"Having spent more than $30 million to help elect their allies to Congress, the major drug companies are devising ways to capitalize on their electoral success by securing favorable new legislation and countering the pressure that lawmakers in both parties feel to lower the cost of prescription drugs, industry officials say.
A year after the Canadian Supreme Court's landmark ruling allowing municipalities to ban the use of lawn pesticides, the chemical industry is fighting back. "In many cases they have been successful in out-organizing the local communities," says Alex Cullen, a member of the Ottawa City Council. In Toronto, for example, public meetings last week on a proposed pesticide ban were overwhelmed by representatives from lawn-care companies sporting T-shirts, handing out pamphlets and offering quick comebacks to any question.
For years, the Clearinghouse for Environmental Education, Advocacy and Research (CLEAR) did yeoman's work researching the financial ties and extremist rhetoric of the corporate-funded anti-environmental movement. Until recently a project of the Environmental Working Group, CLEAR recently spun off to become independent.
A flashy publicity stunt outside a Houston federal courthouse accompanied accounting firm Arthur Andersen's not guilty plea to Justice Department obstruction charges. "As Andersen pleaded not guilty inside the courtroom, outside the firm launched a public relations blitz designed to portray government prosecutors as overzealous and heartless to the plight of its 28,000 U.S. employees," USA Today's Greg Farrell reports.
"The Maryland Citizens' Health Initiative has filed a seven-page complaint on March 18 with the State Ethics Commission about the hardball lobbying tactics employed by the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America and its grassroots firm, Bonner & Assocs.," O'Dwyer's PR Daily reports. "The non-profit group is an advocate of universal healthcare and a backer of a Maryland bill that would lower the cost of prescription drugs for Medicaid patients and the uninsured. PhRMA opposes the bill.
The Baltimore Sun reports that Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) hired Washington-based lobbying firm Bonner & Associates to kill legislation that would lower the cost of prescription drugs for Maryland's Medicaid program and for lower-income residents who have no medical insurance. According to the Sun, Bonner & Associates recruited a small Michigan-based nonprofit group called the Consumer Alliance to front for PhRMA.
Earlier this year, Utah State Attorney General Mark Shurtleff received two letters from dead people requesting that the state go easy on Microsoft. As it turns out, the letters are part of the computer giant's nation-wide astroturf campaign, targeting the offices of 18 attorneys general who have joined the Justice Department's antitrust lawsuit. The Los Angeles Times reports that in recent weeks, Microsoft has been refining its letter writing strategy so that no two letters are identical. The giveaway, however, is in the phrasing.
An Australian radio station, DMG Radio, has won a court battle against rival stations after their PR consultant, Ken Davis of Turnbull Porter Novelli, admitted that he was involved in a bogus letter-writing campaign designed to undermine DMG's credibility. Davis sent out more than 50 letters using a fake identity to Australian politicians and the media, accusing DMG of destroying country radio and sparking a parliamentary inquiry into the "decline of local radio programming." Turnbull Porter Novelli is the Australian office of Porter Novelli International.
A memo from the National Association of Manufacturers urged lobbyists to "dress down" when attending a rally and photo opportunity supporting George W. Bush's tax cut plan. "The Speaker's office was very clear in saying that they do not need people in suits," the memo stated. "If people want to participate -- AND WE DO NEED BODIES -- they must be DRESSED DOWN, appear to be REAL WORKER types, etc. We plan to have hard hats for people to wear. Other groups are providing waiters/waitresses, and other types of workers."
Arctic Power, a self-described "grassroots" organization, has laid down $4 million dollars to hire Qorvis Communications. The mission? To promote President Bush's plan to expand oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. How grassroots is Arctic power? Their website vaguely refers to people from all walks of society, without much in the way of details. But their board includes representatives from such business groups as the Alaska State Chamber of Commerce, the Resource Development Council, and the Alaska Oil & Gas Association. Grassroots? You make the call.