New details on hyped Tomahawk missile reveal holes in Raytheon’s message
By Gin Armstrong  •  Feb 05, 2014 at 16:55 EST

In September PAI released a report detailing the defense industry ties of commentators and think tanks who were active in debating intervention in Syria, including former national security adviser, Stephen Hadley. We found that Hadley, now a director at Raytheon, one of the US’s largest defense contractors and the manufacturer of the popular Tomahawk cruise missile, did not disclose his industry ties when making the media rounds on CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, and Bloomberg TV, as an expert on defense and security.

During our investigation we noticed the repetitive language used to describe Raytheon’s Tomahawk cruise missile, which was widely accepted as the most popular choice of armament for such an engagement. Repeatedly characterized as smart, precise, and low-damage (meaning fewer innocent casualties), the Tomahawk is painted as both sophisticated and effective. This observation sparked a quick post on the troubled history of the Tomahawk, Raytheon’s investment in lobbying congress, and the media’s odd fascination with the weapon, and a short video of commentators discussing engagement tactics and specifically, the Tomahawk cruise missile. It is worth noting how this weapon’s characteristics inspire strikingly blithe commentary from former officials who seem to forget that the Tomahawk is a weapon, not something you “scatter around” like confetti.

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Join a LittleSis training!
By Whitney Yax  •  Jan 30, 2014 at 12:54 EST

Look familiar? You can now join a free online training to get over the hump and start using LittleSis for your power research!

The real value of LittleSis is that anyone can edit and add data to keep the information accurate, current, and most importantly, growing. The more that our community of researchers, journalists, academics, activists, and concerned citizens add their research to LittleSis, the more we can build a collective understanding of the networks of power that shape public policy in our country. Contact us to join a training.

Here are five things LittleSis can help you with that we’ll cover in the training:

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Event horizon: Power networks in NYT’s “Planet Hillary”
By Gin Armstrong  •  Jan 28, 2014 at 15:03 EST

On Sunday the New York Times posted a fascinating piece of power research on Hillary Clinton’s ever-expanding sphere of connections within her personal and political networks. Author Amy Chozick compared Clinton’s world to Obama’s more insular model:

Unlike Barack Obama, who will leave the White House with more or less the same handful of friends he came in with, the Clintons occupy their own unique and formidable and often exhausting place in American politics. Over the decades, they’ve operated like an Arkansas tumbleweed, collecting friends and devotees from Bill Clinton’s kindergarten class to Yale Law School to Little Rock to the White House to the Senate and beyond. James Carville has compared the Clinton world, perhaps not so originally, to an onion (it’s safest, he has said, to exist in the third or fourth layer), while other Clinton staff members, past and present, have an endless litany of other metaphors to make sense of it. One former aide told me that working for the Clintons is like staying at the Hotel California (“You can check out, but you can never leave”); another person compared it to prison (“Not everyone can adjust to life on the outside”).

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“Sustainable” shale center appoints new director
By Rob Galbraith  •  Jan 27, 2014 at 13:06 EST

Last week, the Center for Sustainable Shale Development announced it had hired Susan Packard LeGros, a Philadelphia-area environmental attorney, as its executive director. LeGros is replacing interim director Andrew Place, who is also the head of public policy research for Pittsburgh gas driller EQT Corporation.

As we discussed in our report “Big Green Fracking Machine,” though CSSD bills itself as an “unprecedented collaboration” between the drilling industry and environmental groups “to support continuous improvement and innovative practices through performance standards and third-party certification,” the group is dominated by oil and gas interests and appears to be less an independent certifier than a greenwash effort to improve the natural gas industry’s public image. LeGros is an apt complement to CSSD’s model. She comes to the Center from Stevens & Lee, a law firm with several offices in the Mid-Atlantic region that lists her as a contact for its oil and gas practice. LeGros is also a former director of the Pennsylvania Environmental Council, an environmental group whose friendly ties to the gas industry we detailed on this blog last year.

Along with its announcement of LeGros’s hiring, CSSD announced that it will begin certifying gas drillers as “sustainable” this year, though the third party auditor will be Bureau Veritas rather than the previously reported ICF International. After the controversy surrounding CSSD board member and now former Heinz Endowments President Bobby Vagt‘s failure to disclose his board position on pipeline company Kinder Morgan, the involvement of one of CSSD’s main fiscal sponsors became questionable. This week’s announcements signal that, with or without the involvement of the Heinz Endowments, the show will go on at the Center for Sustainable Shale Development.

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What it takes to get on CNBC’s power list
By Gin Armstrong  •  Jan 24, 2014 at 12:37 EST

CNBC is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year and kicking off the yearlong fête with a viewer-generated “definitive” ranking of those who “have had the greatest influence, sparked the biggest changes and created the most disruption in business over the past quarter century.” According to a press release, the pool of contenders were chosen based on the following criteria:

  • A person must have been more than a good CEO. He/she should have altered business, commerce, management or human behavior—in other words, the person should have been responsible for ushering in meaningful change, with business being the primary sphere of influence.
  • A person does not need to be alive, and his/her early work may have predated 1989, but his/her transformative impact should be greatest during the past 25 years.
  • The pool of candidates should be diverse, reflecting different geographies and sectors.

The selection of 200 nominees was compiled by CNBC’s own “elite advisory board,” which included Paul Steiger, former Wall Street Journal managing editor and ProPublica founding editor. The list will be whittled down to just 25 through online voting. Former Forbes executive editor Paul Maidment will serve as an editor on the project.

It is quite the list. There is the questionable yet inevitable inclusion of J.P. Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon, who recently led his company through record-breaking settlements with the Department of Justice, and more curious choices such as recently indicted SAC founder Steven Cohen (fined $1.8 billion for insider trading), former Enron CEO Ken Lay (found guilty for conspiracy and fraud), former Tyco CEO Dennis Kozlowski (recently released on parole), and disgraced WorldCom CEO Bernie Ebbers (currently serving a 25 year sentence).

