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Proof Integrated Communications

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Learn more about Pete Peterson-funded astroturf projects at the Fix the Debt Portal.

Proof Integrated Communications (PIC) is an "integrated marketing communications firm" under the umbrella of the PR firm Burson-Marsteller (B-M). It "produce[s] television commercials, short- and long-form video, print ads, radio spots, out-of-home advertising, websites, online advertising, social media campaigns, and events," according to B-M.[1] Since April 2012, its CEO is Michael Bassik, who is also Chair of B-M's U.S. Digital Practice.[2][3] Bassik was previously the chief digital officer of progressive radio network Air America,[4] and directed political advertising strategy at America Online.[5]

2012: "Massive Campaign" for Pete Peterson's "Fix the Debt"

The Campaign to Fix the Debt (Fix the Debt) is the latest incarnation of a multi-decade effort by Blackstone billionaire Pete Peterson to cut back crucial insurance programs such as Social Security and Medicare in order to balance the budget and fix the nation’s "debt problem."

About Fix the Debt
The Campaign to Fix the Debt is the latest incarnation of a decades-long effort by former Nixon man turned Wall Street billionaire Pete Peterson to slash earned benefit programs such as Social Security and Medicare under the guise of fixing the nation's "debt problem." Through a special report and new interactive wiki resource, the Center for Media and Democracy -- in partnership with the Nation magazine -- exposes the funding, the leaders, the partner groups, and the phony state "chapters" of this astroturf supergroup. Learn more at PetersonPyramid.org and in the Nation magazine.


Proof Integrated Communications ad campaign for Peter Peterson's "Fix the Debt" organization (Source: PR Week, 11/16/12)

With a staff of 80, and a target of $60 million for their budget, $40 million of which was raised by February 2013, Fix the Debt is best described as an "Astroturf supergroup." Fix the Debt has five Washington, D.C. PR firms/lobby shops working on its account, many of whom also lobby for Fix the Debt firms. These include DCI Group,[6] Glover Park Group,[7] and Dewey Square Group,[8] which have lobbied for multiple Fix the Debt corporations in multiple years. For example, DCI Group lobbied for Morgan Stanley on tax issues in 2006[9] and 2007.[10] Fix the Debt is also using Proof Integrated Communications (PIC), a unit of the PR firm Burson-Marsteller, for its aggressive advertising push.[11] As Fix the Debt creates more Astroturf state chapters, they also engage PR firms at the state level to carry their message.

PIC's campaign for Fix the Debt included "parody recreations of well-known advertising slogans," such as: the slogan "i'm fixin' it" on a carton of fries to imitate the McDonald's "i'm lovin' it" campaign; the slogan "Got debt?" to imitate the famous "Got milk?" dairy ad campaign; and the slogan "Just fix it" to imitate the Nike "Just do it" campaign.[11]

Fix the Debt CEOs are treated with fawning respect by the mainstream media. Fix the Debt’s David Cote "brings serious financial muscle to the table" when he pushes "market credible solutions," says the Wall Street Journal.[12] Cote is free to lecture the country on the hazards of Social Security, given his $78 million dollars in personal pension assets. The fact that he underfunds his employees’ pensions by $2.7 billion[13] is never noted; and the fact that he heads a company paying a negative tax rate (-0.7 percent)[14] is apparently not considered relevant.

December 2012 TV ad produced for Fix the Debt

The campaign had the most presence in the Washington, D.C. area, but Bassik said that "future iterations of the effort will use images of regular people to show lawmakers that constituents also want a bi-partisan deal to take place." Fix the Debt's other PR agency partners, DCI Group, Glover Park Group, and Dewey Square Group, were to do additional research and "find average citizens."[11] Dewey Square and DCI are also handling "grass-roots outreach" -- i.e. Astroturf -- for the campaign, according to Politico, and "firms are still pitching the coalition, hoping to get business for potential television ads" as of December 5, 2012.[15] On December 16, 2012, Fix the Debt released its first television ad (see video), with a six-figure buy, featuring "interviews with several Americans who talk about their concerns over America’s debt" and accompanying text, "We need to do more than avoid the fiscal cliff."[16]

According to the LA Times, Fix the Debt had spent $3 million on its PR campaign as of December 2012.[16] Burson-Marsteller's Johanna Schneider told PR Week that the ad campaign was the biggest public policy campaign she had seen in some time. It also included full-page ads in The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, The Hill, Roll Call, Politico, and National Journal.[11] Politico said of Fix the Debt's campaign, "Message men, lobbyists, grassroots firms and lawyers are raking in cash . . . It's a classic Washington phenomenon: Ahead of a major deal, corporate clients and other groups pay a premium to the Washington influence machinery to make sure their interests are protected."

