Justin Elliott writes at TPM Muckraker Wednesday April 21, 2010:
Rent-A-Front: New Group Wages Stealth Battle Against Wall Street Reform
In the last few weeks, a new player entered the financial reform fray with a $1.6 million ad buy, a respected economist on board, a blitz of opinion columns on left-leaning websites, and a message, cooked right into the group’s name — Stop Too Big To Fail — that liberals could love.
But as TPMmuckraker has looked into the group, every indication is that Stop Too Big To Fail is an astroturf operation funded by corporate interests to give the appearance of grassroots opposition to reform.
The group’s leader has a long history running a rent-a-front operation: offering up his services to large corporations who are willing to pay top dollar for a “consumers group” that will engage in stealth advocacy on behalf of industry. The group refuses to divulge its funding sources. The respected economist whose support the group touts now says he was deceived. And Stop Too Big To Fail has links to DCI Group, one of Washington’s best-known astroturf operators.
Besides all that, Stop Too Big To Fail’s real goal is clear: kill the financial reform bill.
“These guys made the KGB look like amateurs, and I used to work in Russia quite a lot,” says Simon Johnson, a former chief economist at the IMF, now at MIT, who is a prominent advocate of breaking up the big banks.
Stop Too Big To Fail reached out to Simon Johnson earlier this month to participate in a media conference call purportedly on the topic of breaking up large banks. The theme was “protecting small investors.” Johnson agreed to be on the call and outlined his views as usual, but he also noticed something seemed off. “I thought they seemed a little different from the other people I talked to on these issues.”
Stop Too Big To Fail is now featuring Simon Johnson’s picture prominently on the landing page of their website — and he is angry.
DCI Group is an American lobbying and public relations firm. Its client list includes some of the largest US corporations, including several Dow Jones Industrial companies. Services include communication campaigns to solicit public action on legislative issues, web sites to present a client’s position, and management of campaign databases.
The DCI Leadership page lists six people as the leadership of DCI, each of whom has worked in some official capacity the Republican party.
- Tom Synhorst, Chairman – worked for Republican senators for sixteen years and held key roles in the political floor operations of the 1996 and 2000 Republican conventions, as well as being an advisor to Bush-Cheney campaign of 2000.
- Douglas M. Goodyear, CEO – managed a Republican Senate campaign and was Political Director of the Colorado Republican Party from 1985 to 1987.
- Jim Murphy, President – worked on Capitol Hill for four years for former U.S. Senator Gordon Humphrey (R-NH), held senior positions in Bob Dole’s 1988 and 1996 presidential campaigns, managed floor operations at the last three National Republican Conventions, [and] served two years on the staff of the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
- Doug Davenport, founding partner.
Of the other three partners, one is current chairman of the Republican Unity Coalition, another was Coalitions Director for the Dole/Kemp Presidential Campaign in 1996 and Deputy Director and Field Representative of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, and spent nine years doing PR for a major tobacco company, and the last one was staff of the 2000 Republican National Convention and serving as Deputy Political Director of the 1996 Republican National Convention. He has served on the political staff of Republican Presidential candidate and US Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole, and in the re-election campaign of George H. W. Bush. No one in DCI’s leadership has any ties to Democrats, Libertarians, or Independents.
Other notable DCI Group employee include James Tobin, convicted in 2005 for his role in the 2002 New Hampshire Senate election phone jamming scandal, along with GOP activists Brian McCabe and Chris LaCivita.