If you're like me and haven't bothered to subscribe to DailyKos yet (and believe me, I've been meaning to do so... actually, I just did now, so no more ads for me!) then you've probably noticed a new advertiser's logo popping up in the ads on the site lately.
The new advertiser is "AIA", the Aerospace Industries Association. AIA is an industry lobbying group made up of some huge aviation/defense corporations.
More after the fold...
The AIA represents a nearly perfect example of what the New York Times, in 2005, called "the Lobbying-Industrial Complex".
I like this term, because it so neatly sums up what's unfortunately happened to our nation. It's become cheaper for large corporations, in ALL lines of business, to simply lobby the government for business (or tax breaks, or regulatory relief, or earmarks, or subsidies, or whatever.)
When you start looking at companies that do a lot of business with the government, it becomes even more blatant. Rather than actually have to compete in the private marketplace, where they might face actual competition and demands from their customers, companies that get a lot of government contracts don't have to produce at all.
They get "cost-plus" contracts- and farm out tons of "work" to subsidiaries, making it appear as though their costs are really high... but in theory, the company with the contract is only making a minimum of profit (the "plus" part of "cost-plus".)
Meanwhile, those subsidiary corporations are making THEIR profit and markup on the actual costs, so the overall holding company (and more importantly, its fatcat stockholders) make a fortune in dividends, profits, and higher stock prices.
(Well, maybe not so much that last one right now.)
Since the contractor's customer is the government, if the contractor can simply keep the "customer" from demanding better performance the contractor gets to keep raking in big, fat profits.
And the government is easy to keep off your back- just lobby, lobby, lobby like hell. Don't spend money on silly things like research and development, or even marketing and advertising; all you have to spend money on is buying off the Congress and/or the Executive Branch!
So long as you can convince those folks that the government desperately needs what you're selling, you can do an absolutely pathetic job and STILL keep the contract. In fact, you can get MORE contracts, until you get to the point where as much as 84% of your revenuecomes from the federal government.
How bad a job can a big corporation do? They can cut the actual services provided to the citizens/users of the product by 50%, double the cost per user, and STILL hit the government up for more money under the "cost-plus" type of contract!
So, let's get back to these AIA guys.
The AIA, as I said, is an industry consortium made up of the biggest names in the aerospace/defense business. Names like:
Pretty much if a company builds something that flies, or blows up, or flies and blows up, or is even remotely related to something that flies or blows up or flies and blows up, the company probably belongs to the AIA.
So why are all these companies, through their lobbying group, suddenly advertising on Daily Kos, of all places? Are DKos users buying a lot of missiles, or flight electronics, or technical stuff? Are DKos users a group of midsized nations looking to upgrade their defense capabilities?
Ummm... highly unlikely.
But DKos has been identified, apparently, as a place where people who DO buy that kind of thing- or think about buying that kind of thing- hang out.
Or... just maybe... there's a group of folks who're going to be moving into the halls of power in Washington DC who are going to have some insight and influence into whether or not the United States needs to buy some of that kind of stuff, and maybe those folks occasionally swing by DKos.
Or maybe those folks won't actually see the ads, but they'll read the diaries that are posted by the people who DO see the ads.
Hmmm... maybe now we're on to something here.
Let's look at the people in charge of AIA.
At the FAA, Blakey made a name for herself by ruthlessly implementing the Rove/Bush Administration's vigorous anti-labor, anti-worker agenda. In doing so, she destroyed the employee moraleof one of the most respected safety organizations in the world.
She spent some time prior to that as the head of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), but in actuality had very little real transportation or aviation experience.
(This is, of course, par for the course for the Bush Administration- remember the commissioner of the International Arabian Horse Association, and the heck of a job he did with FEMA?)
Before getting into the political patronage positions she was appointed to, Blakey was in public relations. Her old firm continues on- Blakey and Agnew.
What does Blakey and Agnew do? Here's a quote from their site:
Blakey & Agnew is best characterized as a public affairs firm with demonstrated success in developing communication strategies that make complex regulatory, engineering, and legal issues more easily understood by broader audiences.
In other words, they talk the masses into supporting whatever their clients want/need.
As an example, under Marion Blakey they were (and continue to be) instrumental in selling local municipalities red-light camera systems.
(A side note: While these systems seem to serve a worthy goal- trying to cut down on the growing epidemic of red-light-running- the reality is at least one study has shown that they actually make things more dangerous. The vast majority of the red-light cameras that have been installed have been under contracts that give the equipment manufacturers a significant financial cut of any fines that result from the equipment.
This has led to a situation where municipalities are actively lobbied by the equipment companies, aided by Blakey's old firm, to "do something" about the red-light-running problem. "Something" pretty much always turns out to be "install our equipment", which leads to all kinds of money for the company.
See how that works? The red-light-camera company hires a firm to create an impression of "need" in the minds of locla government officials. Those officials then turn around and buy... red-light-cameras. The company, therefore, gets more of a return from "investing" money into their lobbying efforts than they do from anything else.
So Marion Blakey has plenty of experience with the notion of actively lobbying government to buy her clients' stuff by creating a perceived "need" for that equipment.
Rather than the governmental entity coming to the conclusion on its own that it has a certain situation and then solving it, this type of lobbying exposes how a smart PR campaign can work very well for the lobbying-industrial complex.
So back to Blakey. In her reign as FAA Administrator, she wound up being loathed by the vast majority of the agency's employees.
But you have to admire her, in a way. In her present role, she's not only working to increase the perceived "need" for equipment and contracts that would lead to nice tidy profits for the AIA membership- she actually made the decision for the FAA to spend billions on that equipment and those contracts!
When Blakey was in charge of the FAA, she set the agency onto a course of spending billions of dollars on a system called "NextGen". Blakey, as Administrator, slashed the pay of tens of thousands of FAA employees because (according to her) it was necessary to pay for NextGen. (This was, of course, a big fat lie.)
Then, right as she leaves the FAA, she goes to work for the AIA... which is a bunch of companies that are going to be designing and manufacturing a bunch of new technology and equipment for NextGen.
As I said in a blog entry on The FAA Follies... You Do The Math.
So basically what we have, in AIA, is an industry group that's dedicated to selling more of its stuff- but a huge portion of its stuff happens to be stuff that only the government will buy.
Yet they're advertising here on DailyKos, a site of liberal bloggers, nearly all of them private citizens and not government officials, right?
And let's face it, folks- Marion Blakey has already proven that she can create a campaign that makes people think they need whatever stuff she's selling.
Under George W Bush, she got even better at her game, working for years to steer the Federal Aviation Administration towards buying billions of dollars worth of stuff... and then (surprise surprise) going to work for the same companies that are selling all of that stuff that she basically just signed the order forms for.
Remember what I said about the lobbying-industrial complex... well, AIA is a lobbying and PR arm of these giant corporations.
Finally, that same group of companies is now advertising here on DKos.
Well, now you know who they are. Check out their ads and believe, or not believe, them at your own risk.
Just keep in mind that these companies are essentially the largest aerospace and defense corporations in the world, and that their lobbying group is being led by one of the biggest snakes ever to poison the public service, a snake who wound up profitting massively from her own decisions of what to do with billions of YOUR money.
That's who these AIA guys are.