In a compelling movie called The Corporation, we learn that courts in capitalist countries have given corporations “human rights,” but they don’t require corporate “citizens” to honor moral or legal obligations.
Instead, corporations are chartered to make as much money as possible as quickly as possible. If a corporation goes wrong in pursuit of money, it cannot be thrown in jail; some of its employees might go to jail, or The Corporation might pay a tax-deductible fine, but The Corporation lives on, no matter what crimes it commits, unless it is dissolved by its owners or by losing customer support.
The Corporation movie asserts that if corporations were people, they would be diagnosed as having severe, anti-social mental disorders that make them a dire threat to society.
Although corporations provide employment while producing goods and services purchased by billions of people, it’s easy to find examples of corporations acting immorally and often illegally. It’s also easy to find evidence that corporations are major supporters of the war on marijuana.
The movie cites the example of American-based Bechtel Corporation, which attempted to take over the public water system in Cocachamba, Bolivia in 1999, after the World Bank pressured the country to privatize the system. In cahoots with corrupt, fascistic Bolivian officials and the military, the engineering company locked down the water supply – even making it a criminal offense to gather rainwater!
When thousands of thirsty Bolivians staged massive protests against Bechtel, soldiers and police brutalized and killed protesters, including children. The US company eventually shut down its Cocachamba operations, but later sued the people of Bolivia for $25 million; the lawsuit is being heard in a secretive, pro-corporate World Bank court.
The Bolivian water protesters were joined in the streets by other protesters seeking to end Bolivia’s cooperation with the US drug war in Latin America, a war increasingly waged by corporations and their private mercenary armies.
The largest US corporate drug warrior in the region is DynCorp, headquartered in Reston, Virginia near the CIA, and Pentagon. The company gets virtually 100% of its business from contracts with the Department of Defense, DEA, Bureau of Prisons, and the Office of National Drug Policy (ONDCP). Half of DynCorp’s revenue comes from the Pentagon; many of its employees are retired soldiers.
The company makes plenty of money from the war in Iraq, where it coordinates “security teams” staffed by mercenaries. DynCorp conducts US drug war activities in Colombia, Peru, and Bolivia, including aerial spraying of poisons that kill people, animals, and plants. There are persistent reports that The Corporation is colluding with right-wing Latin American death squads.
Halliburton is another US corporation that benefits from war. This corporation’s patron saint is its former CEO, Vice President Dick Cheney, who is accused of using insider influence to unfairly garner billions of dollars for Halliburton via non-competitive Iraq rebuilding contracts. The company is accused of fraudulently wasting hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars and committing other major corporate crimes in Iraq, Nigeria and elsewhere.
The United Nations says the Bush administration is withholding information from auditors examining more than $1 billion in contracts awarded to Halliburton and other companies in Iraq without competitive bidding. Sources say Halliburton, Bechtel and other US corporations have likely diverted or misspent millions of dollars of Iraqi oil money that was supposed to have been spent rebuilding the country destroyed by weapons manufactured by US corporations.
Corporate watchdogs are upset about Halliburton, but they’re also concerned about General Electric (GE), a politically-connected mega-corporation that makes consumer goods, high intensity grow lights, medical equipment, military hardware, and nuclear reactors.
The company receives billions of US taxpayer dollars from the “war on terror” and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but the company’s history of corporate crimes makes you wonder why it receives a penny. GE’s nuclear reactors are so badly-designed that they have the potential for catastrophic failure, and are the product of unethical nuclear energy experiments the company conducted on humans several decades ago- experiments that included radiating prisoners and elderly people without properly warning them about the risks. GE was found guilty of releasing huge amounts of radiation into the air, and it was recently forced to pay half a billion dollars for polluting the Hudson River with carcinogens for three decades.
GE’s military contractor record is similarly tainted. The Pentagon’s Defense Contract Management Agency indicted GE on 22 criminal counts during the 1990’s, and collected $221.7 million in fines and givebacks. From 1990 to 2002, GE paid a billion dollars in fines after being found guilty in 63 fraud cases. In 1992, GE defrauded the Pentagon and funneled the money to the Israeli military. GE has been fined $69 million for violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, and its financial division was recently fined $100 million for fraud.
