Burson-Marsteller (B-M), one of the world’s largest public relations firms, also organises grass roots coalitions and corporate front groups for many of its clients. Its website states:
For the past two decades, Direct Impact has been at the forefront of the grassroots communications industry, bringing a campaign-style approach to more traditional public outreach. Our history is rich and diverse—we have played a role in many of the major social and policy issues of the last 20 years, including taxes, nuclear waste transport, Medicare, defense and trade. We have also tackled some of the most pressing and complicated community-based challenges for our clients.
to counter activists that threaten corporations by organising “rallies, boycotts and demonstrations outside your plant.”
Burson-Marsteller used their grassroots lobbying unit to create the National Smokers Alliance in 1993 on behalf of Philip Morris. The millions supplied by Philip Morris and the advice supplied by Burson-Marsteller’s Advocacy Communications Team, allowed this ‘grassroots’ alliance to use full-paper advertisements, direct telemarketing and other high-tech campaign techniques to build its membership to a claimed 3 million by 1995 and to disseminate its pro-smoking message. The Alliance’s president is the Vice-President of Burson-Marsteller and other Burson-Marsteller executives are actively involved in the Alliance.
Burson-Marsteller is heavily involved in similar activities on behalf of client’s who have been threatened by the rise of environmentalism. It helped create the Coalition for Clean and Renewable Energy organised to support client, Hydro Quebec, which was embroiled in controversy with environmentalists over its dams, existing and proposed.
The masquerade is part of the game. B-M and companies like it, have become masters of manipulation. If a pro-utility group calls itself by a nice, green-sounding name; if speakers at public forums are not identified as being on the Hydro Quebec payroll; if supposed activists are really moles for the opposition, image triumphs and truth becomes a casualty.
A coalition, The Foundation for Clean Air Progress, operated out of Burson-Marsteller’s offices.
According to CLEAR an organisation, which monitored anti-environmental activities in the US, the Foundation was “in reality a front for transportation, energy, manufacturing and agricultural groups.” It was attempting to influence the reauthorization of the Clean Air Act due in 1997 by setting up chapters in various cities and ‘educating’ the public about the progress made in air quality over the past 25 years. Its focus was on individual responsibility for pollution and personal voluntary actions instead of regulation of industry to achieve further improvements.
One of B-M's clients has been Entergy, a nuclear power company. In 2003 Entergy created In 2003, Entergy formed the "Coalition Against Shutting Down Vermont's Electricity Options". In 2007 B-M client Exelon, formed the New Jersey Affordable, Clean, Reliable Energy Coalition (NJ ACRE), to support the license renewal of one of Exelon's nuclear power plants and B-M was involved in its activities.
B-M was also involved in the front group, The Alliance for Abundant Food and Energy, which fronts for agribusiness firms in its promotion of crop-based fuels such as ethanol and biodiesel and has a multimillion dollar budget.