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The Port Authority’s split board and Chris Christie’s downfall
By Kevin Connor  •  Jan 23, 2014 at 12:59 EST

The “Bridgegate” scandal has shone a spotlight on the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the public authority responsible for the George Washington Bridge lane closures. Christie political appointees at the Port Authority ordered the closures, apparently as an act of political retribution; now the Daily Beast is referring to the organization as Christie’s Crony Clubhouse and the Washington Post is telling readers “how patronage politics ate the Port Authority.”

Notably, the Port Authority is governed by a split board – 6 members are appointed by the governor of New York, 6 by the governor of New Jersey. The executive director, Patrick Foye, was appointed by Cuomo; his deputy was appointed by Christie (the current deputy is Deborah Gramiccioni; the previous deputy, Bill Baroni, resigned in December over his role in the scandal). Christie had been more aggressive than Cuomo in getting his people appointed to positions at the Port Authority, according to Port Authority historian Jameson Doig. But there is no question that the Port Authority was not under the exclusive control of the Christie gang, and it seems strange that his people were acting like it was.

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Ex-Heinz Endowments president doubles down on oil and gas ties, immediately flunks SEC disclosure test
By Kevin Connor  •  Jan 17, 2014 at 13:33 EST

The departing Heinz Endowments president, Robert Vagt, is doubling down on his oil and gas industry ties and joining Rice Energy, a natural gas production company, as chairman.

Vagt‘s oil and gas ties came under scrutiny last year when we released a report on the Center for Sustainable Shale Development (CSSD), a group hailed in the press as an unlikely partnership between environmental groups and industry. We exposed CSSD as a greenwash, dominated by oil and gas industry insiders — even on the “environmental” side of the equation. The report highlighted the fact that Vagt, at that point the chair of CSSD, is a board member and major shareholder in gas pipeline company Kinder Morgan. His role at Kinder Morgan went unnoted anywhere in the press, on CSSD’s website, or in his Heinz bio. The conflict of interest and Heinz’s involvement in CSSD more generally appears to have led to turmoil at the foundation and Vagt’s resignation as president.

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Business group opposing public campaign finance, Unshackle Upstate, is a big political spender
By Rob Galbraith  •  Jan 16, 2014 at 08:30 EST

The New York anti-tax group Unshackle Upstate has made fighting the public financing of elections a major priority. Late last year the group published an opposition white paper timed to coincide with the release of preliminary findings of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Moreland Commission to Investigate Public Corruption (which advocated for public campaign financing), and during the Governor’s State of the State address Unshackle Upstate tweeted that public financing was “a non-starter” and “a recipe for more fraud and abuse.”

Unshackle Upstate frames its opposition to public campaign finance in the language of fiscal prudence and concern about corruption; however, the group and its constituents represent a deep-pocketed class of business elites who may see the influence their campaign dollars buy diminish in a public finance system. Since 2008, Unshackle Upstate and the organizations that lead it have spent nearly $2 million on donations and other political expenses.

Is the business group’s opposition to public finance less about fiscal responsibility than it is about maintaining elite hegemony over political spending?

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New CEOs, same door
By Gin Armstrong  •  Jan 14, 2014 at 13:28 EST

On Sunday the Washington Post reported on the “new crop” of defense industry CEOs from the last two years, highlighting the industry’s troubled waters and desire for steady hands to brave the sequester. According to American Security Project fellow August Cole, the best strategy for navigating the coming changes would be one of relationship building:

“Running a defense company is as much about being able to relate to the senior military leadership and the political leadership as it is about understanding how you make a supersonic fighter,” said August Cole, an adjunct fellow at the American Security Project.

And new tactics:

The changed times means the executives should be prepared to do things differently than their predecessors, Cole said.

“The worst thing the defense industry could do is keep doing the same things again and again,” he said. “Technology’s moving much faster than it has before. . . . To be relevant in the national security environment, you have to move much faster.”

Cole’s implication that the defense industry is not already well-practiced in maintaining close connections to top decision makers is odd given the well-documented revolving door between government and the defense and intelligence communities. However, in some instances the incoming CEOs’ government connections are more pronounced than those of their predecessors. Perhaps the new strategy is to move these connectors to the helm?

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De Blasio goes with the status quo in economic development appointments
By Whitney Yax  •  Jan 10, 2014 at 08:00 EST

Mayor De Blasio imitates his predecessor by choosing two former Goldman Sachs execs to lead NYC’s economic development efforts.

If you caught the news sometime this fall, you probably know the story of New York City’s changing of the guard.  Populist de Blasio replaces billionaire Bloomberg as mayor.  Wall St. already misses its buddy Mike.  Economic inequality: watch out!

So why is de Blasio surrounding himself with a cast of characters that signal it’s business as usual in City Hall?

Back in December we pointed out that some of the members of de Blasio’s transition team are closely affiliated with REBNY and the Partnership for New York City, two business lobbying groups that enjoyed a fruitful relationship with Mayor Bloomberg.  His time in office was called “a wonderful era” by REBNY president Steve Spinola.  Partnership for New York City President Kathryn Wylde was appointed to the board of the NYC Economic Development Corporation by Bloomberg at the start of his first term. (Interestingly, the EDC by-laws adopted in 2012 also indicate that the board’s chairperson shall be appointed by the mayor in consultation with the Partnership.)

De Blasio continued the trend when he appointed his top development advisors.  Alicia Glen left Goldman Sachs after more than a decade to become Deputy Mayor of Housing and Economic Development.   She replaces Robert Steel, another former Goldman executive who was also CEO of Wachovia.

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