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Over the weekend I wrote a piece about Richard Wolffe's employer, Public Strategies, Inc. The overall contention of that piece, that Wolffe commented on health care despite his firm having a substantial stake in the outcome of the health care debate, was correct. I based my information on data obtained from the Center for Responsive Politics, which is pretty much a flawless source. Except in this case.

The Center for Responsive Politics lists "Public Strategies Inc" as one lobbying firm. It lists Bristol-Myers-Squbb, Allostatix, the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, and Cerner Corp as clients of "Public Strategies, Inc."  

When you check the data against the House lobbyist disclosure database, it becomes very clear that there are two entities that go by the name of Public Strategies, Inc. One is listed as "Public Strategies, Inc" in the House database; this entity is Wolffe's employer. The other is listed as "Public Strategies Washington, Inc" in the House database. This entity is not Wolffe's employer and is the lobbyist for Cerner Corp, Bristol-Myers-Squibb and InBev.

Allostatix, a company that claims it can reduce health care costs by catching "high cost employees" before a problem develops, paid Wolffe's employer $50,000 in the 2nd Quarter of 2009 to represent their interests on health care legislation. The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy paid Wolffe's employer $10,000 to represent its views on abortion during the health care reform debate. Health Integrated, a firm that works with insurance companies to maximize their profits, paid Wolffe'semployer $40,000 in 2008 to represent their interests on legislative and regulatory issues. Christus Health, a Texas-based health chain, paid Wolffe's employer $40,000 in 2005 to represent their interests on Medicare Part D legislation.

Wolffe's employer is also heavily involved in lobbying for the financial sector. In 2008, First Advantage Corporation retained the services of Public Strategies, Inc. A long-term client, which paid Public Strategies $50,000 in 2009 alone, is the Financial Services Forum. The Forum's website describes exactly what kind of an operation this "nonpartisan" group is:

"The Financial Services Forum is a non-partisan financial and economic policy organization comprised of the CEOs of 17 of the largest and most diversified financial services institutions doing business in the United States.

The purpose of the Forum is to pursue policies that encourage savings and investment, promote an open and competitive global marketplace, and ensure the opportunity of people everywhere to participate fully and productively in the 21st-century global economy.

The Forum's three primary missions are to:

Educate the public about the importance of robust capital markets;
Encourage a competitive global marketplace; and
Shape the national and international regulatory dialogue."

Despite the fact that one of his firm's largest clients is an organization for the CEOs of America's largest banks, Wolffe did not disclose his new employer's clients while writing commentary on the banking industry for The Daily Beast.

While I regret the error in my original post, the fundamental point of that post stands: Wolffe crossed a line and was publicly commenting on issues as an "objective observer" while he was also being paid by a firm which was contracted to get a favorable message out for one side of various issues. It is a clear violation of the Church/State wall of journalism. In my judgment, Wolffe can either be a journalist or an advocate for special interests; you can't be both at the same time.

Update: The Center says they are currently fixing their database, so the link I provided will not show exactly what was there on Saturday in the imminent future. But Public Strategies, Inc. and Public Strategies Washington were merged for 2009 data until today.

That said, this correction is solely my fault, as I should've taken the time to do this right. Doing it right means cross checking even a normally reliable database, like The Center's, against other databases.

I should also take time to thank The Center for what they do; they make it very easy to find lobbying networks and understand how government works. It's a true public service.

Originally posted to The Bagof Health and Politics on Tue Aug 04, 2009 at 07:55 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Wolfe was wrong... (4+ / 0-)

    ...but I blame KO and MSNBC even more.  They gave the guy a platform almost  five nights a week. They are guilty of either knowingly putting someone w/ significant bias on their show  (and presenting him as an independent analyst), or are guilty  of gross negligence in that they should have know.

    In my opinion, this  seriously damages Countdown's credibility.

    "In every revolution, there's one man with a vision." -James T. Kirk

    by The Navigator on Tue Aug 04, 2009 at 08:01:15 AM PDT

    •  Spelled "Wolffe," & Ever Thought Of Reading DKos? (7+ / 0-)

      As to Richard Wolffe I can offer far less insight. I honor Mr. Greenwald's insight into the coverage of GE/NewsCorp talks, and his reporting on Richard's other jobs. I must confess I was caught flat-footed. I do not know what the truth is; my executive producer and I have spent the last two months dealing with other things (see above) but what appears to be the truth here is certainly not what Richard told us about his non-news job.

