Anatomy Of A Smear Campaign
Editors’ Note: This is the second of a three-part series on how some politicians and their special interest supporters are attempting to intimidate, discredit and destroy nonprofits that oppose them through the misuse of fundraising regulations. Here’s part one: BEWARE: Oklahoma’s Mini-Nixon.
A sinister move is now underway by Oklahoma’s attorney general and his special interest allies to use the state’s fundraising regulations in an effort to intimidate or silence the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and its millions of members and supporters.
Under the guise of ‘consumer protection’ Attorney General Scott Pruitt has now issued a set of ‘Investigative Demands’ designed to smear one of America’s most effective and respected nonprofits in an effort to please and appease his political backers.
These insidious tactics deserve highlighting because we believe they will be used with increasing frequency elsewhere in the nation. Not only against the Humane Society, but against other groups whose agenda threatens the status quo and powerful special interests.
First some context for what’s unfolding.
In Oklahoma alone, 2.4 million hogs, 332,000 beef cattle, 23.7 million broiler chickens, 614,000 egg-laying hens and nearly 29,000 dairy cows can be found on factory farms. The 1.1 million hogs in one Oklahoma county alone produce as much untreated manure as the total sewage from the New York City metro area.
We’re not talking about small family farms with their free-range chickens and grazing cattle. We’re talking massive, jam-packed cruel and environmentally dangerous pens, feedlots and breeding crate operations that frequently ignore — and just as frequently fight against — the proper treatment of animals and the environment.
Factory farming is BIG business.
For years HSUS has been confronting the multi-billion dollar farming conglomerates and other animal abusers around the US, including Oklahoma, in an effort to pass laws and regulations that provide for more humane treatment of farm animals and protect the environment.
Over the years HSUS has faced two particularly zealous opponents — the Farm Bureau, including its state operation, the Oklahoma Farm Bureau, and an industry-backed outside PR group specializing in deceptive media campaigns, called The Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF).
When it comes to battling animal welfare and environmental reforms, no tactic seems off limits to the Oklahoma Farm Bureau.
- In 2005 they attempted through legislation to handcuff the then-Attorney General from taking action against corporate farm pollution of the state’s lakes and streams. (Oklahoma livestock produces as much untreated manure as 89 million people — 24 times the Oklahoma population.) The Farm Bureau lost narrowly.
- Over the past decade they’ve lost other significant battles to HSUS. In 2002 the Oklahoma Farm Bureau fought unsuccessfully to defeat a ballot initiative outlawing cockfighting. Importantly, on that same ballot they also lost a referendum that set a prohibitively high signature requirement for any animal protection initiatives that might be proposed in the future.
- In 2013 the Farm Bureau led a successful fight to repeal Oklahoma’s ban on the slaughter of horses for human consumption. However, HSUS trumped that special interest victory by passing a rider in the U.S. Congress to forbid funding for Department of Agriculture inspections of horse slaughtering plants.
Enter Attorney General Scott Pruitt.
Earlier this year, two clean water advocacy groups called on the Attorney General to investigate and issue an opinion about a potential conflict of interest over the service of the President of the Oklahoma Farm Bureau also as Vice-Chair of the state Water Resources Board.
(Fearful of alienating his powerful political ally in his coming bid for governor, General Pruitt has since punted and passed the case on to the state Ethics Committee.)
To further advance his political ambitions — and perhaps to provide an effective smokescreen for the Water Resources Board issue — he issued a consumer alert against the Humane Society of the United States.
‘Coincidentally’, the alert came just hours before the Center for Consumer Freedom, the second major HSUS opponent we mentioned earlier, launched a week-long anti-HSUS campaign in the state.
The Center’s campaign praised the Attorney General stating: “The Humane Society of the United States deceives donors with tear-jerking and manipulative images of dogs and cats, and then funnels to money to push a radical animal liberation agenda aimed at attacking farmers.”
The smear campaign — a one-two punch delivered by the Farm Bureau and the Center for Consumer Freedom with Scott Pruitt as grandstanding mouthpiece — was on.
Of course, these folks don’t bother to report the facts. Facts they could easily find on the HSUS website. Facts such as HSUS provides direct, hands-on care and services each year to more than 100,000 animals in the US and around the world — more than any other animal welfare group.
Of course, it’s not their concern for the shelter of dogs and cats they care about. Clearly it’s HSUS’ effective advocacy they fear. And so they continue to pile on with attempts at disinformation and diversion. Late last month the Oklahoma Farm Bureau featured an interview with the Attorney general highlighting the totally irrelevant case of the New York Attorney General’s $25 million fine in the Disabled Veterans National Foundation/Quadriga Arts case.
“I’ve been in contact with other state Attorneys General. We have talked about this on a national basis. There may be other states that join soon,” he said, adding there is nothing ‘concrete’ about involvement from other states at this time.”
Of course all of this — including the AG’s issuing of threatening sounding, subpoena-like ‘Investigative Demands’ — is designed to cast aspersions, confuse the public, and scare donors.
But most of all, these tactics are designed to take the spotlight away from the real concern at hand: the need to reform the abusive practices of the factory farms and the right of nonprofit movements in our democracy to operate free of government threats and coercion.
Roger and Tom
P.S. Tomorrow we’ll introduce you to Richard Berman, the man behind the Center for Consumer Freedom and a web of nonprofit entities supported by corporate interests and designed to derail the efforts of legitimate citizens groups like HSUS. The man CBS’ 60 Minutes called “Dr. Evil”.