of Bonner & Associates,
is one of the leading specialists providing grassroots support for his
clients who include:
Association of International Auto Manufacturers,
- US Tobacco
amendments to the Clean Air Act were being debated in 1990, Bonner managed
to get some large citizen's groups, who had no financial interest in
the matter, to lobby against amendments which would have required car
manufacturers to make their cars more fuel efficient.
firm, working on behalf of the automobile industry, persuaded these
citizen groups that the legislation would have meant that large vehicles
would not be manufactured. "Bonner's fee, which he coyly described as
somewhere between $500,000 and $1 million, was for scouring six states
for potential grassroots voices, coaching them on the 'facts' of the
issue, paying for the phone calls and plane fares to Washington and
hiring the hall for a joint press conference." (Greider 1992, p. 37)
for the Plastics Industry hired Bonner after a law was passed in
Suffolk County, New York in 1987 to ban some plastic products which
were filling up landfills. The law was expected to be the first of many
such laws in other parts of the US. The Society also challenged the
law in the courts. Subsequently the law which had been approved with
a 12 to 6 vote was suspended with a 12 to 6 vote by the same body.(Grefe
and Linsky 1995, pp. 214-5)
Washington DC office has 300 phone lines and a sophisticated computer
system. His staff phone people all over the country looking for citizens
who will support corporate agendas. He targets members of Congress who
are unsure of how to vote or who need a justification for voting with
the automobile industry against measures that will clean up the air.
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expert in creating grassroots support for corporations is John Davies
who features a picture of an old lady carrying a sign "Not in my backyard"
in his advertisements. The picture is captioned
leave your future in her hands.
lobbying is no longer enough. Today numbers count. To win in the hearing
room, you must reach out to create grassroots support. To outnumber
your opponents, call the leading grassroots public affairs communications
specialists.(Stauber and Rampton 199, p. 18)
promotion, Davies explains that he will use mailing lists and computer
databases to identify potential supporters and telemarketers to persuade
them to agree to have letters written on their behalf. In this way he
is able to create the impression of a "spontaneous explosion of community
support for needy corporations." (Stauber and Rampton 199, pp. 23-4)
practical objective of letter-writing campaigns is not actually
to get a majority of the people behind a position and to express
themselves on itfor it would be virtually impossible to
whip up that much enthusiasmbut to get such a heavy, sudden
outpouring of sentiment that lawmakers feel they are being besieged
by a majority. The true situation may be quite the contrary.(Sherrill
1990, p. 376)
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one of the world's largest public relations firms, also organises grass
roots coalitions and corporate front groups for many of its clients.
Since at least 1985 it has had a team of people in its Washington, DC
office specialising in designing coalitions to build allies and neutralise
opponents. In 1992 Burson-Marsteller created an independent grassroots
lobbying unit, Advocacy Communications Team, to counter activists that
threaten corporations by organising "rallies, boycotts and demonstrations
outside your plant."
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. (Stauber & Rampton
1995; Stone 1996)
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.
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.(Dillon
1993, p. 38)
A new coalition
for Clean Air Progress is currently operating out of Burson-Marsteller's
offices. According to CLEAR
an organisation, which monitors anti-environmental activities in the
US, the Foundation is "in reality a front for transportation, energy,
manufacturing and agricultural groups." It is 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 is on individual responsibility
for pollution and personal voluntary actions instead of regulation of
industry to achieve further improvements.(CLEAR 1996)
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Hiding Behind Front,
Philip Morris Plays into Opponents' Hands, Inside PR 14 October.
How to Win Friends
and Influence People, Reputation Management, July/August.
for Nonsmokers Rights, 1998, Philip
Morris Documents: Astroturf Gold, 17 July.
Studies of Grassroots Campaigns, PR Central.
1996, 'Clearing the Air with Burson-Marsteller', Earth First!
(August/September), p. 18.
John, 1993, 'PR giant Burson-Marsteller thinks global, acts local: Poisoning
the Grassroots', CovertAction, No. 44, pp. 34-8.
Ron, 1995, 'The Grassroots Explosion', Campaigns & Elections,
Vol. 16, No. 1, pp. 20-30, 53-8.
William, 1993, 'Grassroots organizing, PR-style: Democracy for Hire',
PR Watch, Vol. 1, No. 1, pp. 8-9.
William, 1992, Who Will Tell the People: The Betrayal of American
Democracy (New York: Simon & Schuster).
Edward A. and Marty Linsky, 1995, The New Corporate Activism: Harnessing
the Power of Grassroots Tactics for Your Organization (New York:
Corporate Hall of Shame
Malcolm, 1998, 'Microsoft
Not Alone in Planting Grassroots', TechWeb 21 April.(Quotes
Joyce, 1993, 'Burson-Marsteller, Pax Trilateral, and the Brundtland
Gang vs. the Environment', The New Catalyst, No. 26, pp. 1-3,
Ron, 1997, Coalition
backing power line funded by AEP, Roanoke Times, December
Robert, 1990, Why They Call it Politics: A Guide to America's Government,
5th edn (San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich).
I'm calling to mislead you', Mother Jones, Nov/Dec, 1997.
(Article on Boner & Associates' activities).
Ken, 1996, APCO:
Astroturf Makers, Multinational Monitor, 17(3), March.
John and Sheldon Rampton, 1996, 'The
public relations industry's secret war on activists', CovertAction
Quarterly, No. 55, pp. 18-25, 57.
John and Sheldon Rampton, undated, 'Deforming
Consent: The public relations industry's secret war on activists',
John and Sheldon Rampton, 1995, 'How
the American Tobacco Industry Employs PR scum to continue its murderous
assault on human lives', Tuscon Weekly, No. Nov 22-Nov 29.
Peter H., 1996, 'Fortress Tobacco Strengthens its Walls', National
Journal (April 20).
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