Media campaigns as shakedowns

oil rig by eMaringolo

WashPost: Institute for Energy Research’s dealings with BP “seemed an awful lot like a shakedown.”
[Via Climate Progress]

Until now, the Institute for Energy Research has best been known as an anti-science polluter front-group trying to kill the clean energy bill.

But in a devastating front-page story yesterday, “BP’s fight against energy nonprofit highlights murky world of advocacy-for-hire,” the Washington Post reveals that the IER won’t support just any polluter:

Days after the Deepwater Horizon oil rig sank in the Gulf of Mexico, a conservative nonprofit group called the Institute for Energy Research asked BP to contribute $100,000 for a media campaign it was launching in defense of the oil industry.

Although BP took a pass, the group’s advocacy arm went ahead with a campaign — only instead of defending BP, it vilified the company as a “safety outlier” in an otherwise safe industry. The campaign’s Web site features dozens of images of the burning rig, oil-smeared birds and other environmental devastation from the spill.

“BP is a victim of its own carelessness,” the group’s president, Thomas Pyle, wrote as part of the campaign’s kickoff in early July. “The rest of us should not be.”

To backers of BP who were familiar with the discussions and spoke on the condition of anonymity, it seemed an awful lot like a shakedown.



One of the reasons that everyone involved in paying for a media campaign should be identified. I may not like BP at all but it is really not a good idea to allow a front group funded by its competitors to go after it because it refused to pay a lot of money for the campaign not to happen.

At least that is what this seems like. BP is approached by an advocacy group whose message seems to be “NIce little company you have here. It would be a shame if something happened to it. Perhaps if you bought a $100,000 insurance policy.” BP says not so the advocacy group proceeds to add as much gasoline to the fire as possible.

While Schadenfreude is fun, this appears to be something that could be really abused. A group’s business model would be to smear anyone who did not pay up. I bet this is something that has gone on a lot before and we should figure out ways to prevent it.