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How Fenton Communications serves the hard-core left.


The Great Left Smear Machine

How Fenton Communications serves the hard-core left.

Liberals have created a powerhouse propaganda machine that helped smear a four-star general, promotes endless environmental scares and brags it can place its left wing themes in the nation’s leading newspapers.

Fenton Communications pitches for trial lawyers, collectively the largest contributors to the Democrat Party, as well as for the hard line environmental group Greenpeace; Venezuela’s socialist leader Hugo Chavez; anti-war demonstrator Cindy Sheehan; and gay and abortion advocates.

Its account executives arrive from such left wing outposts as the office of ultra liberal Rep. Dennis Kucinich, abortion provider Planned Parenthood, the anti-Bush ACLU, Greenpeace and the news media.

Conservatives know liberals have built a powerful network of pressure groups who have entree — where right wing groups do not — into the newsrooms of the New York Times, Washington Post, NBC News and other left-leaning outlets.

What is not well known is that Fenton Communications, founded by liberal activist David Fenton, binds the two together to produce explosive public relations campaigns that conservatives have trouble matching or rebuffing.

Understanding Fenton’s connections to the press, liberal Washington lawmakers, pressure groups and trial lawyers is increasingly important for conservatives if they are to emerge from their decidedly minority status in Washington.

Just recently, some of Fenton’s clients and other left-wing groups formed a huge coalition to push President Obama’s government-expansion agenda. The Campaign to Rebuild and Renew America Now boasts over 100 member organizations and promises a state-by-state media campaign: meaning it will attack Republicans who vote no.

With offices in Washington, New York, and San Francisco, Fenton operatives work up smear campaigns whether the target is Gen. David Petraeus, Fox News’ Sean Hannity or the conservative movement in general.

For Petraeus, one of the most successful commanders in the war on terror, Fenton fashioned an ad for in the New York Times that accused the general of betraying his country. is funded by billionaire George Soros, who likened President George W. Bush to a Nazi regime and is using his fortune made in the free market to try to institute socialism. By the way, also ran an ad likening Bush to Hitler. The Open Society Institute, Soro’s foundation for doling out money to and other liberal groups, has been a Fenton Communications client.

For Hannity, Fenton produced an ad campaign for the liberal media group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting that falsely depicted the conservative broadcaster as a bigot, liar and “Islamophobe.” Other leading conservatives, including Fox News Channel colleague Bill O’Reilly, were labeled by Fenton as “Meet the Smearcasters. Islamophobia’s Dirty Dozen.”

In the meantime, Fenton has pushed Hugo Chavez’s free heating oil scheme for needy Americans, providing the anti-capitalist leader good PR in the U.S.

Fenton, as do other liberal strategy groups, has a big advantage over their conservative counterparts. When a Fenton executive pitches a story to the New York Times et al., they are treated as a credible source trying to expose corporate or political evil. When a right-leaning PR firm tries to float a story, the liberal news media makes them the story: the vast right wing conspiracy trying to destroy an innocent liberal.

Fenton’s web site profiles its account managers and brags about their access.

One executive, Fenton boasts, “has extensive relationships with top national political media, and he consistently places clients on CNN and MSNBC and in the Washington Post, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Wall Street Journal, The Politico and the Associated Press.”

Another operative “has landed clients in mainstream news outlets across the country such as Philadelphia Inquirer, Miami Herald and Politico as well as congressional publications such as Roll Call and CongressDaily. She has placed stories in many major media outlets, including the San Francisco Chronicle, the San Jose Mercury News and the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Perhaps no other case better illustrates the network — Fenton, the news media and liberal pressure groups — better than a chemical called bisphenol A, or BPA. The substance is used in the production of bottles — especially baby bottles — and food cans. The Food and Drug Administration, based on two-industry studies that followed recognized scientific guidelines, ruled BPA as safe.

Enter the Fenton connection.

In 2007, a group called the Environmental Working Group sponsored a study that said BPA is hazardous to your health. Fenton Communications describes the working group as partner and client. David Fenton sits on its board of directors. There had been previous anti-BPA studies, but this one — with Fenton’s backing — got the ball rolling.