GE pays the fines and writes them off as tax deductions (a popular tactic for corporations), but government contracts keep rolling in because GE has a sweetheart relationship with the Republican Party – a relationship founded on hundreds of thousands of dollars in Republican campaign contributions.
Wonder why the mainstream media doesn’t carry reports on GE’s scandals? GE’s $43 billion media empire includes NBC, CNBC, Telemundo, and Bravo channels. The Corporation is a leading partner of Microsoft’s msnbc.com, and Vivendi’s Universal Studios, USA, Trio and Sci-fi cable channels.
General Electric IS the media. You think they’re going to say bad stuff about themselves?!
Corporate drug pushers
When corporations are in the drug business, their thirst for profits can cause them to endanger people’s lives. Corporate drug pushing is typified by British-based pharmaceutical megalith GlaxoSmithKline, formerly known as Glaxo Wellcome and SmithKline Beecham. The pharmaceutical giant is being sued by New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer for withholding negative information and misrepresenting data regarding the use of its antidepressant Paxil by children.
The lawsuit alleges that Glaxo suppressed studies that showed Paxil was ineffective in treating children and adolescents while suggesting the drug might increase suicidal tendencies and actual suicides. Spitzer alleges that an internal 1999 company memo proves that The Corporation intended to “manage the dissemination of data in order to minimize any potential negative commercial impact.”
According to Spitzer, Glaxo’s revenues for Paxil used by children and adolescents totaled $55 million in 2002.
This is the same Glaxo that threatened to stop sending its products to Canadian drugstores that ship medicine to patients in the US, a move that angered American senior citizens who depend on lower drug costs achieved by ordering from Canada.
Elderly patients organized a boycott of Glaxo products- such as Tums, AquaFresh toothpaste, and Contac cold medicines – to protest The Corporation‘s decision.
Glaxo is also accused of using Hispanic and black orphan babies as guinea pigs in dangerous medical experiments at a New York City Catholic children’s center.
Another major pharmaceutical company, Pfizer, is accused of conducting dangerous medical experiments on unwitting parents and children during a 1996 meningitis outbreak in Nigeria. Investigators say Pfizer’s drug “Trovan” was not approved for use on children, and that the drug may have caused death and permanent disabilities.
Glaxo, Merck, Bayer and other medical products/consumer products corporations are the target of animal rights campaigners who say the companies torture, maim and kill thousands of dogs, cats, baboons, mice, sheep and other animals during needless animal experiments.
Corporate criminals hide in places you wouldn’t expect. If people want to wash down corporate drugs with Coca Cola, for example, they should consider that the soft drink corporation stands accused of sinister behavior in southern India, where a Coca Cola plant was taking hundreds of thousands of gallons of water from drought-afflicted villages, creating water and food shortages, until a court ordered The Corporation to stop removing the water. Coca Cola refused.
Coca Cola’s attempts to prevent unionization of a bottling plant in Colombia allegedly led to the murder of union organizers by right-wing paramilitary death squads; Coca Cola is being sued for allegedly colluding with death squads that intimidated or executed several union leaders.
Historically, Coca-Cola should be allied with Colombian coca producers rather than fighting against them. When the beverage was first released in the early 1900’s, it contained coca leaf extract, guaranteed to give consumers a real cocaine buzz.
Corporations are rightly accused of unethical behavior and pathological greed. Many are intimately involved with the drug war and with politics, using money and power to persuade politicians to do their bidding.
The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is a legislative lobbying and influence-peddling organization that typifies the relationship between politicians, government officials, and corporations.
The organization’s corporate partners include many of the corporate baddies mentioned previously, as well as others we haven’t yet discussed. These partners include Merck, Glaxo, Dupont, and Bayer.
Infiltrating ALEC helps corporate shills convince lawmakers to pass laws that generate profits for corporations. ALEC corporate partners who earn money in the prison industry and the drug testing industry; for example, lobby ALEC legislative members to pass laws that result in more prisons and more drug testing.
