Stunning PR Revelations, Politics, Obama, and APCO Worldwide

Whether out of naivety, busyness, or downright ignorance, sometimes we fail to see the bigger picture. A revealing article today on the Huffington Post pretty much opened my naive eyes to an age old evil – money being the root of it all. President Obama, like him or not, is addressing some of the most difficult problems any standing president has ever met with, not the least of which is his battle for health care reform. We frankly do not have the resources to go all in depth as to some of the “opponents” of his reform attempts, so for once I am going to be rather blunt about a subject. Special interests and their henchmen have just about squashed the little man, and now they are poised to do some more mashing.

We did several articles early on about massive PR companies, their branding, Web insertion and approaches to what we all want to think is “new age” communication. Well, as much as we would like to think there is a different ball game going on, there is not. I think Huffington has done a great job of laying the insurance debacle out for readers, and the purpose of this article is to simply call attention to their much more in depth version, and to “brand” it as “The last straw on the broken backs of the masses – the money monger cartel and their ghouls.”

We Are Who We Associate With

I already labeled Margery Kraus as a steely eyed expert in all things Washington business, but I honestly had no idea that her firm pretty much fills its coffers from the well to dos virtual war on “the people”, or powerful corporations with absolutely no caring for the little man. Yes, this is a rant. But one that everyone mashed by corporate greed should be chiming in for. The Huffington article does not hammer on APCO or any of the other “mouth pieces” for private insurance, perhaps they are too refined or too busy like us to take up that gauntlet. i suppose everyone but me knows that APCO is perhaps the world’s greatest lobbying firm, and now we see in this battle some of their representatives brought to the forefront. I am taking specific aim at Donald W. Riegle Jr, APCO’s chairman of its government relations team. Just so those of you as dense as me know, Riegel was also a U.S. Senator who served as Chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, among other key posts. Some might say; “So, why is that a big deal?” Well, the APCO makes no bones about presenting people who evidence their affiliations, Riegel, and others there are thick as thieves with every industry one can imagine, many of which are not exactly out to even feed cake to the needy.

Evil By Association

Health care companies, pharmaceutical companies, and a myriad of other special interests make trillions of dollars off of one thing, human suffering. APCO, in its bag of tricks expertly orchestrated across the political and business landscapes, pretty much tells me whose side they are on. Oversimplification is not really my forte, but just one case study from the APCO website pretty much points the proverbial finger at the PR firm with regard to what they are about doing. I will insert the full test of just one case study for the reader’s scrutiny, but I assure you that there are many more you can read. Of course these are all carefully crafted so as to not be alarming, but if looked at with open eyes, they are pretty damning in themselves. If there is a response to this article, just watch, it will be well scripted and expertly guided, watch.

“When the IFPMA came to APCO, it faced daunting challenges. The group had recently emerged from a bruising legal battle in South Africa over generic drugs – an issue that captured the media spotlight and led to highly emotional criticism of the industry. The debate over generics merged with the equally emotional issues of globalization and the power of multinationals to bring the industry’s reputation under nearly constant attack. At the same time, the WTO was preparing for its Ministerial Conference in Doha and a number of countries were arguing that rules on intellectual property rights should be relaxed to allow countries to deal with public health crises. The pharmaceutical industry faced a disastrous prospect – that changes to intellectual property rights would seriously undermine patents and massively devalue their investment in new drugs.”

So what does all that gibberish mean? Well, it means that big drug companies do not want their profits cut into by companies prepared to manufacture AIDs drugs at a more reasonable cost. I wont even do into the tens of thousands of dollars it costs for poor people in Africa and elsewhere to obtain these drugs. Even more damning in my mind, is the posted solution by APCO for this situation, which reveals fairly arrogantly their “inside” political influence in the halls of decision making. This will have a great detrimental effect on the outcome of health care reform too, if my guess is right.

APCO’s solutions to prevent any scenario where generic manufacturers might sop up Aids drug monies.

  • Anticipating the strategies of the key players in the debate – from the most vocal to the nearly invisible – and analyzing the impact they might have on the IFPMA’s position and strategies.
  • Marshalling a set of compelling arguments which, in the short term, would make revision of the TRIPs agreement unnecessary, or even undesirable, and, in the medium term, begin to shift the debate on HIV/AIDS to reflect the complexities of the real world.
  • Identifying the most influential policy-makers who would determine the outcome of the WTO negotiations, as well as a broader audience of key opinion-leaders who would help shape the debate on HIV/AIDS, poverty and development.
  • Communicating the IFPMA’s core arguments to priority audiences in a convincing manner.
  • Demonstrating that the IFPMA was ready and willing to help address the healthcare challenge facing developing countries, while maintaining key aspects of the TRIPs agreement.