Quickly, Fenton successfully placed anti-BPA stories across the liberal news media. Another group, the Center for Health, Environment and Justice, spearheaded an anti-BPA petition drive. It asked citizens to demand that baby bottle producers cease using the chemical.

The CHEJ has been funded in part by the Tides Foundation, which helped Fenton set up its Environmental Media Services. Tides also has received George Soros money. The San Francisco-based Tides is another Fenton client, and it funds a number of environmental groups who are paying clients of Fenton Communications as well.

By 2008, the reporters were in a BPA frenzy. With the news media onboard and a grass roots effort under way to find BPA victims, a perfect storm arose for rich and powerful trial lawyers. They began filing billion-dollar lawsuits across the country against baby bottle makers and retailers who sold them.

Remember, trial lawyers are among Fenton’s biggest clients. In this case, it not only handles their PR. With with the help of its client environmental groups, Fenton handed them a class-action law suit that may reap law firms millions of dollars.

Remember also that trial lawyers as a group are the largest contributors to the Democratic Party. Democratic lawmakers stop virtually every Republican effort to rein in huge jury awards that drive up the cost of health care and put some companies out of business.

Liberal Democratic members, such as Sen. Charles Schumer, joined the BPA cause. They introduced legislation to ban the substance, further bolstering the pending litigation.

As is the case with other environmental class action law suits, the pressure grew too great for users of BPA. Producer Sunoco said in March it would no longer sell it. Earlier, bottle manufacturers, including Playtex and Gerber, said they would stop using it. Wal-Mart, a favorite target of the Left who is also being sued over BPA, announced it stopped selling any BPA products.

Who wants to be in favor of unsafe baby bottles?

The possibilities for more law suits seem endless. BPA is in thousands of household products. Trial lawyers need only expert witnesses who will testify that BPA has caused cancer and other diseases. Lucrative settlements and jury verdicts are sure to follow. Plus, the Environmental Working Group has a list of other chemicals it is targeting.

The BPA saga illustrates Fenton’s reach. A Fenton-allied group sponsors the study. Fenton drums up press coverage. A second Fenton-connected group stirs up grass-roots anger. And then a big Fenton client, the trial lawyers, swoop in to demand billions of dollars in damages.

“It’s garbage,” Steven Milloy, editor of, says of the various studies on BPA which subject mice to large doses.

Of Wal-Mart and other companies bowing to Fenton and the trial lawyers, Milloy tells HUMAN EVENTS, “The whole thing just makes you want to throw up.”

He said one ballyhooed study comes from a scientist who will not share his data. “That’s about as unscientific as you get. So you have this secret science used to railroad this product. If you look at the government reports on this, they can’t find any health effects … There’s not a single federal report out there that can find a single thing wrong with BPA.

Milloy says Fenton is part of the “Fear Profiteers,” the title of a paper he edited on the huge amount of money PR firms, foundations and trial lawyers can make by scaring the public and targeting big corporations.

“Fenton Communications has … been a key player in numerous scares, including those involving biotech foods, ‘toxic’ chemicals in breast milk, toys and medical equipment made with PVC plastic, chemicals in the environment alleged to mimic hormones …. Milloy wrote in a 2007 column. “None of these scares have a scientific leg to stand on and all have been debunked over the course of time.”

Milloy said the Environmental Working Group-sponsored study is no different than previous studies. He explained the way they did it this way:

“I would say that EWG’s testing revealed that BPA in food containers/food products was not at dangerous levels (i.e., not above 50 micrograms per kilogram of bodyweight) — so EWG fabricated a new ‘toxic dose’ (2 micrograms per kilogram of bodyweight) so that EWG could then pretend that BPA was present at ‘toxic’ levels. EWG’s pretend toxic dose of 2 is not supported by real-life experiences or scientific data. Moreover, the EPA safe dose of 50 has a substantial margin of safety built into it. This method of making up a “toxic” dose is an old trick of groups like EWG.

Milloy says of Fenton Communication, “You’ve got to admire them. They are ruthlessly effective and I fault industry and conservatives for not fighting them. Industry always has been afraid of environmentalists. They worry just a little too much about their reputation. Conservatives don’t know anything about science; Run away from environmental issue.”

Written By

Mr. Scarborough is a national security writer who has written books on Donald Rumsfeld and the CIA, including the New York Times bestseller Rumsfeld's War.

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