In the United States, corporations have effectively highjacked civil society by marinating the non-profits in money. Combined with $1billion spent on out of control lobbying each year, citizens have almost no protection from predatory corporate practices. The same scene is set to emerge in post Brexit Britain, where the disintegration of public interest regulation with what amounts to a corporate coup d’état will be executed with similar precision.
Leading civil rights groups are now heavily bankrolled by corporations in an unlikely partnership that aims to kill real evidenced or fact based information in areas of public interest such as climate change and health.
Chris Hedges, the Pulitzer Prize-winning American journalist and Princeton Professor, makes some stunning conclusions from his interview with Russell Mokhiber, editor of Corporate Crime Reporter on his show ‘On Contact‘ at RT.com.
For instance, the American Heart Association accepts large donations from the beef industry and corporations like Dominoes Pizza. The American Diabetes Association (ADA) which claims as its mission statement: “we lead the fight against the deadly consequences of diabetes and fight for those affected by diabetes” is underwritten by by Coca-Cola, Cadbury-Schweppes, Hershey’s Chocolate and Oscar Meyer processed meats – that specialises in the manufacture of hot dogs, sausages and bacon. It is clear what the strategy was. The ADA wouldn’t come out against these companies for what they produce and how they peddle it, instead focusing on calories consumed and lack of exercise as the problem, as if all of the misleading advertising, especially to kids, doesn’t have an impact.
Another example is the Sierra Club – an environmental organisation in the United States that was founded in 1892, in San Francisco, California, by the Scottish-American preservationist John Muir. It’s advertising line is “Explore, enjoy and protect the planet.” It is America’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organisation with three million members and supporters. The RT interview goes on to say that the fracking industry donated $25 million to the Sierra Club, who does not openly disclose who their corporate donors are. Why would the fracking industry with its well known environment destroying practices invest that much money in the biggest mouthpiece of environmental activism?
In the meantime, the animal industry such as beef farmers and processed meat manufacturers have all but completely silenced the food/health civil society non-profits of America that were acting in the public interest, through their donations and sponsorships. According to Open Secrets, last year, agribusiness spent an eye-watering $128 million on lobbying government alone.
Even the World Wildlife Fund gets sponsorship from the meat industry. It notched up $13million in one year and due to public criticism it no longer discloses who or how much it now gets from such corporate donors. Indeed, the revelation of this news was actually (pandaleaks) banned in Britain as WWF took out injunctions to stop publication of its awkward revenue stream.
And the real revelation here is that under a law called the ‘Patriot Act’ of 2001, which has been updated several times in the US, it now classifies the publishing of information that could damage the profits of the meat industry an act of terrorism.
To all intents, public interest and consumer groups across America now represent an arm of the corporate public relations and lobbying businesses. Other nefarious examples of public information manipulation include climate denial non-profits disguised to look like activism and campaigning but who are actually funded by the fossil fuel industry.
The clear purpose of corporate donations is to increase budget spending for the non-profit and then threaten to withdraw it if it speaks against the donor industry or organisation.
Is this a problem in the UK?
Transparency International, founded in 1993 are based in Berlin, Germany. Its nonprofit purpose is to take action to combat corruption and prevent criminal activities arising from corruption all over the world. They have over 100 affiliate countries. The US branch was closed down this year because it was found that the board of directors in the US office were dominated by lawyers from big corporations who were defending them against corruption lawsuits.
According to Hedges, the Transparency International head office in Berlin has also been implicated in its own scandal of accepting money from corporations convicted of bribery.
The London office whose bankers are HSBC, get donations from the likes of Shell BV and GlaxoSmithKline with other investors in the business forum via a ‘Premium Membership’ costing up to £20,000 each that includes Barclays plc, Lloyds Bank and RBS. Others included (either now or previously) are British American Tobacco (BAT) and Price Waterhouse Coopers (PwC). BAT ended up suing PwC for $1billion for its involvement in the promotion of tax avoidance “on an industrial scale.” PwC’s accountants were also involved in the Tesco scandal – after a whistleblower at the supermarket revealed profits had been over-inflated for years.
The long list of criminality conducted by the likes of RBS, Lloyds Banking Group and HSBC are now legendary and needs no explanation.
Perhaps it should not be of much a surprise to learn that a significant donor to Berlin based TI is, or was, Britain’s Dept for International Development. One scandal of many involving the DfID was giving money to the government of Tanzania, whose officials then siphoned off over $122million facilitated by ‘foreign (British) bankers’ which then found itself in safe (British) offshore tax havens. In addition, Global Witness has stated that the
“DfID currently spends around £150 million [$184 million] in aid contributions [annually] in Democratic Republic of Congo, yet $1.36 billion in mining revenues were lost via British tax havens and London-listed companies.”