Why is this so alarming? Well, to be honest I always assumed the best out of people. The APCO people who have contacted us before were always kind and professional, and I had a much better opinion (without doing my homework I must admit) of who and what Kraus’ company was representing. Please understand that huge companies run on the grease of money, and we all know that, but systematically, methodically undermining efforts that will save lives? “Identifying the most influential policy-makers who would determine the outcome”, is the “banner” ad in this case study for still more corporate hoodlums to flock to APCO’s banner I suppose. Finally, the essence of evil is revealed with APCO’s proud proclamation. which follows:

“APCO’s ability to work at senior levels of the international policy community and influence policy outcomes led to a successful defense of the intellectual property rights agreement at the WTO Ministerial Conference. The text was not re-opened.”

“Case closed, end of story, we kept those drug prices up there so you pill pushers would not lose a penny, your invoice to follow.” I would not be going out on a limb if I simply stated that people died because of APCO’s effectiveness here. At least logic tells us that someone in Africa, who could not afford the original AIDS medications, may have succumbed to the disease prematurely – probably thousands have. Now, back to President Obama’s effort to provide adequate health care for millions of Americans.

Smoke and Mirrors

Make no mistake about it, APCO’s people are sharp. For every one proclamation of success on one end of the ideological spectrum, there are three dealing at the other end where people supposedly benefit form products or services. In a sort of “shell game” of perception, the firm seems almost dedicated to trade one ideal for the other. But in my opinion, these seemingly humanitarian efforts could be far outweighed by the more economically impactful instances like national health care, and some of the drug company instances like the one in point.

Regardless of the efficacy of my opinions, a basic concept pretty much applies to APCO and all the other firms aligned with what the average person might call “the wrong entities”, or values. In the case of having Donald W. Riegle Jr. wear two hats, that should be a sort of no-brainer in order to determine who APCO is for, he is also a director at Wellpoint, the second largest private insurance entity fighting Obama’s plan, any plan that would help uninsured Americans. You know, money making the world go around is no big secret to anyone. For APCO and their likes, the selling out in favor of powerful interest groups is no overnight revelation. For the reader who wants to go “all conspiratorial” on APCO, Muckety provides a handy dandy road-map to some of their connections.

A World of Disappointment

Why all the fuss about iterating the obvious? I am disappointed. Appalled to find out that a PR firm with so much going for it, so many resources, and the ability to help enact great positive change, so entrenched with the side of the aisle that would milk human beings literally dry if they could get by with it. Forget that big drug companies often develop medications with taxpayer money and then sell the same remedies for a huge profit, skip APCO or any other PR firms possible ties with the same Wall Street carrion that sucked our economy dry, take no notice of the Machiavellian game afoot. Proclaiming a company representative as the second coming, while all the while his agenda is fairly clear cut in my opinion, just boils my blood.

The Good Old Internet

APCO and other companies really need to realize something. With the advent of Internet technology, and Google’s ability to scour every corner of the Web, even little people like us have unparalleled capability to discover things, anything. I am not saying I have provided incontrovertible proof that insurance companies have everything including APCO in their pocket, but in my opinion they have a lot more than them on their hip. As for APCO, and in my opinion of the moment, I hope they take this article really to heart. People in power have an obligation, a sometimes written or spoken one, but more often an idealogical one only. That is, people blessed with good fortune and ability should always look out for those less fortunate. If anyone, for any reason, ever wonders why the world is in such a sad shape, it is certainly not because of the efforts of the hapless worker bee. That is all I have to say about that for the moment. In my spare time, which I have none of, I think I will delve into the connections and dollars that have “voted” in place of what “we the people” needed or wanted.

If the reader has the time and inclination, just browse the list of advisers that APCO has on their website. Then I would suggest looking over a client list to see which round pegs go in which holes. Of course we all know that all politicians and public servants are out there for us right? Right. Perhaps a little Googling into Stillwater Mining Company, Vladimir Potanin, and former director of that company Donald W. Riegle Jr, might reveal some interesting connections too, I just do not have the time. As Peter Dreier so skillfully pointed out in his piece at the Huffington; “health care costs are the nation’s number one cause of personal bankruptcies.” That’s just the money side as far as real people are concerned. Bravo Dreier! Is APCO Worldwide evil? No more than so many others out there in my opinion, but I sure would have rather run across another company representing the legal drug czars and insurance salesmen.

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