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Burson-Marsteller, Unity08 and Blackwater

Ordinary people might wonder exactly why it’s such a problem that Unity08 is infiltrated with public relations professionals. Think of it this way: Public relations is to journalism what mercenaries are to the military. They’re hired in order to create perceptions of reality regardless of what they believe to true, just as mercenaries are hired to shoot their guns whether or not the cause is just.

It’s no coincidence, then, that Blackwater USA, a company of mercenaries that the US government has hired to go over to Iraq, has hired a PR firm, Burson-Marsteller, in order to try to make it sound like a good thing that Blackwater mercenaries have been using the power given them by the US government to murder Iraqi civilians in the name of the war on terror. Public relations officials and mercenaries ought to be able to understand each other, given their anything-for-a-dollar attitude.

It turns out that some of the PR people at Unity08 have some ties to Burson-Marsteller, the firm now doing dirty work for Blackwater. Co-Chair of the the Unity08 rules committee, for example, is Carolyn Tieger, whose experience includes “more than a decade with Burson-Marsteller, ultimately rising to executive vice-president”.

Then there’s Jacqueline Adams, who sits on the Advisory Council of Unity08. Adams is a senior counselor at Burson-Marstellar.

If Unity08 is really going to change the system and challenge the insider powerbrokers in Washington D.C., then why does the Unity08 leadership have ties like these to the PR firm that is defending the right of Blackwater mercenaries to act above the law?

25 thoughts on “Burson-Marsteller, Unity08 and Blackwater”

  1. Joseph says:

    That was amazing. You managed to take a legitimate business (A PR firm, which works with everything from toy companies and hospitals to politicians and other corporations) associate it with a group currently considered evil (Blackwater) and then imply (at least in my reading of it) that since the PR firm is associated with something evil, Unity08 is evil.

    PR firms do a LOT of work for a LOT of groups, and cherry picking Unity08’s connection is clearly a misrepresentation of the business of PR firms.

    Now, as for why organizations use PR firms, what you posted here is a clear example of it. Regardless of the TRUTH (if there is such a thing), people will come up with theories and ideas and sometimes outright lies about various groups/corporations/causes/beliefs and in order to counteract that, PR firms try to counter-balance it. Sure, PR firms create spin and lies, but they can also send the message that those that hire them want them to. No matter how good a PR firm is, they can’t overcome hard evidence. Blackwater killing civilians+reports by people that were there will never be able to be “washed away” by a PR firm. The best they can do is to show it is a rare occurance, and they are doing good things for America (which, if the evidence supports it, they may be). The same with Unity08. If Unity08 is truly run by people with an alternative agenda/motive, no amount of PR spin will be able to hide the evidence that would necessarily come out next year during the election.

  2. J. Clifford says:

    No, the business associated ITSELF with Blackwater, and then I SHOWED the link to Unity08 leadership.

    You can ignore the facts if you want to, Joseph.

  3. Joseph says:

    Uhhh, you said Blackwater hired the PR firm. And of course they accepted, they are getting paid just like many, many, many other corporations and organizations that the PR firm “associated ITSELF with”. The point of my post is that PR firms can’t do magic, the truth will outweigh any PR spin.

    Not to mention the what is implied is still faulty, by SHOWING the link to Unity08 leadership.

  4. Iroquois says:

    The way I understand the PR/political party link is that PR firms generally do business with a particular type of candidate, i.e., a candidate that belongs to particular party or part of the political spectrum. So PR firms aren’t just randomly in bed with whoever has money. They’re in bed with who they want to be in bed with.

  5. Thilo says:

    Guilt by association, gotta love it. Let’s see, I found this site via Google. Also found via Google can be Al-Jazeera’s site. Al-Jazeera, in turn… ergo… oh well, let’s not go there.

  6. Turk says:

    Thilo –

    That’s the whole M.O. for this site. A is somehow connected to B which is somehow connected to C which is somehow connected to D, therefore A is connected to D. It’s ridiculous, but they’ve made a whole schtick out of it. It’s the paranoid conspiracy theorist’s dream.

    Carolyn Tieger is no longer with Burson-Marsteller, but in this conspiracy haven, because she once was, she is somehow responsible for every client they take on until the end of time. It’s laughable to most people, but around here it’s standard practice.

    And to Iroquois’ point, actually no, that’s not how it works with a firm the size of BM.

