This is the story of how the right destroys, or attempts to destroy, good people working to do good things — in this case, the Humane Society.

But you could substitute Al Gore or the Clintons or Barack Obama . . . or advocates for the poor, like ACORN.

Read it and see whether it leaves you outraged at the Humane Society — or at the right wing’s attempt to dupe you.

Washington’s robust market for attacks, half-truths

A look inside an industry of distortion, where unnamed corporations pay richly to bend the debate their way

By Michael Kranish
The Boston Globe
May 19, 2013

WASHINGTON — Even by the contemporary standards of bare-fisted attack ads, the unlikely assault on the president of the Humane Society of the United States seems particularly brazen.

“Is Wayne Pacelle the Bernie Madoff of the Charity World?” the ad says, comparing the leader of the nation’s largest animal welfare group to the swindler serving a 150-year sentence for losses of $65 billion in the world’s most notorious Ponzi scheme. As a narrator speaks, an image of Pacelle is shown morphing into Madoff.

Then the attack widens. The Humane Society, the narrator says, “gives less than 1 percent of its massive donations to local pet shelters but has socked away $17 million in its own pension fund.” Dollar bills are shown floating in front of Pacelle’s smiling face as the narrator says donors should only continue to contribute to the Humane Society “if you want your money to support Wayne and his pension.”

This one-minute ad — viewed 1.7 million times on YouTube and created by a nonprofit organization called the Center for Consumer Freedom — provides a case study of what critics say is an industry of distortion in Washington. Increasingly, groups are seeking to influence public policy not by the traditional methods of lobbying or campaign contributions, but, as in this case, by hurling accusations, true or not, that are intended to destroy an influential target’s credibility.

On one level, the charges can be easily refuted, according to the ad’s target, Pacelle. The Humane Society president said his organization shelters more animals than any other group, mostly using its own facilities instead of contributing to others, and he said that the $17 million pension fund covers hundreds of employees, not just himself.

. . . But on a broader level, it is the story behind the ad that is most revealing — a story that provides a window into a world of questionable claims, powered by donations from unnamed corporations, and a Washington agenda with many millions of dollars at stake.. . .

Does it matter that the charges against the Humane Society are wildly distorted?

That Al Gore never said he invented the Internet?  (Yet championed its funding long before it was easy to understand or sexy?)

Does it matter that the President is a U.S. Citizen?

Or that instances of in-person voter impersonation — used to justify photo ID laws that disenfranchise millions of voters — are so rare as to be statistically nonexistent?

Or that the damning White House Benghazi e-mail ABC News “obtained exclusively” — that then got picked up by everyone else — had been faked by Republican operatives?

Or that the IRS errors — which all condemn as an IRS scandal — were made on the watch of a Bush appointee?

That the possible overreach by the Justice Department — in its appropriately independent investigation that Republican senators demanded — was all along slated for national scrutiny?

Note, in this last case, the contrast with the Watergate bugging — a true White House scandal:

Watergate was an operation (a) launched from the White House (not from the Justice Department); (b) designed to subvert a Presidential election (not to satisfy bipartisan national security concerns); (c) meant to remain secret until all involved were dead (not to be subjected to inevitable national scrutiny once concluded).

I’m not even certain the AP phone-record subpoenas is more than simply “deeply concerning.”  But even if it rises to the level of scandal, it’s not a White House scandal.

And yet the drumbeat continues, enabled even by “moderates” on the right like my friend Peggy Noonan on “Meet The Press” this past Sunday morning:

GREGORY: Peggy Noonan, you wrote something this week that really struck me in your column on Friday. And I want to put it up on the screen and ask you about it. “We are in the midst,” you write, “Of the worst Washington scandal since Watergate. The reputation of the Obama White House has, among conservatives, gone from sketchy to sinister, and, among liberals, from unsatisfying to dangerous. No one likes what they’re seeing. [The IRS and AP scandals] have left the administration’s credibility deeply, probably irretrievably damaged. They don’t look jerky now, they look dirty. The patina of high-mindedness the president enjoyed is gone.”

I have to say, Peggy, what you don’t talk about here is a man that you worked for [Ronald Reagan] who led the Iran-Contra scandal where they ran a secret war and lied to Congress and all the rest. Overstatement [in what you’ve said] here?

NOONAN: I don’t think so. I think this is — what is going on now is all three of these scandals makes a cluster that implies some very bad things about the forthcomingness of the administration and about its ability to at certain dramatic points do the right thing. And I got to tell you, the– you– everyone can argue about which of these things is most upsetting, but this IRS thing is something I’ve never seen in my lifetime. It is the revenue gathering arm of the U.S. government…

GREGORY: Peggy– Peggy, wait a second.

MS. NOONAN: …going after political…

GREGORY: Richard Nixon specifically directed people to investigate to audit people. I mean, of course, we’ve seen it in our lifetime.

MS. NOONAN: Understood but this is so broad. This is extremely broad and very abusive to normal U.S. citizens just looking for their rights. And here’s the thing…

GREGORY: Right. No question– no questions about– about the egregiousness of it.

MS. NOONAN: If it doesn’t stop now, it will never stop.


MS. NOONAN: And the only way it can stop is if, frankly, a price is paid, if people come forward and they have to tell who did it, why they did it, when it started.

Peggy makes it sound as though she’s the only one concerned that the IRS not be politicized.  But the President has done exactly what she hopes someone would do: put a stop to it.  So why is she maligning instead of applauding?

Steve Chapman, in the Chicago Tribune, draws an interesting contrast:

. . . Here is what the 44th president [Obama] had to say about how the agency should operate: “Americans have a right to be angry about it, and I’m angry about it. It should not matter what political stripe you’re from. The fact of the matter is the IRS has to operate with absolute integrity.” Obama said this as he announced the dismissal of the acting commissioner for failing to prevent political abuse.

Here is what the 37th president [Nixon] had to say about how the agency should operate: “Are we looking over the financial contributors to the Democratic National Committee? Are we running their income tax returns? … We have all this power and we aren’t using it. Now, what the Christ is the matter?” . . .

Nixon wanted this done!  Obama is outraged that it was done!  It is night and day different.

. . . One of Nixon’s top aides called the commissioner of the IRS and demanded action, hoping to “send [the DNC chair] to jail before the elections.” Nixon ordered investigations of Democrats who might run against him.

Obama’s complaint is that the IRS engaged in unfair treatment of groups that oppose him. Nixon’s was that it was reluctant to engage in unfair treatment of those that opposed him. . . .

The right must recognize the difference here, just as they must recognize that the Humane Society is not remotely what they say.  Aren’t they even a little embarrassed?

To be fighting against the humane treatment of animals?  To have fought, successfully, to destroy a principal advocate for the poor?  To be fighting to keep the minimum wage low?  To be fighting to allow felons and the mentally ill to purchase guns without a background check?  To be fighting to make it more difficult for those least advantaged to vote?  To be fighting against the very cap-and-trade, the very “individual mandate,” and the very bipartisan deficit committees that they themselves championed until the President embraced them?

And to be waging these fights, in the main, so shabbily?



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