Visit the Fix the Debt main page on SourceWatch.org to learn more about this PR effort backing a Simpson-Bowles style austerity bill.

Clients

PIC's clients include the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget's Campaign to Fix the Debt,[17] energy giant Dominion, Hormel Foods Corporation, the city of Washington, D.C., Australian water products company Applica, failed nationwide wireless network builder LightSquared (started by global broadband services company Augere with B-M and PIC, and funded in part by Harbinger Capital Partners), and the following:[18]

Articles and Resources

Featured SourceWatch Articles on Fix the Debt

Other Related SourceWatch Articles

Other SourceWatch articles on PIC parent firm B-M's activities can be found by looking under B on the list of article titles.

External articles

See Burson-Marsteller:External articles for a list of news articles and commentaries on PIC's parent firm.

References

  1. Burson-Marsteller, Proof Integrated Communications, firm website, accessed February 2013.
  2. Tonya Garcia, PR's Revolving Door: Roll Call: Proof and B-M, Carmichael Lynch Spong, RF Binder, PRNewser, MediaBistro publication, April 25, 2012.
  3. Burson-Marsteller, Regional Leadership: U.S., firm website, accessed February 2013.
  4. Amanda Ernst, Air America Launches New Web Site, Fishbowl NY, October 16, 2009.
  5. Michael Bassik, Michael Bassik, LinkedIn.com, online career profile, accessed February 2013.
  6. DCI Group lobbied for Morgan Stanley on tax issues in 2006 and 2007, and in 2012 has lobbied for Verizon and ExxonMobil. Senate lobbying records.
  7. Glover Park Group has lobbied in 2012 for Visa, Inc., on tax issues. It has also lobbied for DuPont, Exelon, General Electric, JP Morgan Chase, Lockheed Martin, News Corporation, Pfizer, Sodexho, UnitedHealth Group and other corporations that would get tax breaks under Fix the Debt’s initiatives, and for the American Bankers Association and PhRMA. Senate lobbying records.
  8. Dewey Square Group has lobbied for AT&T, Citigroup and Visa. Senate lobbying records.
  9. DCI Group, Lobbying Report, filed with U.S. Congress on behalf of client Morgan Stanley, July 1 - December 31, 2006.
  10. DCI Group, Lobbying Report, filed with U.S. Congress on behalf of client Morgan Stanley, January 1 - June 30, 2007.
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 11.3 Virgil Dickson, Burson's Proof unit launches Fix the Debt ad campaign (sub. req'd.), PR Week, November 16, 2012.
  12. Top CEO Is Go-Between in 'Fiscal Cliff' Talks, Wall Street Journal video, December 14, 2012.
  13. Sarah Anderson and Scott Klinger, Institute for Policy Studies, A Pension Deficit Disorder: The Massive CEO Retirement Funds and Underfunded Worker Pensions at Firms Pushing Social Security Cuts, organizational report, November 27, 2012.
  14. Citizens for Tax Justice, Corporate Taxpayers & Corporate Tax Dodgers, 2008-2010, organizational report, November 3, 2011.
  15. Anna Palmer and Kate Brannen, The big business of the fiscal cliff, Politico, December 5, 2012.
  16. 16.0 16.1 Melanie Mason, Fix the Debt hits the airwaves to influence 'fiscal cliff', LA Times, December 14, 2012.
  17. Virgil Dickson, Burson's Proof unit launches Fix the Debt ad campaign, PR Week, November 16, 2012, accessed February 2013.
  18. Proof Integrated Communications, Our Work: Client List, firm website, accessed February 2013.

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