Isaac Newton may not have had neoconservatism in mind when he wrote his laws of motion, but it seems fitting when discussing the multitude of think tanks and AstroTurf groups that back up the movement.
Most were created in reaction to an action that went against their ideology, or to bolster a policy being implemented by a neocon government. They are also important to industry lobbyists, since all are financed by large corporations hoping to dictate public policy.
If you want to follow the money I suggest you read Donald Gutstein's Not a Conspiracy Theory: How Business Propaganda Hijacks Democracy. Well researched and informative.
Beginning in the 1980s and throughout the 1990s, many books and papers were published detailing Canada's neoconservative movement, courtesy of the Chicago School and Uncle Sam.
This was back in the day when we were allowed to call Stephen Harper and his entourage neocons, without having to face a verbal firing squad.
I've began rereading several of my books from that time, now that we've had a federal neocon government for five years, and in Ontario Tim Hudak's neoconservatives have a good chance of retaking Ontario. (Mike Harris was the first to advance the interests of the American Neoconservatives)
The authors, journalists and pundits who were sounding the alarm back then, may take little comfort in knowing how right they were, but their words can still be used to educate Canadians today, especially the media.
The late Dalton Camp, former president of the now defunct federal Progressive Conservative Party (folded in 2003), wrote many columns on Preston Manning's* cozy relationship with the American neocons, including Mr Manning Goes to Washington ((did his then lieutenant, Stephen Harper, carry the luggage?), that was reprinted in his book, Whose Country is This Anyway?
However, another column he wrote, helps to reveal how these think tanks/AstroTurf groups work: Luntz of Luch With Newt (first appeared on March 17, 1995).
In it he discusses Manning's appearance with Newt Gingrich on National Empowerment Television in the U.S.. The Newt was rewarding Manning for helping him to storm Washington in 1994.
As a bit of background (I have a lot more on this which will appear in another element of the Canadian Manifesto), NET was the brainchild of Paul Weyrich, the man who helped Stephen Harper in 2006, by demanding that his flock stay silent on Harper's involvement with the American Neoconservative/Religious Right.
The late Weyrich was also a key strategist for the paleoconservative movement (white nationalism), that includes early Reform Party inspiration and Harper's favourite author, Peter Brimelow; and founder of The Christian Coalition**, Pat Robertson.
That's Why he Makes the Big Bucks
According to Camp:
Most of the questions addressed to the Reform leader came from Newt's co-host on the show, Heather Higgins ***, a woman with a fulsome, incandescent smile sufficient to melt the polar ice cap. Also present as interlocutor, and lending a little verisimilitude, was Frank Luntz, president of Luntz Research, who, according to Higgins, was "very much involved" in helping the Reform Party in its recent Canadian electoral success in 1993. Luntz is something of an overachiever in the polling and consulting business; his clients have included not only Gingrich and Manning, but also Ross Perot and Pat Buchanan.A little cross border back scratching.
It was Frank Luntz who advised Stephen Harper to talk about hockey every chance he got, tapping into a national symbol.
"If there is some way to link hockey to what you all do, I would try to do it."Luntz also inspired several of Harper's counterparts, like William Kristol, son of the late Irving Kristol. Back to Camp's column:
As made clear in a recent magazine piece, Luntz is a neo-conservative of Gingrichian proportions. He favours the immediate elimination of public funding for the arts, the humanities, and the Public Broadcasting Service. Before eliminating farm subsidies, Luntz would prefer them to be included in a wider range of cuts. "If everyone is giving up something at the same time, it's okay," he is quoted saying. "But if we make the farmers go first, we're going to get killed in the farm community. We've all got to go together."If you can make a fortune with that drivel, perhaps we could all be rich.
This sort of pragmatic counselling excites Luntz's colleagues, such as William Kristol, who explains, "That's why Frank gets the big bucks."
Instead of stealing one woman's purse, steal the purses of all women. Instead of kicking one man in the shin, kick the shins of all those around him. How can anyone demand sympathy, when so many are squealing with the same pain or loss?
Yet that is why "he gets the big bucks"? Frightening.
Now to My Point. Cough, Cough!
The above may seem irrelevant, but in fact it is enlightening, for other reasons than a simple blast from the past, since it helps to explain how organizations like Canada's Fraser Institute function. When Stephen Harper was helping to create the Reform Party, he visited the Fraser, to see what they could do to help. When named prime minister, he rewarded them with new beneficial tax polices.
To give some idea of how the Fraser works, we can compare them to the group who sponsored the Manning/Luntz comedy hour on Weyrich's National Empowerment Television. Back to Dalton Camp:
I had been witness to a television production involving the second most powerful politician in America and the leader of the third most populous party in the Canadian Parliament and ... ? Well, it was a little hard to say—until the last words appeared on the tube, inviting viewers with questions or comments to write "The Progress and Freedom Foundation."The true instrument of the people wielded by big business. From the New York Times, February 11, 1995:
Every totalitarian or authoritarian movement in history co-opts the language of democracy in order to conceal its purpose. The Soviet commissars could scarcely draw a breath without invoking peace or liberty or freedom**** or progress. Even as the gulags were filling up with their victims, the regime celebrated its legitimacy by claiming itself to be the one true instrument of all the people.
