofsamiam at 10:28 AM on March 11, 2005


Funny how PR firms and their employees deserve no rights or legal standing whatsoever on account of ethical principles and common sense, but enemy combatants captured waging war against the United States each deserve 8 Johnny Cochranes and evidentiary procedure and really should be released since the 19 year old PFC who captured them didn't Mirandize them in Arabic.

you need to read up a bit more on this. it's not just enemy combatants, it's anybody they have suspicions of. Just people they have captured and are torturing. Over 600 people from Britain were taken and found to have no ties.

NOT 8 Johnny Cochranes. But any sort of legal recourse. What is to stop them from grabbing you and taking you there? Nothing. Suspicion. How many terrorism cases has the U.S. gov't been able to get? Is there one?

All those high-profile cases, like the Buffalo cell, and the Detroit one, all have shown to be nonsense. Based on useless evidence like a videotaped trip to Disneyland or a tourist's map laying in their apartment.
posted by destro at 10:43 AM on March 11, 2005


technollogic: Actually, my argument is that the rules alone are never enough. Anyone who's sufficiently clever about it can follow a set of rules to the letter while willfully ignoring the spirit of the rules in order to get what they want. No formal system of rules can be so explicit as to preclude every possible attempt to circumvent the intent of the rules. That's why existing laws and regulations inevitably grow more and more cumbersome over time, because we're constantly having to revisit and clarify them to prevent careless or self-serving people from somehow skirting their intent. If you can deny that's true with a straight face, I wanna see it.
posted by all-seeing eye dog at 12:30 PM on March 11, 2005


600 British people were taken where?

I'm not denying that people and corporations and governments can be sneaky little bastards while remaining within the bounds of the law. Is that's what's going on here, or are laws being broken? Maybe I'm misunderstanding something, but it sounded to me like several commenters on this thread were advocating something that might not be legal (revealing details of a business arrangement - I don't think "taxpayers 'are' the client" should hold up in court) in order to prove their innocence. I'm not talking about whistleblowers. I do expect (or hope) that people will stand up and expose wrongdoing. What you people seem to be describing is having every company that contracts with the government fully document their accounts and expenditures and business practices in order to prove they're doing nothing wrong. That's not right.
posted by techgnollogic at 3:16 PM on March 11, 2005


From my perspective, the basic idea that tax-payers "are the client" launched the American revolution and pretty much predicates every other principle of the American democratic system, so this seems like a pretty fundamental point of disagreement between us, technollogic. Having said that, it's even more important that everyone be entitled to contribute to the public discourse and vigorously defend their notions of "right," and I think that's what we've all done here, so I'm gonna walk away feeling good about this discussion.
posted by all-seeing eye dog at 4:20 PM on March 11, 2005


We're the government's client, not the PR firm's. That's my point. We demand accountability from the government, not some private profit-driven corporation.
posted by techgnollogic at 4:35 PM on March 11, 2005


we demand accountability from everyone who gets our money--whether government or private firm--see the Halliburton investigations, for instance.
posted by amberglow at 4:39 PM on March 11, 2005


But some PR professionals are starting to demand accountability from inside the profession, too, amberglow.

Quote: "I think only the tip of the iceberg has surfaced. Revelations so far cover only a few hundred thousand dollars. But according to the federal budget, $88 million was spent on public relations agencies external to the public information and public affairs budgets covered by direct government funding. It's those external contracts that trouble me. How much more of the $88 million, we must find out, went to similar nefarious and likely illegal purposes.

Now, isn't there a provision in the PRSA Code of Ethics about not corrupting the media? When a public relations agency takes money from a government agency and pays a journalist to clandestinely tout a government program in defiance of a government prohibition on spending government funds on propaganda, does that not constitute corrupting the media?

