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PR Watch: The Weekly Spin (April 5, 2006)

THE WEEKLY SPIN, April 5, 2006

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1. From Russia with Spin

1. Wal-Mart: Low Prices, PR Triage
2. Wired
3. Old Politics in New Media
4. PR Overbilling Case Heads To Court
5. Lobby Shop With A Non-Profit Front
6. Frequent Flying Regulators
7. Lincoln's Planted Stories
8. White House Damage Control



by Judith Siers-Poisson

All is not champagne and caviar in Moscow. Pro-Putin political
forces are concerned that the West -- particularly the US -- is
growing increasingly distant from President Vladmir Putin and the
current Russian administration.
One response has been to promote Russia as a willing and able
partner in the war on terrorism. Unfortunately, according to a
Washington Post article by Anna Politkovskaya, the cases of
terrorism are often fabricated through confessions obtained through
torture. She relates the condition of one Chechen prisoner who has
not surprisingly confessed to all the charges "suggested" to him.
"[He] is now severely disabled: Both his legs were broken under
torture; his kneecaps were shattered; his kidneys badly damaged by
beating; his genitalia mutilated; his eyesight lost; his eardrums
torn; and all of his front teeth sawed off." Lest we think this goes
on in secret, that is how he appeared in court.
For the rest of this story, visit:


Sam Walton just might be spinning in his grave. He was said to
detest public relations, preferring to let Wal-Mart products and
services speak for themselves. Under the new regime, PR has taken on
a special urgency, with company officials locking into a political
campaign-like "war room" mentality to respond to critics of its
labor and big box store siting strategies. Now comes word that the
company is looking for "triage" and "emergency response" talent in
its next key hires. Michael Barbaro reported that the executive
search firm Crowe-Innes & Associates has been engaged to help find a
director of media relations who can manage a "crisis communications
program" and "triage" such crises "in rapid response mode." Hours of
work: up to "24/7" according to the posting, which was released to
the Times by one of Wal-Mart's biggest critics, Wal-Mart Watch. A
second job posting seeks a candidate who can address "high profile
political activities" and "operate successfully in a campaign mode."
Wal-Mart does not seem to worry about low prices when it comes to
high level PR: In November, 2005, the Times reported that the
company had hired the Edelman public relations firm, including
ex-advisers from the camps of Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and John
SOURCE: New York Times, March 30, 2006
For more information or to comment on this story, visit:

Common Cause has produced a report, titled "Wolves in Sheep's
Clothing," which describes some of the astroturf front groups that
have been created by the cable, telephone and internet industry to
lobby for legislation favorable to corporate interests. Groups such
as Consumers for Cable Choice, FreedomWorks, the Progress and
Freedom Foundation, the American Legislative Exchange Council, New
Millennium Research Council, Frontiers of Freedom, Keep It Local NJ,
Internet Innovation Alliance and "accept subsidies or
grants from corporate interests to lobby or produce research when
they normally might not, but too often fail to disclose the
connection between their policy positions and their bank accounts.
... These sorts of campaigns are dangerous for our democracy. They
deliberately mislead citizens, and they deliberately mislead our
lawmakers, who are already charged with the difficult task of making
sense of complex telecommunications policies."
SOURCE: Common Cause
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Political campaigns in the United States are using the internet as
never before, reports Adam Nagourney. Unfortunately, some of the new
technologies are being deployed in service of the same old dirty
politics as ever, including attack ads and stealth campaigns: "Those
include Podcasts featuring a daily downloaded message from a
candidate and so-called viral attack videos, designed to trigger
peer-to-peer distribution by e-mail chains, without being associated
with any candidate or campaign." Nagourney notes that campaigns are
also "studying popular Internet social networks, like Friendster and
Facebook, as ways to reaching groups of potential supporters with
similar political views or cultural interests."
SOURCE: New York Times, April 2, 2006
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4. PR OVERBILLING CASE HEADS TO COURT,1,3995766.story?coll=la-headlines-pe-california
The trial of Douglas R. Dowie and John Stodder, two former
executives with the PR firm Fleishman-Hillard (F-H) executives,
commences this week over allegations that they overbilled the Los
Angeles Department of Water and Power by approximately $325,000.
Dowie and Stodder have pleaded not guilty. Dowie is also suing F-H
alleging that he was sacked, the Los Angeles Times reports, in a bid
to conceal a "larger scandal involving the laundering of illegal
campaign contributions to Los Angeles politicians." F-H rejects the
SOURCE: Los Angeles Times, April 3, 2006.
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Ron Campbell, a lobbyist from SPS Consultants, successfully ran
Mexican avocado growers campaign in 2004 to expand access to the
U.S. market. To overcome opposition from Californian avocado growers
Campbell gave Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) $100,000 to
generate a 'grassroots' lobbying campaign to support his clients.
"California has 6,000 growers. We went to CAGW and said, "We need at
least 6,000 or 7,000 comments to counter that," Campbell told the
St. Petersburg Times. It is just one of a number of campaigns that
CAGW has run to benefit its donors. Bill Adair reports that CAGW
took at least $245,000 from tobacco companies "while urging the
federal government not to regulate tobacco and to drop a lawsuit
against the industry". CAGW was also funded by Diageo North America,
"a major liquor company, and wrote letters to Congress opposing
government regulation of flavored malt beverages, which Diageo
SOURCE: St. Petersburg Times, April 2, 2006.
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The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) policy that precludes
employees from accepting trips paid for by companies the agency
regulates is easily side-stepped. Alexander Cohen reports that
non-profit groups that "draw their members, their boards and even
some of their funding from medical and pharmaceutical-related
companies" paid for roughly one-third of the 3,600 sponsored trips
received by hundreds of FDA employees since 1999. "The sponsor of
the most trips was the Drug Information Association, which footed
the bill for more than 600 trips taken by FDA employees," Cohen
reports. Employees of The Weinberg Group, a PR company which boasts
that it helps to defend clients "products in the courts and the
media", have close ties to the DIA. One of its employees delivered a
presentation to last years DIA annual meeting titled "FDA
Enforcement: What You Need to Know to Avoid or Respond to the FDA."
SOURCE: Center for Public Integrity, March 30, 2006.
For more information or to comment on this story, visit:

The Independent has published examples of some of the fake
"newspaper articles" that the Lincoln Group paid to place in Iraqi
newspapers. Andrew Buncombe shows how the articles were full of
claims that contrasted sharply with reality on the ground at the
time they were published. "Furthermore," he writes, "it has been
alleged that quotations contained within these reports and others -
attributed to anonymous Iraqi officials or citizens - were routinely
made up by US troops who never went beyond the perimeter of the
Green Zone. What seems clear is that, taken by themselves, these
reports would provide an unbalanced picture of the situation inside
Iraq where ongoing violence wreaks daily chaos and horror."
SOURCE: Independent (UK), March 30, 2006
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"Karl Rove, President Bush's chief political adviser, cautioned
other White House aides in the summer of 2003 that Bush's 2004
re-election prospects would be severely damaged if it was publicly
disclosed that he had been personally warned that a key rationale
for going to war had been challenged within the administration," the
National Journal's Murray Waas writes in a revealing article on
White House damage-control efforts. The Bush administration's
campaign to counter charges that it "misrepresented intelligence
information to make the case for war had three major components,"
Murray reports, "blame the CIA for the use of the Niger information
in the president's State of the Union address; discredit and
undermine Joseph Wilson; and make sure that the public did not learn
that the president had been personally warned that the intelligence
assessments he was citing about the aluminum tubes might be wrong."
SOURCE: National Journal, March 30, 2006
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