We've already spoken
at some length about 'astroturf' organizing. Let's now discuss one of the great unspoken scandals of DC and the newspaper world: Op-Ed payola.
What do I mean? Far more Op-Eds than you realize are bought and paid for. I don't mean by scholar X whose work is funded by corporation Y or union Z. That may be a problem, but that's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about OpEds which are produced in lobbying chop-shops.
First they're written up by people at the lobbying firm. Then the lobbying firm finds some pliable economist, or scientist, ex-congressman or ex-diplomat and offers them, say, $1000 to sign their name to it. Once they get someone to bite they send it off to the papers.
I've talked to folks who ply at this enterprise and it's pretty common. From what I've been told it's very hard, if not impossible, to pull this off with most of the premium dailies. But many regional papers apparently either don't know about this or don't care. And that's where these bought and paid for pieces get placed.
This is one of the fun topics you'll see mentioned in installment two of Great Moments in Foreign Agency. Today we have the Zaire Program 1991, which DC foreign lobbying shop van Kloberg & Associates prepared for then-Zairian dictator Mobutu. (Zaire is now The Democratic Republic of the Congo.)
Give the whole dossier a look. But give particular attention to the points highlighted with red arrows.