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article imageOp-Ed: Lobbyists Appear Regularly on Cable News With no Disclosure

By Bill Lindner     Feb 28, 2010 in Politics
A recent four-month investigation revealed that for the past several years America has been intentionally mislead by many of the cable networks who regularly have registered lobbyists, PR reps and Corporate officials appear with no disclosure
A recent four-month investigation by The Nation has found that for the past several years, America has been intentionally bamboozled by many of the cable networks who regularly have registered lobbyists, public relations representatives and corporate officials -- people that are paid by companies and trade groups to manage their public image and promote their financial and political agendas -- have appeared regularly on MSNBC, Fox News, CNN, CNBC and Fox Business Network with no disclosure of their corporate interests that paid them. Many of them have appeared regularly on more than one cable network, in some cases hundreds of times.
For instance, on December 4 of last year while President Obama spent most of the day touring Allentown, Pennsylvania, meeting with local workers and discussing the economic crisis and unemployment, Tom Ridge, Pennsylvania's former Governor, was on MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews talking up his own recovery plan. Ridge suggested that there were a couple of 'modest things' the White House could do, but claimed the real solution was to create nuclear power plants combined with some waste coal and natural gas extraction to create jobs and exports. A couple of months later, President Obama reveals the intention to break ground on two new nuclear facilities.
Coincidence? Hardly. Corporations paying the propaganda pushers pay a lot more to President Obama and others in his administration.
While Ridge was selling his solution and appeared to be an objective commentator, in reality -- and viewers weren't informed of this -- since 2005 Ridge has pocketed $530,659 in compensation for serving on the board of Exelon, the nation's largest nuclear power company. SEC filings show that as of March 2009 Ridge held $248,299 in Exelon stock.
Moments earlier, on the same show, retired General Barry McCaffrey, an 'NBC Military Analyst,' told viewers that the war in Afghanistan required an additional 'three- to ten-year effort' and 'a lot of money.' What wasn't mentioned was the fact that DynCorp paid McCaffrey $182,309 in 2009 alone.
Blatant Oversights and Misinformation are Business as Usual for Cable Networks
DynCorp was granted a five-year deal worth an estimated $5.9 billion by the U.S. government to aid American forces in Afghanistan. While the first year is locked in at $644 million for DynCorp, the additional four options are subject to renewal and contingent on military needs and political realities.
On one show, in a single hour, two men with blatant, intentionally undisclosed conflicts of interest appeared on MSNBC. The Nation's investigation reveals that these blatant oversights are business as usual.
The Nation exposed McCaffrey's financial ties to military contractors he had promoted on several cable networks in 2003. In 2008, the New York Times wrote a Pulitzer Prize winning series about the Pentagon's use of former military officers -- many of which lobbied or consulted for military contractors -- to get their biased opinions on TV in exchange for access to decision makers.
These are only a few of the many examples of what the Nation refers to as the covert corporate influence peddling on cable news. Since 2007, at least 75 registered lobbyists, public relations representatives and corporate officials that are paid by companies and trade groups to manage their public image and promote their financial and political interests, have reportedly appeared on MSNBC, Fox News, CNN, CNBC and Fox Business Network without disclosing that their corporate interests had paid them. Many of those have been regulars on different cable networks, appearing in some cases, hundreds of times.
Since 1996, Serious Conflicts of Interest Have Popped Up With Alarming Regularity
Cable television serves as the catalyst for lobbyists, PR firms and corporate officials to promote clients and their interests because cable news is the most widely cited source of news in the U.S. The fact that these appearances also generate good will and access to major players in the major political parties doesn't hurt either.
The cable networks, eager for as many viewers as they can possibly get, eager to fill time slots, and afraid of upsetting the political elite, often look the other way. Some of these networks have even gone so far as to disregard their own written ethics guidelines at times. With the exception of their viewers, almost everyone else involved is interested in maintaining the status quo of the current system.
Since the launch of Fox News and MSNBC in 1996, guests -- as noted by the Nation -- with serious conflicts of interest have popped up with alarming regularity on every network. Coverage of the economic meltdown and the health care reform debate are just two of the latest issues engendering massive cable coverage.
The recession in late 2008 that resulted in the 'bailouts' was the perfect opportunity for lobbyists and PR flacks who advocated on behalf of their clients and their interests regularly while they deceitfully masqueraded as neutral analysts.
Lobbyists, PR Hacks and Corporate Consultants Deceptively Manipulate Public Opinions
Bernard Whitman, President of Whitman Insight Strategies, was one of those that appeared regularly. Whitman's company worked with AIG, pushing for the bailout that they were the recipients of. Whitman made over a hundred appearances on Fox advocating for the bailout. When the public anger erupted over the egregious bonuses, he appeared on the network to advocate getting over the anger and getting down to the brass tacks of solving the economy. Not once was his ongoing work with AIG mentioned. Whitman was only one of several lobbyists that was working for or with AIG with no mention.
The health care reform debate was another debacle rife with lobbyists and PR flacks. Terry Holt has been an on and off lobbyist for the health insurance trade group America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) since 2003. Holt appeared on MSNBC and CNN as a 'neutral' analyst -- in this case, as a Republican strategist.
Democratic lobbyists and corporate consultants have made regular appearances to discuss health reform with no mention of their ties to Pharmaceutical or Insurance company clients. Dick Gephardt -- one of the many that appeared regularly -- appeared on MSNBC where he promptly labeled the public option as 'not essential.' As with the many others, there was no mention of his affiliations with Insurance and Pharmaceutical interests through his lobbying firm, nor any mention that he is a lobbyist for NBC/Universal.
The intentional deceptions continue. As noted by The Nation, there can be no doubt that there is a cumulative effect from hundreds of appearances by dozens of unidentified lobbyists and influence peddlers that helps to drive press coverage and public opinion. A lot more information about the deceptive manipulations of public opinion and the roles played by lobbyists, PR hacks and corporate 'consultants' -- as well as the deception used by the multiple cable news outlets and the ones mentioned above -- can be found in this article from The Nation.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
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