      I am confident his commentary to this point has not been compromised - he has been an insightful analyst and a great friend to this show - but until we can clarify what else he is doing, he will not be appearing with us. I apologize for not being able to prevent this unhappy set of circumstances from developing.  
      Source: Dailykos    

       (Emphasis, mine).

      •  So? (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Irish Patti, Tropical Depression

        I did read that....in fact, um, Keith responded directly to my post about it. .

        Do YOU read Daily Kos "leonard145b"?

        And that doesn't alleviate the main problem.  KO and MSNBC put a guy on almost 5 nights a week for months and moths and presented him as an independent analyst. Which he  clearly was not.

        And Frankly, this is a NEWS organization.   If they didn't know what WolFFe was all about (and I'm not convinced they didn't) they should have know.

        Just saying "oops, we fucked up" is fine and all, but it doesn't instantly restore your credibility.

        (Emphasis, Mine)

        "In every revolution, there's one man with a vision." -James T. Kirk

        by The Navigator on Tue Aug 04, 2009 at 08:23:14 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  How dare you criticize the God of DK! (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          The Navigator

          One need only check out the I (((heart and offer him my first born))) Keith diary on the rec list to witness blind slobberation in full bloom.

          How dare you criticize the man who was so concerned over the comments of OReilly as related to the murder of Dr Tillman, that he decided to "retire" his BillO bashing! His disingenuous Tillman ploy was the excuse on June 1, although, oddly, he, who posts even the most useless of OReilly utterances ad nauseum, never managed to report about the dangerous Tillman comments... until it was time to use them to pull the wool over his fans' eyes.

          Of course there was a "no deal" DEAL to shut up on OReilly, despite KO's laughable protestations to the contrary. And he complied with a screeching halt (See: actual reporting on what really went down with GE and Newscorp and Keith)

          Now he has dished up another 180 - the once familiar OReilly bashing  abruptly brought back from retirement (ie, Dont pay any attention to that man behind the curtain!!!) And this latest sharp turn, I am sure, was approved by his corporate overlords, in order to whitewash over that damaging writing on the wall - the NYTimes and Greenwald's report, including the Richard Wolffe controversy... time to recalibrate or lose the cash cow!

          As for his latest healthcare mother of all special comments... isnt the timing just a bit suspect? Since when has Keith been so concerned about healthcare? I must have missed all the reporting he did on the corporate corruption of congress re health reform, given that I was so fixated on those loops of his endlessly brilliant commentary and his guests' endlessly brilliant commentary (like Wolffe) on Palin, Rush, Billo, teabaggers, etc and so on... Too gorged on red meat to notice, I guess.

          Should a "progressive" Dem blog dwell in the safe zones of a tame party, or should it drive a tame party to break out?

          by NYCee on Tue Aug 04, 2009 at 09:52:49 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Keith has always been pretty pro-reform (0+ / 0-)

            He hit his head while covering the Mets early in his career (I think a subway train hit him if I remember right), he's had permanent vision loss due to that incident, and can't drive I believe. He also had some sort of medical scare when Peter Jennings got cancer, and has been pretty pro-reform ever since. He's attacked big drug companies and insurers long before this special comment.

            He may not cover the issue with as much knowledge and depth as Bill Moyers, but of the cable media people he's probably the second best on the issue (I think Rachel Maddow reports a little bit more consistently on it, but they're both pretty good).

            And to be clear nobody is in Bill Moyers' league when it comes to health care reporting. Keith and Rachel may eventually enter that league, but not yet.

            •  Ed Shultz covers it way more. (0+ / 0-)

              He isnt all that deep in knowledge either, but he bothers to keep people's attention on the issue and to call for action... and he has a lot of interviews with congress members to question, provoke and rebut or cheer them, depending on the viewpoints. he puts up the numbers of how much folks receive from hte industry, dems too... and calls out the blue dogs, baucus, et al.