There are a handful of politically-connected transnational corporations that make money off drug laws and wars. Private prison companies figure prominently in the Iraq Abu Ghraib torture scandals. Worldwide, they operate without adequate scrutiny. A federal grand jury found that the largest US prison company, Corrections Corporations of America, had routinely used brutality against teenagers at its South Carolina facilities. A CCRA prison in Australia was closed and re-opened after government inspectors found numerous ongoing problems. Wackenhut Corrections Corporation was sued by the Justice Department for using brutality, bombs, and chemical weapons against teenagers at a Louisiana facility.
Private prison corporation lobbyists attend ALEC meetings, and achieve results that generate corporate profits. A recent study determined that 73% of the biggest privately-built and operated prisons received tax-advantaged financing, property tax reductions, tax cuts, infrastructure assistance, training grants and tax credits. CCRA and Wackenhut received the most taxpayer subsidies.
Drug war partners
Corporations and politicians collude to transfer taxpayer money to corporations. When corporations seek to sanitize their image by portraying themselves as “good corporate citizens,” they often choose to become “drug war partners.”
Some of the world’s biggest corporate criminals are major contributors to drug war propagandists like Partnership for a Drug Free America (PDFA). Founded in 1986 by the American Association of Advertising Agencies, PDFA (until recently) received massive cash donations from the alcohol and tobacco industries.
PDFA received tons of money from American Brands (Jim Beam whisky), Philip Morris (Marlboro and Virginia Slims cigarettes, Miller beer), Anheuser Busch (Budweiser, Michelob, Busch beer), and RJ Reynolds (Salem, Winston cigarettes).
Bad publicity forced PDFA to reluctantly stop accepting such donations, but PDFA still receives hundreds of thousands of dollars from other major corporations, including Glaxo, Bayer, Coca Cola, Hoffman La Roche, and GE.
The organization receives money from ketchup-laden Heinz Corporation foundations supervised by Teresa Heinz Kerry, who inherited $550 million from her late husband, US Senator John Heinz, and is now the very wealthy wife of Democrat John Kerry.
PDFA estimates it has received at least $4.5 billion in pro bono support since 1987. Ironically, a significant portion of the “drug-free” Partnership’s corporate cash comes from drug companies, companies that sell drugs for drug companies, and drug industry trade-lobbying groups.
These include the National Association of Chain Drug Stores Foundation, Consumer Healthcare Products Association, Purdue Pharma L.P., The Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation, Inc., The Procter & Gamble Fund, Bayer Corporation, GlaxoSmithKline, Kimberly-Clark, Pfizer Inc., Wyeth Consumer Healthcare Division, Endo Pharmaceuticals, Hoffmann-La Roche Inc., Merck & Co. and Walgreens.
What’s in it for the donors? PDFA says that corporate cashgivers become “strategic partners” who benefit commercially by working to spread PDFA’s message.
PDFA says these benefits enable a corporation to:
“Leverage the reach, expertise and talent of the Partnership by sponsoring educational programs that use TV and radio advertising, print and the Web to reach parents and teens with memorable messages on the dangers of drugs and the benefits of living drug-free. Your organization can establish a highly visible cause MARKETING relationship with the Partnership that engages target audiences through EMOTIONALLY RELEVANT programs supported by creative advertising. Collaborating with the Partnership on proprietary marketing programs can help you attain your [sales]goals while increasing communication and education about drug use. Local event sponsorship can reinforce your organization’s visibility and commitment to helping at the grassroots level. Direct interaction in community settings ? including town hall meetings where concerned citizens develop local responses to the drug issue ? can help create an EMOTIONAL BOND with CONSUMERS that resonates far beyond the chosen venue. [Emphasis added]”
In other words, join with PDFA so you can use the topic of drug abuse as a clever way to sell more of your products! In return, PDFA gets funding so it can spread its message.
What is PDFA’s message? According to PDFA, the message is:
“Adults rank drug use as the most important problem facing teens today. Drug abuse ranks with the Iraq war as the chief concern of young people. Drug abuse costs businesses $78 billion every year in lost productivity. The impact of drugs on many social issues- crime, violence, domestic and sexual abuse, educational failure, healthcare costs, HIV & AIDS, accidents and injuries- make drug use the single greatest preventable health problem facing our country.”
