PolluterWatch Blog

Mercenary Admen: 5 ways one PR group has hijacked politics for corporate gain

Most people have never heard of the DC lobbying and public relations firm DCI Group. When DCI Group does it’s job right, most people never do. That’s because DCI is a prime example what a highly effective, professional, and well-funded Public Relations firm can do. Are you a cigarette company that wants grassroots support for cigarette smoking? DCI can do that. Are you an Indonesian timber conglomerate that wants the “freedom” to sell illegal rainforest pulp? DCI can enlist thousands of liberty-lovin Americans to protect that freedom. Do you want people mobilized, in the streets, demanding that the government relax pollution laws and other regulations on your coal or oil corporation? DCI actually did that. It was called the Tea party.

CASE STUDIES

1 DCI Group and Tobacco

Addictive, deadly, and rich, the tobacco industry is the perfect client for a crack PR team like DCI Group.

During the early days of tobacco regulation in the 1980’s, tobacco corporations were spending millions of dollars to convince Americans that tobacco really wasn’t that bad for them, and regulating tobacco was an infringement on the god given rights of every American.

Masterminding that message was DCI Groups founders, Doug Goodyear and Tom Synhorst, who were two of the tobacco PR men involved in the early days of “tobacco control opposition.”

Using a strategy DCI Group would repeat and hone in the coming decades, PR admen like Goodyear and Synhorst pioneered couching a pro-corporate agenda, in this case tobacco’s, in terms of rights, liberties and freedoms. They started “smokers rights groups,” whose anti-regulatory, pro-business bent is right at home in today’s Tea Party messaging. DCI Group has maintained those close ties through the years, and currently lobby for Altria (Philip Morris).

2 DCI Group and the start of the Tea Party

A recently released academic study has traced the origins of the Tea Party back to its roots. The popular creation myth of the Tea Party, in which a news anchor, fed up with the federal governments creeping socialism demands an uprising - a la Network - is only part of the story. In fact, PR agencies working for tobacco, and oil, and coal corporations had been pushing for a Tea Party for decades, and had even registered the websites and domain names under the name Tea Party, 6 years before president Obama’s election.

From the study:

“Rather than being a grassroots movement that spontaneously developed in 2009, the Tea Party organizations have had connections to the tobacco companies since the 1980s. The cigarette companies funded and worked through Citizens for a Sound Economy (CSE), the predecessor of Tea Party organizations, Americans for Prosperity and FreedomWorks, to accomplish their economic and political agenda.”

With the help of the oil billionaire Koch Brothers, DCI Group partner Dan Combs built “Citizens for a Sound Economy,”(CSE) during the 1990’s, right as the tobacco industry was busted for lying about the dangers of smoking. CSE’s self-described mission was "to fight for less government, lower taxes, and less regulation," which included opposing tobacco laws and pollution regulation on the oil industry.

3 DCI Group and Americans For Prosperity/ Freedomworks

In 2004, Citizens for a Sound Economy (CSE) split like a procreative amoebae into Americans for Prosperity and Freedomworks, the two largest and most powerful Tea Party organizations. AfP and Freedomworks employ hundreds of Tea Party organizers all over the country, and pay for rallies, promotional materials, and conventions.

DCI Group, and it’s alias FLS Connect, are currently the highest paid consultants for AFP and Freedomworks. DCI carefully crafts messaging for the Tea Party behemoths, and does extensive polling to make sure their pro-corporate, free-market PR is hitting the mark. Just as they directed anti-tax advocates to do big-tobacco and big-oil’s work through Citizens for a Sound Economy, DCI Group is using the Tea Party in the service of corporate America.

4 DCI Group and Climate Change Denial

DCI Group was a pioneer of brazen denial of scientific evidence while working for tobacco giants. They applied the same technique of creating fake science, misrepresenting impacts, and attacking legitimate scientists to their campaign denying the existence of climate change.

At the behest of major oil corporation and DCI Group client ExxonMobil, DCI became a hotbed of climate change science attacks, training and funding outspoken climate change deniers. DCI Group created and ran Tech Central Station, a platform for climate science denial. Tech Central Station was so egregiously disingenuous about climate science that a Senatorial committee asked ExxonMobil to stop funding it, which Exxon did in 2006.

DCI Group's Andrea Saul

However, a slap from the Senate did not stop DCI Group from continuing to specialize in anti-climate science messaging. DCI Group continues to hire and train professional climate change deniers. One such DCI Group alumnus, Andrea Saul, became candidate Mitt Romney’s press secretary during the 2012 presidential election, and helped push Romney’s anti-climate science positions. While at DCI, she wrote and distributed pres releases attacking legitimate climate science. Another DCI Group alumnus, Bob Paduchik, is now a Vice President of the coal front group called Americans for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE).

5 DCI Group and Foreign Criminal Entities

DCI specializes in manipulating America’s white, conservative class, using loaded buzzwords like “freedom,” and “liberty,” and couching a corporate agenda of reduced regulation as “small government.” As it turns out, this type of manipulation is an old shtick, predating the Tea Party.

And DCI Group does this for many clients, including an Indonesian timber company responsible for illegal deforestation of rainforests in southeast Asia. DCI helped create a front group for Asia Pulp and Paper, which has destroyed millions of miles of endangered rainforest in Indonesia. They found a self described “tea party patriot” to lead the effort, who made tea party themed speeches that advocated for the Indonesian paper corporation, APP.

Chart Source: New York Times

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