    A company of that size generally hires PR professionals from both sides of the partisan split so they can respresent people/companies/groups regardless of their affiliation. They (usually) will not take people on opposite sides of the same issue, but they will take causes that are both left and right. The same PR firm may represent both the NRA and NARAL, but you can almost guarantee the same people won’t be doing the work for both.

  7. Jim says:

    It’s your M.O. to misrepresent.

    Read J. Clifford’s post. He didn’t say that Unity08 (your A) was directly tied to Blackwater (your D). He pointed out that Unity08, like Blackwater, is tied into the same political public relations system. This is true. That’s all he said.

    You can’t say it’s not true, so you call it names. That’s your M.O..

  8. Turk says:

    He pointed out that Unity08, like Blackwater, is tied into the same political public relations system.

    But they’re not tied to the same PR system. That’s the whole point.

    If Carolyn still worked for BM, you could argue that Blackwater and Unity were both tied to BM. But she doesn’t. So Unity08 and Blackwater have no such connection.

    By your logic, and what Thilo was saying, is I worked at Burger King when I was a teenager, somebody at Blackwater ate at Burger King yesterday, so Unity08 and Blackwater both have a connection through Burger King.

    It’s a ridiculous claim, and it’s a stretch you guys love to make.

  9. Fruktata says:


    That’s the most absurd thing I’ve ever claimed. Two entities, both tied to the same PR firm, are not tied to the same PR system?

    Oh, bull, bull, bull.

  10. Turk says:

    How are they tied to the same firm? Because someone in Unity08 worked for them once upon a time? How is that different from me working a drive through at BK 20 years ago?

    Carolyn does not work for BM. She now works for a PR firm that competes with BM. How does that qualify as being even remotely related to Blackwater?

    Nicco Mele, who is on the Founder’s Council, worked for Dean. That hardly implies that Unity08 is motivated by anything having to do with Howard Dean. Yet that is exactly the sort of tenuous connection you’re trying to turn into something sinister.

    It’s laughable.

  11. Jim says:

    Michael Turk, you’re again misrepresenting. The analogy is inapt, because J. Clifford isn’t suggesting that Unity08 is motivated by Blackwater. The correct analogy — the one that is parallel with J. Clifford’s post — would note that both the campaign of Howard Dean and the campaign of Unity08 are dependent on the use of those with webmastering skills — in this case, the one and same person. J. Clifford points out that both Blackwater and Unity08 have been tied in to the professional PR movement (you conveniently neglect mention the Unity08 Advisory committee member and to my knowledge current BM-member Jacqueline Adams). That’s the parallel. Get your head on straight.

  12. Joseph says:

    And everyone continues to ignore the fact that PR firms aren’t intrinsically evil and they simply try to present information in the most positive light for those who hire them and that the truth, in the end, outweighs any spin. The reason why PR firms are needed is to communicate information in response to claims such as associating Unity08 and Blackwater.

  13. Ralph says:

    Good point, Mr. Turk:

    How is “more than a decade with Burson-Marsteller, ultimately rising to executive vice-president” any different from “working a drive through at BK 20 years ago?”

    Why, to see any difference at all is “ridiculous,” “laughable,” “a paranoid conspiracy theorist’s dream!”

  14. Anonymous says:

    The unspoken question behind this piece about relationships is “Who is Unity08?”.

    Unity08 claimed to be against lobbyists but is made up of lobbyists. Unity08 claimed to be only taking small donations, but the record shows they have taken huge “loans” with undisclosed terms. Unity claimed to be about grassroots, but is full of insiders who call all the shots. Unity08 claimed they would count every vote, but in their first online “vote”, which was no more than a marketing survey, threw out an unknown number of “votes” for unknown reasons.

    The problem is that Unity08 is not who it says it is, so there’s no use paying any attention to what they say about themselves. JClifford is looking for something more solid that explains who they are by finding out who their friends are.

  15. Joseph says:

    I’ve thought about Unity08 a lot and I think, due to this thread, i’ve come to the right conclusion. “Who is Unity08?” is not the right question, and by answering it with “a corporation filled with lobbyists”, it’s not only incorrect, but it’s misleading and implicitly encouraging Unity08 not to exist.