According to experts, PDFA’s claims of a massive “drug abuse” problem that is the worst health care problem facing the US are false and misleading. Most health commentators say obesity, lack of exercise, poor nutrition, and the effects of alcohol and tobacco cause far more health problems than are caused by use of marijuana and other illegal drugs. Yet, PDFA leaves alcohol and tobacco out of its list of “drugs of abuse,” and there are no statistics to back up PDFA’s claim that cannabis, ecstasy, cocaine, heroin, mushrooms, peyote, hashish, and a few other illegal drugs create anywhere near the havoc in society that is created by alcohol, tobacco, and doctor-prescribed pharmaceutical drugs.
Indeed, the height of irony is seen in the many cases of pharmaceutical company corruption that leads to dangerous pharmaceutical products in the drug marketplace, and the links that those companies have to PDFA.
PDFA anti-drug partner Merck, for example, was marketing Vioxx until news organizations reported that the anti-arthritis drug was apparently causing heart attacks, strokes and sudden death. As has been the case with other high-profile pharmaceutical drug recalls, Merck has been accused of falsifying, jiggling or withholding data that cast doubts on their product’s safety.
Marijuana is an anti-arthritis drug that has far fewer side-effects than Vioxx, and there has never been a definitive recorded case of marijuana causing fatal heart attacks or severe strokes. And yet, Vioxx-peddling Merck funds PDFA to portray itself as a corporation that cares about the harm done by drugs, while PDFA portrays non-lethal marijuana as lethal, using Merck’s money to do so.
PDFA and its Big Pharma corporate sponsors certainly put the iron in irony!
The list of corporate criminals who are past or present donors to PDFA is quite long. The organization’s website lists MetLife insurance company as one of its “lead support” donors. MetLife was found guilty of charging non-white customers more for insurance than it charged white customers.
The discriminatory practice occurred from 1901 to 1972; the company agreed to pay hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation to the minority group members affected by its unfair rate practices.
Another senior PDFA donor has been Schering-Plough pharmaceutical company, which stands accused of bribing doctors to prescribe its drug products to patients who don’t need the products.
Other PDFA donors, including Johnson & Johnson and Bristol-Meyers Squibb, have received federal subpoenas from prosecutors investigating similar activities.
PDFA donor Exxon-Mobil has made huge profits off the Iraq war, and also has a long history of anti-environmental practices, including the infamous 1989 wreck of the Exxon Valdez oil tanker in Alaska’s formerly-pristine Prince William Sound. The wreck was caused by corporate and personal negligence; it ruined miles of habitat and killed thousands of birds and other animals while destroying the cultures and lives of people who lived near to and depended on the Sound. Exxon engaged in corporate dirty tricks to try to avoid paying any penalties for the Exxon Valdez disaster.
Wall Street investment giant Merrill Lynch is also a major PDFA donor. High-ranking Merrill Lynch bankers have been indicted on criminal charges for their role in helping the disgraced, bankrupt energy corporation Enron, which is now suspected of rigging energy prices to rob Californians of millions of dollars just after Bush became president. Enron CEO Kenneth Lay, now facing criminal charges, is one of George W. Bush’s closest friends.
In the last five years, several Merrill Lynch executives have been charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and falsify records. Scrambling for cover, The Corporation agreed to cooperate fully with the federal probe of Enron’s collapse in order to avoid prosecution, and also agreed to pay $80 million to end a probe by the Securities and Exchange Commission.
PDFA uses corporate donations to pay for “public service” advertising designed to reduce illegal drug use. Mainstream media outlets donate free air time for PDFA commercials, which are often conceived, created or co-sponsored by the Office of National Drug Control Policy’s (ONDCP) Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign. Actors, actresses, athletes, Hollywood, and other individuals and businesses also contribute to PDFA’s efforts.
PDFA sends “sales reps” to national, regional and local media outlets, cajoling them into donating more and more air time for PDFA commercials. They also urge the media not to provide air time for groups favoring drug law reform. In 2004, Granite Staters for Medical Marijuana (GSMM) tried to purchase airtime on Comcast Cable, an east coast cable company with 21 million subscribers in 35 states. The company refused to sell airtime for GSMM’s pro-medpot advertisements.
