A visual aid to recognize the talking heads of cable news that are leading double lives as paid lobbyists for corporations.
"For lobbyists, PR firms and corporate officials, going on cable television is a chance to promote clients and their interests on the most widely cited source of news. These appearances also generate good will and access to major players inside the Democratic and Republican parties. For their part, the cable networks, eager to fill time and afraid of upsetting the political elite, have often looked the other way. At times, the networks have even disregarded their own written ethics guidelines. Just about everyone involved is heavily invested in maintaining the current system, with the exception of the viewer," writes Sebastian Jones in "The Lobbying-Media Complex." Pictured here: Alex Castellanos is a frequent commentator on CNN and has only been identified as a "Republican strategist." In fact, he had helped craft attack ads for America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) including an ad that referenced the "10 million seniors" losing Medicare benefits.
On December 4, 2009 former PA governor and former Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge was on NBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews, talking about Obama's recovery plan. Ridge advises creating nuclear power plants. But viewers were never told that, as Jones reports, "since 2005, Ridge has pocketed $530,649 in executive compensation for serving on the board of Exelon, the nation's largest nuclear power company."
Retired Lt. General Barry McCaffrey told viewers as the "NBC Military Analyst" on Hardball on Dec. 4, 2009, that the war in Afghanistan would take three to ten more years. Hardball host Chris Matthews never mentioned that DynCorp, which just received a five-year government contract--contingent on military needs--to aid American forces in Afghanistan, paid McCaffrey $182,309 in 2009.
Public relations operative Richard Wolffe was one of a handful of substitute hosts for Countdown who had no mention of their prior affiliations--at the time of his appearance, Wolffe was working at a large PR firm specializing in corporate reputation. Others include pharmaceutical company consultant Howard Dean and "military analyst" Barry McCaffrey, who has worked with DynCorp on its Board of Directors.
Bernard Whitman is President and CEO of Whitman Insight Strategies, a communications and lobbying firm that has worked with AIG. Whitman's YouTube site includes over 100 clips of Whitman appearing on television news shows, several of which feature Whitman talking about AIG's bailout and the economy without mentioning his ties to the company.
"AIG hired PR megafirm Burson-Marsteller to handle 'controversial issues.' In April 2009, B-M hired former White House Press Secretary Dana Perino...a month later she was also picked up as a contributor to Fox News, where she has had occasion to discuss the economic meltdown like when she joined a roundtable on Fox Business Network's Money for Breakfast last July."
When former Governor Howard Dean appeared on Countdown, the program did not disclose his work as a pharmaceutical company consultant.
Editor's Note: This online slideshow, which accompanied the March 1 cover story (Sebastian Jones, "The Media-Lobbying Complex"), initially began with an image of Governor Howard Dean from his appearance as a guest host on MSNBC's Countdown. The slideshow featured lobbyists who appeared on TV news as analysts without disclosing their corporate affiliations, and in that context it may have created the false impression that Dean is a lobbyist or that he used his Countdown appearance to promote his law firm's clients. Neither is true in Dean's case. The article included only one sentence about Dean, whose law firm consults for pharmaceutical companies, and did not suggest that Dean had done anything unethical. But MSNBC, by having him host Countdown without disclosing his firm's consultancy, created a potential conflict of interest of which viewers were unaware. As the article points out, the practice is commonplace at all TV news networks, which bear the ultimate journalistic responsibility.
Dick Gephardt appeared on MSNBC's Morning Meeting September 24, 2009. He labeled the public option "not essential." Host Dylan Ratigan discussed healthcare with Gephardt because of his experience as a Congressman during the Clinton 1993 effort yet he never mentioned Gephardt's active work advising insurance and pharmaceutical interests. Gephardt owns the lobbying firm Gephardt Government Affairs and is a lobbyist for NBC/Universal.
Tom Daschle appeared on MSNBC on numerous occasions to discuss healthcare reform. Yet in no instance did he (or MSNBC) disclose his work on behalf of lobbying firm Alston and Bird, which advises insurer UnitedHealth Group. On December 8, 2009 Dr. Nancy confronted him about his simultaneous work for lobbying firms and he promised "I certainly want to be appreciative of perception, so we're going to take great care in how we go forward." A month later on Andrea Mitchell, his work went unmentioned.
Todd Boulanger appeared on MSNBC, even while he was an Abramoff-connected lobbyist working for Cassidy and Associates. He went on TV with no identification of his work while he was under investigation for corruption (he pled guilty in January 2009).
Mark Penn appeared on Morning Joe identified as a "Clinton administration pollster" and "Democratic strategist." On the show he suggested the Obama administration put healthcare reform on ice. But it was never mentioned he was the CEO of Burson-Marsteller, which has an entire healthcare division devoted to helping clients like Eli Lilly and Pfizer "create and manage perceptions that deliver positive business results."