Sunday, June 1, 2008

So-Called Tanker Taxpayer Group Exposed

On Saturday the Washington Post exposed yet again the so-called watchdog and taxpayer advocacy group "Citizens Against Government Waste" (CAGW). This time the group is getting into trouble for its actions as one of the worst pro-EADS tanker lobbying and propaganda machines of refueler contract debate.

For those unfamiliar with CAGW a 2005 article by Michael Smith summed them up quite well:

It advertises itself as a “grassroots” organization and as an organization whose mission is “eliminating waste” (nice phrase, that) in the federal government. But CAGW actually is neither. Not by a long shot. In fact, a more accurate name for “Citizens Against Government Waste” might be Corporations Against Government”...

Because much of CAGW’s efforts actually center not around promoting federal waste-cutting per se, but instead,much more narrowly, in promoting federal departmental spending cuts and specific legislative changes to weaken the US government’s powers to monitor corporate abuses — in particular, by getting rid of stuff like all those tiresome and costly (to corporations, that is) environmental, health, and safety regulations that current US federal law requires their US operations to comply with. And opposing efforts by the US government to punish corporate violations of federal law.

The Washington Post article focuses on the possibly close and illegal cooperation between Citizens Against Govenment Waste and the McCain campaign. The article states:

Although the campaign and the group deny any cooperation, CAGW's willingness to jump into the tanker controversy illustrates what some experts describe as potentially improper political activity by nonprofits, an issue that is gaining attention as the presidential contest heats up.

"This is the public relations equivalent of air cover: You saturate debate with your rhetoric so people start talking about your message and stop talking about McCain... It's a classic third-party technique," said Sheldon Rampton, research director for the Center for Media and Democracy, a liberal organization that tracks the use of public relations by corporations and politicians.

The article points out that because of their tax-exempt status nonprofits such as CAGW are not supposed to engage in political activity. They can set up separate lobbying organizations known as a 501(c)4 as long as political activity is not its primary purpose.

Although CAGW does have a seperate lobby arm, it was CAGW itself that was suspected of working with Sen. McCain's campaign as well as the KC-30 team. But, when the article looked at CAGW's lobby arm, what if found raised even more questions that might interest the Internal Revenue Service. (The IRS which has the power to revoke an organizations tax status if it engages in prohibited political activity.)

CAGW has a lobbying arm, the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste, that has twice supported McCain for president. Its PAC has donated $11,000 in cash to McCain or a PAC under his control since 2004 -- 20 times as much cash as it has given any other candidate, records show.

The article points out also that in their joint campaign this year, CAGW and Northrop Grumman collaborated on a web site called America's New Tanker, which exhorted citizens to contact their lawmakers to support the award.

Northrop Grumman has specifically denied that it has donated any money to CAGW, but no one has yet questioned EADS or Airbus. Nor has there been any questions about payment through third-parties which we hear is quite common in cases like these.

The article does point to CAGW history on this getting paid to do PR and lobbying work is well established:
CAGW has been criticized for accepting donations from organizations that benefit from its advocacy. Two years ago, investigators probing the activities of convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff for the Senate Finance Committee examined whether CAGW advocated on behalf of Abramoff clients, including the Magazine Publishers of America, in exchange for donations. The committee concluded: "The e-mails show a pattern of CAGW producing public relations materials favorable to Mr. Abramoff's clients."
The Post is not the first major paper to pick up on CAGW's lobbying activities, as this St. Petersburg Times article from 2007 aptly entitled "For Price, Watchdog Will be an Advocate" shows. The subtitle for the St. Pete article is even better: "Citizens Against Government Waste made a name for itself by exposing government waste. But it has quietly made a lot of its money by lobbying." (Even Tanker War Blog members who travel in Republican circles though would dispute the articles statement that CAGW "enjoys a strong reputation in the nation's capitol". In fact CAGW's reputation declines exponentially the closer to DC you are and the better you know them.)

At Tanker War Blog we would remind our readers that you can tell a lot about a tanker by the company it keeps.


Anonymous said...

Lets not talk about Boeing bias Tankerblog...."payment through third-parties which we hear is quite common in cases like these".
more miss information, 17 days!

Tanker War Blog said...

Dear Anonymous,

If you are trying to infer that TWB has taken any money from any of the companies or we are the recipient of engineered third party money connected to the tanker contract dispute, let us assure you to the contrary.

All our work is done on a volunteer basis and any expenses we have we pay out of our own pocket. We did one press release early on but after we got back the bill of $500 we stopped doing them.

Also, no kidding we are biased. News flash: we kind of mention that in the About Us section on the blog.

Just because you don't like the information on the site (which we provide sources to so you can make up you own mind), or our commentary, does not make it misinformation.

We can tell from you IP address you are from Los Angeles....hummm what company do we know that is headquartered in LA? No bias there?

If you do work for that company which shall remain nameless you should be biased, or you should seek employment else where. We say choose your side and get into the debate. Just be open about which side you are on and don't try to pretend you are a disinterested third party when you are not.

CAGW and a few blogs we know are not so open...shame on them. But, that's how it works in DC.

And, yes 17 more days until the GAO deadline. The trouble is though there is a high probability the ruling will not be decisive either way; so you better get your ground game going.

Keep it classy,
Tanker War Blog

Anonymous said...

The Tanker War blog is moderated by Mike Reilly and a bipartisan group of legislative assistants. Mike spends his days at the Center for Security Policy

Your comment:
If you are trying to infer that TWB has taken any money from any of the companies or we are the recipient of engineered third party money connected to the tanker contract dispute, let us assure you to the contrary.

News Report April 1 Mobile Register:

In response to reporters' questions, Gaffney (Head of Center for Security Policy) and Landrith said their organizations had accepted money from Boeing

Tanker War Blog said...

Dear Anonymous,
You keep try to play gotcha, but here is another news flash: The Center for Security Policy and several of the congressional offices some or us work in have in the past received donations from both/either Boeing and Northrop Grumman. It is easy to look this up in Open Secrets or the Foundation Center.

Mr. Reilly can not tell us what NG gave without their consent but he does say they were even a bigger Center supporter than Boeing prior to the Center putting out the scathing report on EADS. So if anything, going after EADS has probably cost them money. Also, to his knowledge they have not accepted any tanker related money since this dispute began.

The most important part to remember though is that all of us here work on the blog as uncompensated volunteers. What we do and write is not connected to any office, company, or organization. Our employers still demand that we do our 40hrs to get paid.

In closing, by the constant stream of comment you leave, you seem very upset. We would suggest you look on the bright side. If you do work for NG, you work for a great company, which we here have the highest respect for. In fact we believe NG’s own Bob Helm recently won a poll/award for being great ambassador to the Hill. He’s a good man and deserves the kudos. If that news doesn’t make you happy you can always start your own blog on the tanker issue.

Tanker War Blog

Anonymous said...

Tanker War Blog I think you are assuming too much. EADS North America Test and Services is located in Irvine so Mr. Wise Guy might really work for the beast itself. That is why he is so mad at you.