In 2003, Comcast had announced a three-year, $50 million ad deal with PDFA. According to PDFA, the deal constituted “the largest single upfront commitment of advertising from a major media company to the Partnership in the organization’s history.”
PDFA’s commercials include sophisticated propaganda techniques developed during the last half century by advertising experts, behavioral psychologists, and the CIA. Major themes include encouraging parents to drug test and otherwise micromanage their children, exaggerating the harmfulness of marijuana, and linking marijuana and ecstasy with hard drugs, guilt, failure, parental trauma, suicide, rebellion, terrorism, death, and violence.
PDFA conducts a “Corporate Partners Program” called “Drug Free Families.” This is PDFA’s Internet-based effort to control the families of corporate employees by getting them to participate in the drug war, especially in regards to their children.
According to PDFA, corporations like Johnson & Johnson, Merrill Lynch, Kimberly-Clark, BellSouth, UPS, MetLife, ExxonMobil, Schering-Plough, Pfizer, and Procter & Gamble feature DrugFree Families on their internal and external company websites.
Failing the test
PDFA’s DrugFree Families program overlaps with other components of the corporate drug war, including mandatory employee drug testing and treatment. The cozy circular relationship between drug testing, PDFA, ALEC, pharmaceutical companies and the US government is easy to diagnose. Indeed, PDFA sponsor Glaxo SmithKline owns Quest Diagnostics, the biggest federally-approved drug testing lab in the US. Laws and regulations mandating workplace and school drug testing are sponsored by corporations like Glaxo-Quest, which administers about 7 million drug tests per year. The most frequently detected drug: marijuana. Quest and other drug war profiteers successfully lobbied state legislators to make it a crime to use adulterants, Whizzinators and other methods designed to defeat drug tests.
PDFA’s anti-drug advertising campaign, and other anti-drug media efforts, are plagued by corruption, fraud and mismanagement. In the past decade, advertising agency Ogilvy & Mather (O&M) created many controversial drug war ads under the guidance of Charlotte Beers, the former director of O&M.
She joined the State Department after 9/11/01, using her propaganda skills to make pro-American advertisements shown in Middle Eastern countries.
Beers and O&M have represented corporate polluters like British Petroleum and Ford Motor Company, creating misleading advertising campaigns portraying these companies as environmentally friendly, even though The Corporations conduct clandestine campaigns to defeat initiatives aimed at curbing global warming.
According to the US’s Government Accounting Office, O&M falsified billing records and overcharged the government when it was making anti-drug commercials for the White House in the late 1990’s. Several of The Corporation‘s executives have pled guilty or are under indictment for these activities; the company had to reimburse the government $2 million in 2002.
Yet, the government contracted with O&M even after the overcharging scandal was discovered; the company then spent $10 million of taxpayer’s money to produce content for www.theantidrug.com, as well as two controversial ads that aired on Fox television in 2002. These ads claim that money used to purchase illegal drugs in the US ends up funding terrorism; there is no conclusive evidence that allegations made in the ads are true.
During Bill Clinton’s presidency, then-drug czar Barry McCaffrey was widely criticized for linking advertising agencies, television networks and media producers in an effort to secretly plant anti-drug messages in popular television shows and movies. McCaffrey, advertising companies, and television producers spent billions of taxpayer’s money on this venture, but studies show anti-drug ads often have an effect opposite what their makers intended.
Researcher Dr. Maria Czyzewska found that ads linking marijuana with terrorism caused viewers to conclude that the drug war creates a black market that benefits criminals and terrorists. By a wide margin, viewers she interviewed said the ads caused them to favor legalizing marijuana. The ads also caused viewers to doubt the honesty of those who made the ads.
Research by Dr. Carson Wagner of the University of Texas found a link between viewing anti-drug commercials and favorable attitudes toward illegal drugs. The official, government-funded evaluation of US anti-drug advertising, conducted by the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School for Communication, reported, “There is little evidence of direct favorable effects on youth.”
