Ken Silverstein's undercover expose, “Their Men in Washington: Undercover with D.C.'s Lobbyists for Hire,” in the current edition of Harpers magazine has caused mild panic amongst K-Street lobbyists.
Silverstein's investigative article demonstrates that many of the levers of power - official and otherwise - are for sale to the highest bidder. This fact has long been an open secret (or even 'Standard Operating Procedure') to anyone even peripherally-connected to the Military-Industrial-Congressional-Entertainment-Complex (nearly everyone in the Beltway) but Silverstein's article apparently peeled back the curtain for those on the outside and generated a lot of media coverage.
The lobbying industry, experts at defending and justifying the worst regimes, the worst policies, the worst legislation and the worst industries, have decided to defend themselves and fight back.
In a plan hatched at a panicked 'Rapid Response' meeting at K-Street headquarters earlier this month, the lobbyists decided, according to one participant, "to fight fire with fire. " It was decided that they would send undercover lobbyists to expose journalists as frauds. The results of the plan, so far, can best be described as 'mixed.' In their attempts to strike back at Silverstein, lobbyists may have killed the Golden Goose.
At the initial 'Rapid Response' meeting, it was decided that the best plan of attack was to strike at the core of journalism. Grover Norquist noted that a key function of journalism was to take new information, test it for accuracy and newsworthiness, add some appropriately sourced details, and publish.
The first step in the plan to undermine journalism was to plant a poorly sourced story. If the lobbyists could demonstrate that journalists essentially lie about the motivation of their sources, then the score would be: Silverstein: 1, Lobbyists: 1. It was decided that Dennis Hastert, pending lobbyist, would be sent to a journalist to plant a story about how much Democratic Presidential candidate John Edwards spent on haircuts. It was decided unanimously that the
lobbyists' newest (pending) member, Dennis Hastert, (who, incidentally, had spent $300 on dinner the previous night at his favorite Chicago restaurant) would provide a Politico journalist an 'on background' tip that Edwards had spent $400 on a haircut. When Hastert was asked about attribution, he was to reply that he was a "Former high-school wrestling coach." The story went ahead as planned as was soon propelled from Politico to every major news organization in the country. Two days later, the lobbyists put out a press release identifying Hastert as the "former high-school wrestling coach" source for the story. To their surprise, the story of the fake sourcing didn't get any traction, apart from some 'left-wing' blogs, and the Edwards haircut story was repeated ad nauseam in the corporate media.
Not to be dissuaded in their attempt to strike back at Silverstein by undermining journalism generally, a new plan was hatched. Richard Perle was recruited to approach journalist Michael Gordon of the New York Times and suggest, anonymously, that Iran is behind all the mayhem in Iraq. Within days, Gordon's article appeared, above the fold, on the front page of the Times, suggesting that Iran had essentially declared war against the US. Three days later, the lobbyists leaked the fact that Perle was the source and that there was no factual basis for the story. Blogger Glenn Greenwald was outraged and Amy Goodman did a ten minute piece on the controversy, but for weeks afterwards, other journalists and administration officials referenced Gordon's story as fact. NBC's Meet The Press had a round-table discussion on whether the claims in Gordon's article were "an act of war." Host Tim Russert asked his guests whether it was "reasonable to ask if the Bush Administration had gone soft on Terror" by not invading Iran.
The K-Streeters were now in a bit of a bind. In their panic at Silverstein's piece they hadn't really thought things through. They had wanted to make a mockery of journalism, but they didn't want to cut off their channel of planting favorable, false stories in the media.
One earnest K-Street intern was working late last weekend, reviewing Grover Norquist's plan ("...a key function of journalism was to take new information, test it for accuracy and newsworthiness, add some appropriately sourced details, and publish....") to strike back at Silverstein by discrediting journalism and realized that another plan of attack (other than publishing false stories) might be to take a story that is actually true and demonstrate that the media refuses to publish certain stories - even though they are valid, true and important. Surely that would indict corporate journalism! The intern contacted Sibel Edmonds - former FBI translator who uncovered evidence of congressional bribery and corruption of high level officials - and organized a conference call with Sibel and a bunch of leading journalists. Edmonds' claims are supported by documents, by witnesses, by senators who are familiar with the details, by the FBI, by the Dept of Justice - surely the silence of the corporate media on her case was the perfect indictment of 'journalism' that the intern's bosses were looking for. Take that, Silverstein!
Dick Cheney shot the intern in the face.
(OK - satirizing these people is difficult. Lobbyists trying to prove that journalism is corrupt? Sheesh! I'm gonna need more practice)
Demand public open hearings:
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LA phone: 323 651-1040
fax: (202) 225-4099
Capitol switchboard phone: 800-828-0498
(DU thread, Dkos Thread.)