Full Fact the fact-checking charity in the UK is developing a system of live politically based fact-checking with $500,000 (£380,000) of funding from charitable foundations backed by two billionaires: one being the the Hungarian-born investor George Soros. Full Fact are also backed with donations from Google, Facebook, and City of London Corporation – who between them have a long list of fines for corruption, bribery and/or illegal practices. The City of London Corporation in the ‘square mile’, described as London’s ‘Rotten Borough‘ facilitates some of the biggest financial crimes the world has ever witnessed.
Soros was fined in 2002 by the French government for insider trading and in 2008 for stock manipulation, was fined $2.5million in 2010 for attempting it to bring down a European bank. US based newspaper The Daily Caller accused a Soros-funded militant group to be present at the recent G20 Protests in Hamberg with financial sponsors being the Soros-funded Alliance for Global Justice. This event ended with €12 million of damage to Hamburg and several hundred injured police officers. Soros has also been accused of using his Open Society Foundation and U.S. diplomatic connections to interfere with the government of Macedonia, and is currently being sued for $10billion for meddling in African politics for his own personal gain.
Wikimedia Foundation, which has Wikipedia in its information stable is funded by such names as Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, Chevron and Exxon Mobil to name just a few of the companies who have received some of the biggest fines for their criminal activity over decades.
Investing £$millions by highjacking public interest non-profits and charities is not the only way of getting a deceitful message across to the masses. In Britain today, a corporate coup d’état at the heart of government is secretly destroying civil society protections built up over the generations.
In an irony worthy of comedy series ‘Yes Minster’ corporations such as PepsiCo, Mars and Diageo were put at the heart of writing government policy on obesity, alcohol and diet-related disease almost as soon as the Conservative’s arrived in office in 2010. Civil Society was not represented.
Alcohol policy was chaired by the head for the lobby group of the Wine and Spirit Trade Association. Just as ludicrous was the tackling of the nation’s diet and health related problems which included the mouthpieces of the processed food manufacturers, fast food companies, and even Compass, the catering company famously derided by Jamie Oliver for its turkey twizzlers on school menus. The Guardian wrote an article that reported how a government public policy team was set up to tackle calories in food and drink which was chaired by PepsiCo, owner of Walkers crisps. The nation’s policy on physical activity was chaired by the Fitness Industry Association, which is the lobby group for private gyms and personal trainers. The list is breathtakingly shameless.
One can now understand why, for instance, that minimum pricing on alcohol was not implemented years ago, which Public Health England stated was because of a lack of evidence. It was indeed such a political issue that alcohol pricing was a manifesto pledge, but subsequently U-turned on. This was irrespective of the evidence presented by an extensive Lancet report and research from Sheffield University in which their report said “More working years are lost to alcohol than the 10 most frequent cancer types combined.” Both were rejected without comment.
The trouble now is that Britain has no umbrella defence system such as the European Union to stop this corporate coup d’état of government derived public policy. Not that the EU is by any means clean from corruption of course. In the meantime, it is clear, with people like Liam Fox who is Secretary of State for International Trade and President of the Board of Trade, Britain’s trade deals will be written by the corporations who intend to pillage the nation as they have already so successfully done in the USA.
Let’s not forget that in 1997, Liam Fox (famous for being one of the biggest stars at the centre of the ‘expenses scandal’) founded a Think Tank called Atlantic Bridge under the patronage of Margaret Thatcher.
It boasts a list of past directors, or “Advisory Council” members that included the likes of Michael Gove, George Osborne, William Hague, Boris Johnson, Norman Tebbit, Malcom Rifkind and Chris Grayling. All are found clustered around the more extreme right hand of British politics, many of whom have direct influence in the internal political struggle for Britain’s outcome of international trade and Brexit negotiations. It’s UK executive director was Adam Werrity who caused Liam Fox’s forced resignation as Defence Secretary after his …. ‘conflict of interest’ scandal!
Atlantic Bridge was also made up from the far Right Tea Party and Republican party in the USA. This is a group that is profoundly opposed to taxpayer functions like the NHS, are pro-austerity, pro-nativism, protectionist, full of nationalists and don’t like foreigners, except when they are dropping bombs on them. Atlantic Bridge was also in a partnership program with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a free-market organisation with extensive links to American State Legislators and corporate and industrial groups. These are the famed and very dangerous neocons who are looking for full confrontation with North Korea, Russia and China and caused the world order to disintegrate by attacking the Middle East. These same people are courting senior British Tory MP’s in advance of the rush to cash in on a less regulated UK Plc after Brexit.
Is it any wonder that a number of American billionaires, some listed above, with transnational interests, were able to illegally swing Britain’s EU referendum, get a Brexit result, in order to infect the public policy protection systems of the sixth largest trading nation on earth – to be ‘liberated’ and then plundered.
You can see where this is going.
Featured image is from the author.