More corporate astroturfing from The Tennessean? I know, y’all are shocked!
Our local fishwrap ran a hit piece on electric vehicles today, using the National Center for Public Policy Research as its source. This group is another one of those right-wing think tanks funded by the usual suspects (Scaife, Olin and Bradley foundations, as well as Philip Morris and ExxonMobil). They have an anti-environmental agenda, and have been on the, um, “leading edge” of climate change denial since the ’90s. They’re pro-fracking, pro-drilling, and anti-endangered species. Their president is Amy Moritz Ridenour, who recently found her way over here to comment on my “There Is No Light Bulb Ban” post. Basically these are people who if they saw a butterfly floating by, they’d stomp on it.
I’d forgotten about Ridenour’s NCPPR connection (funny, since it was just a few days ago. D’oh!), but I remembered they were in the news for laundering Tom DeLay’s travel money. The organization set off big Jack Abramoff bells with me, as well. So I Google’d. Ah yes: Abramoff was a former board member and used this organization to distribute some of his Choctaw donations:
Another scholar whose Abramoff Fellowship has gone largely unquestioned is Amy Ridenour, who was and remains president of the right-wing National Center for Public Policy Research. Ridenour received some unwelcome attention last year when she testified before a Senate committee investigating Abramoff’s activities. The subject was a $1 million grant that Abramoff, a longtime friend of Ridenour’s who served on her board, funneled from his client, the Mississippi Choctaw Indian tribe, through NCPPR. Some of the money ended up in Abramoff’s pocket. Ridenour testified that she was unaware of the latter transaction. But why did she agree to let NCPPR be a front group for these contributions in the first place? And why did she similarly agree to put NCPPR’s imprimatur on a congressional junket that Abramoff led to Great Britain, one that famously included a stop at the St. Andrews golf course in Scotland? (Ridenour has said she didn’t know in advance about this side trip.)
Ah, well. That’s all water under the bridge. But you know, it’s a little odd that The Tennessean never even identified the NCPPR as a conservative group — something I believe the organization itself openly admits. Their website identifies them as a group
supportive of a strong national defense and dedicated to providing free market solutions to today’s public policy problems. We believe that the principles of a free market, individual liberty and personal responsibility provide the greatest hope for meeting the challenges facing America in the 21st century.
Isn’t that code for, “Hey we’re a conservative group supportive of the Republican Party!” You’d think The Tennessean would have mentioned their source’s partisan leanings. Sadly, no.
And as for Bonner Cohen, the “senior fellow” they quoted? Let’s ask SourceWatch:
Bonner Cohen headed EPA Watch, which received funding from Philip Morris. He purported to edit EPA Watch as an independent newsletter published and distributed by the non-profit American Policy Center, but in fact it was a publication of the APCO & Associates PR Group, originally owned by Philip Morris’s Washington legal firm, Arnold & Porter (ie A&P Co = APCO)
During this time he shared the work with Steve Milloy (“Junkman”), who was running the organization known as The Advancement for Sound Science Coalition (TASSC), which purported to be a grass-roots, sound-science organization, but which was originally a tobacco industry front (run also by APCO) pushing a “sound science” line.
Milloy clearly wrote a number of the articles published in EPA Watch, and Cohen eventually became listed as President of TASSC when it moved from being a vehicle just for defense of the tobacco industry, to having a wider agenda, opposing government attempts to regulate a number of polluting industries for the benefit of public health.
A Philip Morris document states that EPA Watch was an “asset” established to assist Philip Morris achieve a broader impact than just on the issue of second-hand smoke. Another Philip Morris document argues the need to “develop a plan for EPA Watch / Bonner Cohen as expert on EPA matters, i.e. regular syndicated radio features on EPA activities.”
Oh, so in other words, another corporate astroturfer. Yeah, we figured as much.
The only thing that would make this more perfect is if The Tennessean got Bonner Cohen to write a “Tennessee Voices” column.
Hey, Tennessean: you still suck. But don’t worry, you’re apparently in good company.