If you’re tired of PDFA, corporate corruption and profiteering, and corporate sponsorship of the drug war, fight back using the following strategies:
? Don’t give your money to corporations. Check out PDFA’s website list of corporate sponsors. Then find the websites of those corporations, examine the range of products they make, and don’t buy any of those products.
? Boycott stores, television networks, and other businesses that promote anti-drug ads or drug testing.
? Contact pro-drug war businesses and tell them you won’t buy their products because they promote the drug war and drug testing.
? Get employment with pro-drug war corporations and businesses, and sabotage them from within, gathering insider information that you can use to whistleblow to expose corporate crimes. Subvert from within!
? Contact politicians and other government representatives. Tell them not to pass laws or perform other services that benefit corporations. Tell them to pass laws that hold corporations accountable for the harm they cause.
? Oppose Wal-Mart and other corporations that seek to infiltrate your community. Support small-scale, locally-owned businesses and organic agriculture.
? If you own stock in corrupt corporations, divest yourself of the stock, or use your stockholder status to influence The Corporations.
? Contact the media. Oppose anti-drug ads and ask media outlets to run ads calling for drug law reform, while investigating false claims in PDFA ads. Ask for increased coverage of corporate corruption, and less coverage that features people telling lies about marijuana and marijuana users.
? Stage non-violent civil disobedience at corporate headquarters, ONDCP, drug war advertising agencies, and drug war media outlets.
? Buy the DVD of “The Corporation” and make sure that it is seen by as many people as possible.
Partnership for a Drug Free America Corporate Sponser List
Chairman’s Circle ($100,000 or Higher)
Consumer Healthcare Products Association
Purdue Pharma L.P.
Platinum Medallion (Between $99,999 and $50,000)
Cardinal Health Foundation
Eastman Kodak Company
Johnson & Johnson
Joseph Drown Foundation
Major League Baseball
The Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation, Inc.
The Procter & Gamble Fund
Gold Medallion (Between $49,999 and $25,000)
F. M. Kirby Foundation
General Motors Foundation
McNeil Consumer Products
Merrill Lynch & Co., Foundation, Inc.
Wyeth Consumer Healthcare Division
Silver Medallion (Between $24,999 and $15,000)
Exxon Mobil Corporation
Bronze Medallion (Between $14,999 and $5,000)
Client Business Services Inc.
Corning Incorporated Foundation
HBO & Company
Hershey Foods Corporation
Hoffmann-La Roche Inc.
Marsh & McLennan Companies, Inc.
Merck & Co., Inc.
Mesa Police Department, Arizona
National Association of Chain Drug Stores Foundation
Phoenix Police Department, Arizona
Snell & Wilmer Charitable Foundation
The E.W. Scripps Company
Tribune New York Foundation
Gala Donor ($5,000 or Higher)
Allen & Company, Inc
Alliance for Consumer Education
American Express Company
AT&T Wireless Services, Inc
Bristol-Myers Squibb Company
Brown Partners, Inc
Cablevision Systems/Rainbow Media Holdings
Center City Film and Video
Consumer Healthcare Products Association
DDB Worldwide Communications Group, Inc
Element 79 Partners
General Electric Company
Giuliani Partners LLC
Grey Global Group Inc.
Independence Blue Cross
Johnson & Johnson
JPMorgan Chase & Co.
Lazard Fr?res & Co. LLC
Major League Baseball
National Basketball Association
New York Post and News Corporation
Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide
Outdoor Life Network – Gravity Games
Purdue Pharma L.P.
Showtime Networks, Inc
Sony Corporation of America
TBWA Worldwide, Inc
The Bank of New York Company, Inc
The Interpublic Group of Companies, Inc
The Kaplan Thaler Group
The New York Times
The Walt Disney Company
The Washington Post Company
The Xerox Foundation
Time Warner Inc.
Turner Broadcasting System, Inc
Turner Network Sales
Partnership Partner ($4,999 or Higher)
Alliance Capital Management LP
Automatic Data Processing,Inc
Hallmark Corporate Foundation
OMNOVA Solutions Foundation, Inc.
Schuck & Sons Construction Co. Inc.
Scottsdale Police Department, Arizona
The Chubb Corporation
The Ohio National Foundation