"One source of financing of Mr. Gingrich's college video courses is the Progress and Freedom Foundation, a conservative advocacy group in Washington. Among the foundation's donors are half a dozen companies that do business with the agency, including two for which Mr. Gingrich has personally written letters urging approval of their products, [FDA] documents show."The list of supporters in 1998, included tobacco giants Philip Morris and R.J. Reynolds. In a letter to PFF from then VP of Public Affairs for Philip Morris: "…Philip Morris is pleased with the exciting work you have done, especially in the area of deregulation, and are glad to continue working with you."
The Fraser Institute, which was established in reaction to the election of NDP Dave Barrett as premier of B.C., also receives a great deal of funding from the American tobacco industry.
In fact, when they were establishing their Social Affairs Centre, according to Fraser Institute sources, money could not initially be found to start it, "so the staff went to New York and secured funding from Philip Morris."
As reward, the institute then released papers, suggesting that second hand smoke was not harmful, using crack medical teams from local bars opposing anti-smoking legislation.
I don't know if they copied their work from the American think tanks, but if you peruse them, you'll find many that challenge anti-smoking laws by again suggesting that second hand smoke is not harmful, including Paul Weyrich's Heritage Foundation. (he was a busy man)
With NET now defunct, they used Fox News to sell it. However, all of this was in reaction to the action of anti-smoking laws, that ban lighting up in public places. (You should hear them huff and puff over the new ads on cigarette packages).
A Perfect Example
All of these right-wing think tanks and AstroTurf groups have several things in common, not limited to their funding. One of them, is the easy movement of staff from their offices to the government offices, and vise versa.
The directors of The Progress and Freedom Foundation, included not only heavyweights like Kenneth Starr, the man who worked to impeach Bill Clinton, but also people like Jeffrey Eisenach, who worked as a senior policy advisor for the Federal Trade Commission under Reagan and Bush, senior and junior. Kenneth Ferree, who spent time with the Federal Communications Commission under G.W. and several others who worked directly for Dick Cheney.
One of the best tests for Newton's Theory in Canada, relates to Ridley Terminals in B.C.
The first action was to clean up the books of the federally owned terminals, and determine whether or not they could be made profitable. The first reaction was the hiring of Dan Veniez, to do a bit of house cleaning.
The next action was Veniez' s recommendation that they sell the terminals, since they would always be a cash cow. The reaction was John Baird's, who immediately flapped his way to Vancouver, to fire the highly competent Veniez. This was in response to the American Coal industry, who needed those terminals to remain subsidized.
When Veniez went public with the reasons why taxpayers were being bilked, the AstroTurf groups started kicking up divots. Said Terrance Corcoran in the Financial Post:
In the great scheme of Canada’s economy, Ridley Terminals Inc. is no big deal. With annual revenue of just under $25-million, the Crown corporation operates a bulk-commodity handling facility off Ridley Island in Prince Rupert, B.C., 1,000 kilometres north of Vancouver. FP Comment’s editorial team has never been to Ridley Terminals, and wouldn’t know a bulk handling facility from the Coney Island Cyclone Ride. What we do know, when we see it, is big time corporate subsidy seeking, backroom politics, scheming lobbyists and cabinet ministers throwing their weight around to satisfy the big time corporate interests.He nailed it.
One of the AstroTurf groups working for corporate interests, was the Ridley Terminals Users Group, funded by Houston based Global Public Affairs, lobbying reactionaries, who have worked with George W. Bush.
With slight of hand, Stephen Harper removed Erin Wall as administrative assistant to his MP Brian Jean, then Parliamentary Secretary for the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities (aka John Baird) and sent her to work for Global Public Affairs as a registered lobbyist for their affiliate, International Commodity Export Corporation, the largest beneficiary of government subsidies to the Ridley terminals.
On the same day, June 19, 2009, just before the firing of Dan Veniez, ICEC underwent a name change to give it the appearance of a Canadian company. You'll notice that they altered the date of this name change in June of 2011, but I believe I still have a screen shot of the original in my files.
Regardless, you get an idea of how this works, resulting in the Canadian taxpayers subsidizing the American coal industry.
And that is not the only example. There are many, including Josh McJannet who was the contact person for the AstroTurf group The Canadians For Afghanistan. McJannet was a former staffer of both Conservative Jay Hill and Rahim Jaffer, who registered as a lobbyist for Summa Strategies, an Ottawa government-relations firm that counts some defence contractors, including U.S. aircraft manufacturer Boeing, among its clients.
For every action there is a reaction, with the motion being the flow of our tax dollars to corporate interests, on both sides of the border.
And you wonder why Paul Weyrich wanted to protect Stephen Harper. He is pure gold to the American neoconservatives.
* Manning was the first leader of the Reform Party which became the Alliance Party, which became the Conservative party of Canada
**The same year that Manning went to Washington, Jason Kenney and others from Canada's Cristian Right attended a conference there, importing Robertson's 'Coaltiion', thus creating the Canadian Christian Coalition.
*** Higgins would also write for the godfather of the Neoconservatism, Irving Kristol's The Public Interest, and become involved in the Independent Women's Forum, and anti-feminist organization that dispute the notion of a gender gap. Similar to our REAL Women of Canada.
**** The National Citizens Coalition, that Harper once headed up, hand out a Medal of Freedom every year. Both Stephen Harper and Preston Manning are past recipients of this prestigious (?) honour.