For those unfamiliar with CAGW a 2005 article by Michael Smith summed them up quite well:
The Washington Post article focuses on the possibly close and illegal cooperation between Citizens Against Govenment Waste and the McCain campaign. The article states:
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.
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.