Excerpt of Deadly Spin by Wendell Potter
(Page 3 of 7)
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Much of McInturff's work has been devoted to what he describes
as "'combat message development,' not simply monitoring public opinion,
but developing messages to defend and promote client interests
on complex public policy issues."
McInturff began his presentation by making it clear - and showing
the evidence - that Americans were rapidly losing confidence in
the private health insurance market. His first slide showed that there
had been a significant shift in recent years and that a majority of
people, according to his polls, were now saying the government should
do more to solve the many problems that plagued the American health
care system. Even more troublesome, a fast-growing percentage also
embraced the idea that a government-run, publicly funded health care
system - like the ones Moore portrayed in Sicko - should be implemented
in the United States.
As a result of this trend and in anticipation of the first national
debate on reforming the health care system since insurers had played
a key role in killing the Clinton reform plan, AHIP had recently restructured
its Strategic Communications Committee to include only
CEOs. It had originally been made up of member companies' top PR
people, and I had served on the committee as CIGNA's representative,
but AHIP's board reasoned that the committee's recommendations
would have greater clout throughout the industry if CEOs were perceived
to have created them. (The PR chiefs, including me and my
peers from the other companies that would be attending the second
Philadelphia meeting, now comprised the Strategic Communications
Also traveling to Philadelphia for the meeting were AHIP's Mike
Tuffin and Robert Schooling, se nior vice president of the Washingtonbased
PR firm APCO Worldwide. Tuffin and Schooling would be the
main presenters of the industry's strategy against Sicko.
APCO was founded in 1984 by one of Washington's biggest law
firms, Arnold & Porter, which is well known for its representation of
the tobacco industry. From one office in Washington, APCO has grown
into an international operation with offices in twenty- nine locations
throughout North America, Eu rope, Asia, and Africa. On its Web site,
APCO has referred to itself as "a global communications consultancy"
specializing in "influencing decision-makers and shaping public opinion
by crafting compelling messages and recruiting effective allies."
One of the deceptive practices of which APCO has a long history
is setting up and running front groups for its clients. In 1993, Philip
Morris hired APCO to or ga nize a front group called the Advancement
of Sound Science Co ali tion in response to the U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency's ruling that secondhand tobacco smoke was a
carcinogen. Philip Morris also hired APCO to manage what it called a
"massive national effort aimed at altering the American judicial system
to be more hostile toward product liability suits" and to build
a co ali tion to advocate for tort reform. According to the Center for
Media and Democracy, the tobacco industry paid APCO almost a
million dollars in 1995 to implement behind-the-scenes tort reform
efforts and specifically to create chapters of "grassroots" citizens'
groups called Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse.
A 1995 APCO pamphlet described how the firm helped corporations
advance their goals by infl uencing lawmakers, drafting legislation
and regulations, and creating business co ali tions tailored to specific issues:
"We [APCO] use the most effective, up-to-date technology and
campaign tactics to help you achieve your legislative and regulatory
goals... [We have] built numerous national and state coalitions on a
variety of issues including the environment, science, energy, trade, intellectual
property, education, tort reform and health care... [We]
apply tactics usually reserved for po liti cal campaigns to target audiences
and recruit third-party advocates. Our staff has the political field
experience and has written the direct mail, managed the telephones,
crafted the tele vi sion commercials and trained the grassroots volunteers.
We apply these hard-learned skills and tactics to mobilize hundreds,
even thousands, of constituents. Or, when just the 'grasstops' are
needed, we recruit just a few of a target's key friends or contributors to
join us. No matter the issue, we bring together coalitions that are credible,
persuasive and cost-effective."
Excerpted from Deadly Spin
by Wendell Potter. Copyright © 2010 by Wendell Potter.
Excerpted by permission of Bloomsbury. All rights
reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted
without permission in writing from the publisher.