              Should a "progressive" Dem blog dwell in the safe zones of a tame party, or should it drive a tame party to break out?

              by NYCee on Tue Aug 04, 2009 at 05:11:17 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

    •  I didn't notice a bias in his reporting and I (2+ / 0-)

      watched all nights he was hosting. I agree with KO that his reporting was okay, but I also agree that his relationship to what he was reporting on should have been acknowledged. It's very unfortunate that this has compromised his reltaionship with the show, I like him and he has a very good grasp of the workings and good political insights. But I guess his kids need shoes and schooling, too, I imagine better money's why he moved to the dark side.

      Thanks, Bag of Health and Politics, for the update.

      Information is abundant, wisdom is scarce. The Druid

      by FarWestGirl on Tue Aug 04, 2009 at 08:24:01 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I have no problem... (3+ / 0-)

        ...with Wolfe being on the show.  He's a smart guy and knows his stuff.  And Countdown is full of people with some kind of bias or another (Howard Dean was the guest host for Pete's sake).

        However, Wolffe's affiliations should have been disclosed.  All it would take  is something to the effect of "Joining me now is Richard Wolfee, former Newsweek Senior Political analyst, author of "Renegade" and Senior Strategist with Public Strategies, a lobbying group in Washington DC.  Welcome, Richard" so people could make up their  own minds regarding his biases and credibility.

        Wouldn't have knowing Wolffe was a lobbyist have, I don't know, caused a reasonable person to look at his "analysis" through a slightly different  lens?  At the very least, the information should have been disclosed to the viewer.

        "In every revolution, there's one man with a vision." -James T. Kirk

        by The Navigator on Tue Aug 04, 2009 at 08:49:48 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Agreed, disclosure should have been the WTG. n/t (2+ / 0-)

          Information is abundant, wisdom is scarce. The Druid

          by FarWestGirl on Tue Aug 04, 2009 at 08:57:02 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  My feeling on that is that the reason they (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Simply Agrestic, The Navigator

            didn't do it would be that it is a pretty long disclosure.

            It'd go like this

            KO: "Joining us now is Richard Wolffe, an author and PR consultant with Public Strategies, Inc., a lobbying firm which represents Allostatix, a medical testing company, Christus Health, a hospital chain, Health Intergrated, a consultant to the health insurance industry, First Advantage, a bank, The Financial Services Forum, an organization to represent the interests of bank CEOs in Washington, Xanga.com, a blogging company, Dell Corporation, a computer maker, the American Pyrotechnic Association, a fireworks industry advocacy group, Dollar General, a grocery store, etc, etc, etc,. Richard, thanks for joining us tonight."

            Wolffe: "Thanks for having me Keith. It was a pleasure."

            •  That's impractical (0+ / 0-)
              and a complete misreading of what life is like at large professional service firms (law, accounting, PR, lobbying, etc.) Emilysmom is an attorney at a firm with 1,500 lawyers, and has done a few satellite interviews on CNN, CNBC and MSNBC. She is introduced as "a Washington attorney specializing in ..." If any of her clients--or, for that matter, a competitor of her clients--is mentioned, she'd disclose it, but if it were as issue, she'd decline the interview.
              •  But here is the problem with that (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                The Navigator

                Wolffe commented on Bernake for the Daily Beast. His firm has clients in the banking sector. Were his comments his comments, or what his employer wanted him to say?

                Wolffe's firm has clients in the health insurance/care industry. But he reported on health care. Were the questions he asked his questions as a journalist, or questions his employer leaned on him to ask (referring to his guest hosting duties here)?

                Unless we know every possible interest his day job has, we're left with an open question.  And that is why what Wolffe did is not OK. You can't have feet on both sides of the line for this very reason.

  •  Hope you send this to Wolfe, Olberman, etc. (3+ / 0-)

    Fair play.

    This is us governing. Live so that 100 years from now, someone will be proud of us.

    by marthature on Tue Aug 04, 2009 at 08:05:43 AM PDT

  •  Olbermann's statement on the matter (11+ / 0-)

    As to Richard Wolffe I can offer far less insight. I honor Mr. Greenwald's insight into the coverage of GE/NewsCorp talks, and his reporting on Richard's other jobs. I must confess I was caught flat-footed. I do not know what the truth is; my executive producer and I have spent the last two months dealing with other things (see above) but what appears to be the truth here is certainly not what Richard told us about his non-news job.