    Unity08 does not currently exist. Becuase it does not exist, there is no “Who”. Unity08, according to their site, is an attempt to get some sort of bi-partisan ticket in the general election through a vast online vote of millions of Americans. For all intents and purposes, Unity08 at this moment is NOTHING beyond an *idea*. ANYONE can have an idea/plan/goal. The problem with the questions is that the questions are TANGIBLE questions about an INTANGIBLE idea that doesn’t, for practical purposes, TANGIBLY exist yet. If Unity08 doesn’t get the capability for a few million people to go online and vote, then the idea of Unity08 dies/fails. If the potential actually materializes (and the millions of supporters), then it’s time to evaluate the procedures and views of it because there will actually be people/procedures/technology to evaluate/criticize. I mean, think about the criticisms in the last post:

    1. “Unity08 claimed to be against lobbyists but is made up of lobbyists”
    2. “Unity08 has taken huge loans with undisclosed terms”
    3. “Unity08 is full of insiders that call all the shots”
    4. “Unity08 didn’t count every “vote” in their online marketing survey”

    There are two answers that apply to each of those:

    1. SO WHAT? There’s no indication that ANY of those things will matter if the idea of Unity08 actually materializes and becomes tangible. People will go online and vote, and regardless of who funded Unity08, who ran Unity08, or anything else, a democratic voting procedure will select Unity08’s candidate.
    1b. It is possible that the method will end up being corrupt. The point, however, is that as of now it’s NOT TANGIBLE and therefore there’s nothing to label as corrupt. All that exists is an idea. That hasn’t come into formation yet. That may not. An argument can’t be made that “lobbyists are ruining Unity08” when Unity08 doesn’t even exist yet.
    2. #1-#3 apply to both the Democrats and the Republicans. #4 applies to the Democratic plans for votes in Florida and possibly Michigan. Even IF all the arguments are true, the worst Unity08 can be characterized as is “The same as the other parties”. Speaking of which, I still haven’t seen any posts on how the DNC is going to discount millions of primary voters from Florida.

    If you’re going to be outraged, be outraged at something other than an idea that maybe 100,000 people (at most) are supporting.


  16. Ralph says:

    Or, be outraged at someone being outraged at an idea that maybe 100,000 people (at most) are supporting.

  17. Anonymous says:

    Unity08 doesn’t even exist yet, Joseph?

    That’s why they have a website, a leadership team, lawyers, and a lawsuit against the FEC and why it’s okay for them to lie. It’s because they don’t exist.

    Joseph is all over these Unity08 pieces. Wonder why that is. Wonder why he’s posting through one of those special untraceable IP-hiding sites. But he doesn’t work for U08, oh, no. Wonder where he gets all those explanations for why U08 is doing different stuff, all those different scenarios. Of course, he’s not a paid shill for Unity08. Oh, no.

  18. Ralph says:

    Mr. Turk is also conveniently ignoring the fact that for the first six months of its existence, Unity 08’s address was the address of the PR firm Peak Creative Media.

    Why, it’s ridiculous to associate Unity 08 with the PR industry!

  19. Joseph says:

    Such intellectual maturity on here. I point out how Unity08 is, for all practical purposes, an intangible idea that doesn’t exist in its actual form (which I made extremely clear that I’m not saying it’s just an illusion). I then point out how I just thought through my beliefs in Unity08 and realized the way to reconcile them with the criticisms in the above post is by realizing that none of the criticisms matter since no harm has been done. I mean, it’s essentially saying that “We need to bomb Iran”, based on the IDEA that they are building nuclear weapons even though we have no indication they have started to do so yet or any evidence that they are going to build them.

    In response, instead of anyone arguing the merits of my arguments how the criticisms don’t matter and/or apply to both of the other ineffective and unrepresentative parties (which I deeply despise and think are going to ruin this nation), I get arguments based on not reading my post and accusing ME of being a liar.

    To Anonymous: If you knew anything about computers, you’d know that without advanced software/knowledge, you can’t take an IP address and find out exactly who a person is since IP addresses often times shift (Dynamic IP) Additionally, if you’d read my post, you’d realize that me saying “Unity08 doesn’t exist” is DEFINED through the rest of the post, pointing out what I mean by “doesn’t exist”. Read it. As an inaccurate summary: If Unity08 actually comes into existance, and I get to vote for a third candidate next year in the election, their lies meant absolutely nothing to me, as I still am going to get to vote for the third option. If Unity08 doesn’t come into existance, then the lies meant nothing because Unity08 never amounted to anything. Either way, none of it matters until Unity08 either comes into existance or fails.

