Sunday, August 05, 2012

"think tanks" How they work .

Top Obamacare Critic's Op-Eds Drafted by PR Firm That Reps Drug, Health Care Clients
Ed. Note. This is how top PR firms work while calling themselves research institutes.  Note below how the Broad Foundation and Michelle Rhee perform parallel  services.
The Drum Report. Mother Jones.
Meet the magic PR elves fueling Sally Pipes' prolific anti-health-care-reform punditry.
Last Tuesday, a week after the Supreme Court's ruling upholding Obamacare, Sally Pipes appeared before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee to enumerate the evils of the law. The president of the Pacific Research Institute, a San Francisco-based free-market think tank, Pipes warned members of Congress that if they didn't act quickly Americans would soon suffer the rationed care and long waits supposedly plaguing her native Canada. The country's health care system, she insisted, had killed her mother by refusing to test her for colon cancer, which she later died from.
Pipes' appearance on Capitol Hill, days before the House voted for the 33rd time to repeal Obamacare, capped a busy two weeks for the prominent critic of the president's health reform law. In just the 24 hours following the Supreme Court's Obamacare decision, Pipes churned out thousands of words of outraged copy, publishing columns in the National Review Online, the Orange County Register, the Daily Caller, Human Events, and elsewhere—all while running her small think tank and keeping up her typically frenetic schedule of media interviews. All of this cemented her status as a leading voice of Obamacare opposition. Along with a constant stream of op-eds and TV appearances in recent years, she has also authored three books since 2008 lambasting health care reform.
If Pipes seems supernaturally prolific, there's a good reason. To assist with her written output, PRI employs a DC-based ghostwriting and PR firm with drug and health care industry clients. That firm, Keybridge Communications, researches, drafts, and edits much of Pipes' published work in an arrangement that's unusual for someone at a supposedly independent think tank.
Several former PRI staffers tell Mother Jones it was well known within the organization that Pipes relied heavily on Keybridge, particularly for her books, and did far from all of her own writing. (Pipes thanks Keybridge and specific staffers there in her last three books.) In recent years, PRI has spent large amounts of money on Keybridge's services. Between 2008 and 2010, the think tank paid Keybridge nearly $1 million—$400,000 alone in 2010.

It's a significant expenditure for a nonprofit of PRI's size—the think tank's annual budget is close to $4 million—especially one that until recently had about a dozen well-compensated marketing and research staff in-house. (Last summer, experiencing financial problems, PRI laid off about a third of its employees; several others left last year without being replaced.) But unlike other scholars at PRI, research for Pipes' work wasn’t handled by PRI's in-house research team, say former employees; it's been done by Keybridge.
Keybridge's services for PRI have included drafting and editing Pipes' op-eds, including her online column for Forbes, "Piping Up." A Keybridge invoice from June 2011, obtained by Mother Jones, details more than $17,000 worth of charges to PRI for, among other things, services related to drafting four Forbes columns for Pipes, operating her Twitter feed, and pitching op-eds on behalf of Pipes and a couple other PRI staffers.
Pipes' op-eds, especially her Forbes column, often read like advertorials, frequently addressing obscure health policy topics and touting specific big companies by name. For instance, in December and January, she published a pair of Piping Up columns bashing an attempt by the federal Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to cut costs by conducting a competitive bidding auction for medical equipment. In one column, she named a medical device called "wound-vac," made by a company called Kinetic Concepts, as an example of a product that might become inaccessible due to the auction process.
Read the entire piece.
The Broad connection and Michele Rhee ( among others).
Mike Elk, Working In These Times.
Broad Foundation

Former Service Employees International Union (SEIU) President Andy Stern has long faced criticism from dissidents within his own union that he sold out workers in order to accommodate corporate America. His critics say they have been proven right by Stern's career moves since he left SEIU in 2010. In particular, they point to Stern taking two positions associated with a private equity titan as well as joining the board of an organization that is alleged to have trained school superintendents to combat teachers' unions.  
Stern recently accepted a paid position on the board of directors of the biochemical company SIGA, owned by billionaire Ron Perelman’s private equity firm MacAndrews & Forbes. Stern also recently accepted an endowed position at Columbia University as a Ronald O. Perelman Senior Fellow at the Richard Paul Richman Center for Business, Law, and Public Policy. During his tenure at SEIU, Stern faced criticsim for cutting a 2006 deal with AlliedBarton, also owned by Perelman, in which SEIU agreed to abandon an organizing drive of an estimated 10,000 security guards in exchange for employer neutrality in organizing AlliedBarton security guards elsewhere.  
Stern has also taken an unpaid position on the board of directors of the Broad Center, which critics allege is hostile to teachers’ unions. (Along with Stern, the center's board also includes former Obama economic advisor Larry Summers, former Democratic Congressman turned bank lobbyist Harold Ford Jr., and former Louisiana state Superintendent of Education Paul Pastorek, who is infamous for using the devastation from Hurricane Katrina as a means of converting public schools to charter schools and pushing voucher programs.) The Broad Center is run by the Broad Foundation, which has spent $400 million to fulfill its mission statement of “transforming urban K-12 public education through better governance, management, labor relations and competition.” The Broad Foundation was founded by billionaire Eli Broad, who believes that education reform entails taking anti-teacher union measures such as “charter schools, performance pay for teachers and accountability” for teachers.
In 2006, Broad told Vanity Fair that his vision of reform comes from “the top down." The next year saw Broad and Bill Gates team up to spend $60 million on their vision of education reform, which meant weakening teacher union contracts to allow for more flexibility. The Broad Foundation also sponsored the notorious anti-teachers'-union movie, Waiting for Superman. After the election of Barack Obama and the appointment of teachers-union foe Arne Duncan as Secretary of Education, Broad told the Wall Street Journal that his vision of education reform was possible because "the unions no longer control the education agenda of the Democratic Party.”
Many education activists charge that the Broad Center, led by former New York City Public School Chancellor Joel Klein and former Washington, D.C. Public School Chancellor Michelle Rhee, is a training ground for superintendents who “reform” education by limiting the power of teachers’ unions and promoting privatization plans through charter schools. The Broad Center trains people with no background in education to be school superintendents in six weekend courses spread over a 10-month period. The program is considered an alternative to regulations in many states that require superintendents to have years of training and experience in education.  
The Broad Superintendent Academy's website brags that “In 2011, 48 percent of all large urban superintendent openings were filled by Broad Academy graduates.” Most prominently the Broad Center trained Chicago Public Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard, whose poor labor relations motivated 89% of Chicago Teachers Union members to vote in favor of authorizing a strike.
“The chairman of the board Joel Klein is a fierce critic of teachers' unions; so is Michelle Rhee. The Broad Center is most certainly a pro-charter school organization. Eighty-eight percent of charters are non-union,” says former Assistant Secretary of Education Diane Ravitch, a leading critic of so-called "education reform." “I found it very odd to see Andy Stern on that board.”
In an interview with Working In These Times, Stern says of his unpaid role with the Broad Center that “They train leaders in education from superintendents to other people. They have no ideology in the sense of a proscribed set of policies, management leadership, or dealing with school boards. A lot of this is for people that are from education by their history. It’s for people from other walks of life like Michael Bennett and Joel Klein and many others. Their goal is to not pursue a specific ideology, but to understand all the different issues facing education.”

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