So, Judith T. Phair, APR, Fellow PRSA, "a national leader in public relations" and principal of PhairAdvantage Communications, a Washington, D.C.-area public relations and marketing consulting firm, the 2005 president and CEO of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), where do you and PRSA stand? "
posted by tizzie at 5:25 PM on March 11, 2005


i'm not holding my breath for cleaning up from within, whether it's PR people or anyone...and i trust PR people very little, in general, especially when they sell whatever they're paid to sell, for good or ill. Paid shills make me gag (and they made Rove gag on Guckert's 8" too). ; >
posted by amberglow at 5:52 PM on March 11, 2005


Oooh, naughty!
And by the way, I have to agree. "Self-policing" seems like a rather quaint concept at best.
posted by tizzie at 6:47 AM on March 12, 2005


NYT today: News or Public Relations? For Bush It's a Blur ... An examination of government-produced news reports offers a look inside a world where the traditional lines between public relations and journalism have become tangled, where local anchors introduce prepackaged segments with "suggested" lead-ins written by public relations experts. It is a world where government-produced reports disappear into a maze of satellite transmissions, Web portals, syndicated news programs and network feeds, only to emerge cleansed on the other side as "independent" journalism.

It is also a world where all participants benefit. ...

posted by amberglow at 2:36 PM on March 12, 2005


ALL the participants? The unwitting dupes on the recieving end might not agree.

This sounds like intention deception:

More than a year ago, WCIA asked the Agriculture Department to record a special sign-off that implies the segments are the work of WCIA reporters. So, for example, instead of closing his report with "I'm Bob Ellison, reporting for the U.S.D.A.," Mr. Ellison says, "With the U.S.D.A., I'm Bob Ellison, reporting for 'The Morning Show.'
posted by tizzie at 10:18 AM on March 13, 2005


Stop Fake News: On Sunday, March 13th, The New York Times broke a major story outlining how the Bush administration has used millions of dollars of taxpayer money to produce and disseminate fake news programs that support a partisan political agenda.

These government-produced segments have frequently aired on broadcast TV stations across the country without proper disclosure.

Not only is this unacceptable, it is also illegal.

Please send an email to the Federal Communications Commission and the Justice Department and ask them to Stop Fake News.

posted by amberglow at 7:33 PM on March 13, 2005


Again, destro, 600 British people were taken where?
posted by techgnollogic at 10:20 PM on March 13, 2005


The White House on Monday defended the administration's use of video news releases that are sent to television stations across the country and frequently used without any acknowledgment of the government's role in their production.

In an opinion last week, the Justice Department (news - web sites) concluded that the practice was appropriate as long as the videos presented factual information about government programs. The memo was sent to heads of federal departments and agencies.

"The prohibition does not apply where there is no advocacy of a particular viewpoint, and therefore it does not apply to the legitimate provision of information concerning the programs administered by an agency," according to the Justice Department memo.

The advice conflicts with the opinion of the Government Accountability Office, which is the investigative arm of Congress. The GAO says that video news releases amount to illegal "covert propaganda" when they fail to make plain that the government is behind the releases.
--White House Defends Video News Releases
posted by amberglow at 5:39 AM on March 15, 2005


There were several good links related to this story today at cursor.org, including one to this exchange at Democracy Now:

AMY GOODMAN: Now, isn't this a violation of the Smith-Mundt Act after World War II, that you're not supposed to propagandize your own population. You know, it’s why we can’t hear Voice of America in the United States?

JOHN STAUBER: Well, it would appear to be, and there are other acts, going all the way back to the 1920s where Congress has weighed in and said that in a democracy, government propaganda is inappropriate and illegal..

posted by tizzie at 4:48 PM on March 15, 2005


Great editorial in the LA Times this morning:

Monday's naming of Karen Hughes as the State Department's global spinmeister — the undersecretary of State for public diplomacy and public affairs — should make matters worse. She is close to Bush and closely associated with his remarkably evasive communications strategy. This White House stays relentlessly on message, even if the facts mock its discipline. Hence there have always been enough troops in Iraq, the budget deficit is under control and will remain so even if we give ourselves another round of tax cuts, and, yes, the Social Security system is in a state of crisis that only private accounts can cure. Most damaging to the American image in the Arab world, and to global perceptions that U.S. leaders are held accountable by reality, was Bush's insistence that prisoner abuses at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere hadn't stained Donald Rumsfeld's swell performance as secretary of Defense.
posted by tizzie at 5:00 AM on March 16, 2005


and related: This is a time when I wished someone would ask the obvious question of the president: Are you really bad at math, or are you lying to us? (Nevada Appeal)
posted by amberglow at 5:33 AM on March 16, 2005


That is just crazy talk, amberglow! ;)
posted by tizzie at 6:43 AM on March 16, 2005


Or, you could roll your own. Just a mild suggestion.
posted by troutfishing at 9:04 PM on March 16, 2005


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