     I am confident his commentary to this point has not been compromised - he has been an insightful analyst and a great friend to this show - but until we can clarify what else he is doing, he will not be appearing with us. I apologize for not being able to prevent this unhappy set of circumstances from developing.

    http://www.dailykos.com/...

    I'm not sure what he meant by the last line, and no one saw fit to ask him in the long thread.

    Here we are now Entertain us I feel stupid and contagious

    by Scarce on Tue Aug 04, 2009 at 08:10:32 AM PDT

  •  What am I missing? (10+ / 0-)

    I don't remember hearing Richard Wolffe take the corporate side -- I always think of him as being progressive on these issues.  I'm not saying I listen to everything he says all the time, but I don't remember any red flags.  Do we have any proof that he has been biased in favor of industry?  

    So if I'm following this correctly:  if GE lobbies for an odious telecom bill, that makes Olbermann and Maddow company shills because they work for GE?  

    The citations here about the evils of these corporations are fine -- but where in Richard Wolffe's reporting has he been a shill for these companies?  

  •  You do have to wonder... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cotterperson, Irish Patti

    ...about whether he'd even be able to hold onto his journalistic position at Newsweek (or is he already out at Newsweek?)

    "He brings a knife, you bring a gun. He takes one of yours to the hospital, you take one of his to the morgue. That's the Chicago way."--from The Untouchables

    by alaprst on Tue Aug 04, 2009 at 08:17:59 AM PDT

  •  Wolffe needs to be called out on this (4+ / 0-)

    we need unbiased news sources.

    (-9.00,-7.59) Non Illegitimi Carborundum. Hope and change can be magical things.

    by Irish Patti on Tue Aug 04, 2009 at 08:22:53 AM PDT

  •  Public Strategies Inc, headquartered in (1+ / 0-)

    Austin is where Dan Bartlett and Mark McKinnon, formerly on the G.W.Bush press office team have landed.  
    Mark McKinnon was working for McCain, but resigned when Obama got the nomination.  Another bigwig is Mark Palmer, whose interest lies in promoting democracy via public relations (propaganda) in the Central Asian Republics--also a focus of McCain who's got it into his head that the U.S. needs to be dominant in that region on the western flank of China.

    There are some elements of our elite who perceive democracy--i.e. people voting for their leaders--as an alternative route towards dictatorship.
    "Let people select their absolute rulers and they'll be more compliant."  Which is, of course, the communist Chinese model to which one must object because it's irreligious.  On the other hand, the theocratic model in Iran won't do either, because it's too religious.

    How do you tell a predator from a protector? The predator will eat you sooner rather than later.

    by hannah on Tue Aug 04, 2009 at 08:54:31 AM PDT

  •  good diary. (1+ / 0-)

    I stand pat on my idea that I cannot trust Wolffe to speak his opinion, as he might be voicing an opinion that favors his clients.  Since I cannot determine the difference, I have no further interest in him as a pundit.

    Cowards die many times before their deaths... Shakespeare, Julius Ceasar, II, 2

    by on the cusp on Tue Aug 04, 2009 at 08:59:11 AM PDT

  •  PDFs (1+ / 0-)

    When you're linking to a PDF you should say so.

  •  The National Campaign to Prevent (1+ / 0-)

    Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy is a good group; its goal is to increase the use of contraception and thus reduce unplanned pregnancies.

  •  I can't stand him (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    The Navigator

    and have never trusted him. His book is a joke, chapter after chapter of "An "anonymous" source said that an "anonymous" source stated ... blah blah blah

    Keith is doing the right thing by not allowing him on his show.

    Glenn Greenwalds latest update:

    This is a conflict so severe that it's incurable by disclosure: who wouldn't realize that you can't present paid corporate hacks as objective political commentators? But the fact that they don't even bother to disclose that just serves to illustrate how non-existent is the line between corporate interests and "news reporting" in the United States

    When will our consciences grow so tender that we will act to prevent human misery rather than avenge it? Eleanor Roosevelt

    by IndyRobin on Tue Aug 04, 2009 at 09:18:46 AM PDT

  •  Well, now we know what the extra "f" stands for. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    The Navigator

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