General scandal proves the SEC is stronger than your military.
It gets increasingly less surprising each time the Bush administration¬†plants¬†an agent pretending to be an independent analyst into the media. This time the con meant giving retired generals who ‚Äúrepresent[ed] more than 150 military contractors either as lobbyists, senior executives, board members or consultants‚ÄĚ unprecedented and exclusive access to¬†military briefings and Guant√°namo Bay. The generals, in turn, appeared as military analysts for TV newscasts, not mentioning their business relationship with the administration and its terrorism policy.
‚ÄúIt was them saying, ‚ÄėWe need to stick our hands up your back and move your mouth for you,‚Äô ‚ÄĚ Robert S. Bevelacqua, a retired Green Beret and former Fox News analyst, said.¬† -[NYT]
Why is this legal? Not that illegality has ever hindered Bush surrogates‚Äô use of the media. Three years ago, almost to the day,¬†Congress' General Accounting Office¬†found that the¬†Health and Human Services department violated propaganda laws by peddling heavily partisan video reports to news programs, complete with fake reporters. But in the abstract, should it really be legal for a government contractor not to disclose a fiscal dependency on the policies he‚Äôs a public advocate for? Isn‚Äôt this manipulation of politics akin to the securities laws to prevent a manipulation of the stock market?
Had a retired general, a board member of a company,¬†tried to¬†garner capital by promoting his business' stock while posing as an analyst, the SEC would require him to disclose¬†his fiscal ties. Appearing on television to garner capital by influencing public policy, he does not.¬†Private businessmen, unlike Health and Human Services, can promote the government line without mentioning the conflict of interest.
But the impact from manipulating public policy has far greater reach than tampering with the¬†market. The human and political costs aside, current military actions will cost $144 billion this year. Enron only claimed $111 billion in revenue in 2000 before its downfall.
Perhaps it is the ultimate metaphor for the current administration ‚Äď that our system of politics¬†is given less protection than fiscal assets. At the very minimum, it‚Äôs the perfect example of why disclosure-based propaganda laws should be expanded to include all agents of the government. Even private ones.
"A few expressed regret for participating in what they regarded as an effort to dupe the American public with propaganda dressed as independent military analysis.