    By the way, I love how Anonymous is ignoring the point that the Democratic party is disenfranchizing millions of voters. Oh no, could it be because he’s a paid shrill by the DNC? Or maybe just a DNC fanboy who would vote Democrat regardless of whether or not Unity08 was running a better candidate? Oh, no. (i’m sorry, civility becomes increasingly difficult when people decide to throw out unwarranted accusations and don’t read posts)

  20. Ralph says:

    Well, calling someone else immature is one way to win and argument.

    Another way to win an argument is to say something that actually makes sense.

    Unity 08 exists. It has people in positions of leadership. There are people who have officially joined it. It is suing the FEC. It is collecting money.

    To say that it shouldn’t be scrutinized or criticized because it doesn’t exist is simply bizarre. It smacks of a desperation to defend something that isn’t really defensible when you look at the facts.

  21. Joseph says:

    Okay, I said “intellectual maturity”, and responding to arguments with personal attacks without addressing the actual arguments is a bad thing (and if that person is immature because of it, so be it)

    What I actually said, in context, makes sense. The criticisms listed above of Unity08, the ones that are the most common, the 4 I listed in post #15 are all irrelevent and being focused on for no good reason. As I said in post #15, at WORST Unity08 is going to be the same as the other parties. The key point, however, is that Unity08 does not exist to an extent that any of those criticisms listed make any sense:

    1. Sure, it COULD be bad that Unity08 is made up of “political insiders”…IF they end up biasing/rigging the vote.
    2. Sure, it COULD be bad that Unity08 has taken loans of undisclosed terms…IF they are being influenced by the loans in such a way that it ends up disenfranchizing American voters.
    3. Sure, it COULD be bad that Unity08 is made up of insiders that call all of the shots…IF those insiders call the shots in a way that makes it so that all voters can’t go online and select a Presidential ticket in May.
    4. Sure, it COULD be bad that Unity08 didn’t count every vote in their online marketing Survey…IF that vote is actually going to affect the outcome of Unity08 and it’s election. (which, seeing as how they have about 100,000 ppl, I doubt it)

    The criticisms of Unity08 that I’ve heard, are all based on assuming the “IF” to be true, with no evidence actually supporting it. The reason why I believe there’s no evidence, is because Unity08 doesn’t really exist to such an extent to provide said evidence. Those “IFs” will occur/not occur after Unity08 actually gets big enough to matter. Trying to bias 100,000 ppl is loose change in a Presidential election. It doesn’t seem to be very valid, in an evidentiary sense, to come up with attacks at this point.

    Not to mention, as I’ve pointed out and the DNC hacks here don’t seem to care about, ALL Florida voters being disenfranchized is a little worse than anything that could be going on with Unity08’s paltry group:


  22. Ralph says:

    What you actually said, in the context of reality, makes no sense whatsoever.

  23. Joseph says:

    Um, okay, let me dumb it down for you then.

    You can’t convict a delinquint/rebellious child for crimes you THINK he will commit as an adult. You wait till he’s an adult, and he commits the crime, then you convict him.

    Unity08 having political insiders/loans/not counting votes in a marketting survey are irrelevent unless/until Unity08 grows up and actually does something wrong. You wait until the insiders try to bias the vote/the loans bias the candidates/the non-counted votes affect the nomination, and THEN you convict them.

    Speaking of which, the DNC has already stated they are ignoring Florida’s votes. What do you think of that?

  24. Ralph says:

    See, that’s where the context of reality comes in.

    Nobody is trying to convict Unity 08 of any crime, or even accusing them of one.

    But Jim has painstakingly documented the fact that they HAVE said one thing and done the opposite, time and time again.

    The Unity 08 leadership has put itself out there, seeking publicity for their campaign. They are not little children, or minors who need to be protected.

    On the Florida Democrats:

    I think it’s a scandal that the Democratic party is threatening not to count the votes of Florida Democrats if the state moves its primary too early.

    I think it’s a scandal that the predominantly white residents of Iowa and New Hampshire play such a disproportionate role in determining the Democratic and Republican nominees for president.

    And I think it’s a scandal that a group of Washington insider lobbyists and public relations professionals started up a campaign in search of a candidate, originally claiming to be against Washington insiders and lobbyists, then slowly dropping the objections from their website when they were exposed.

  25. Joseph says:

    I think I agree with Ralph. My hope for Unity08, is the idea that it doesn’t really matter what the leadership of Unity08 states their opposition to, since theoretically all that will matter is who I vote for online. I guess we’ll see.

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