“Just four blocks from the White House is the headquarters of the Employment Policies Institute, a widely quoted economic research center whose academic reports have repeatedly warned that increasing the minimum wage could be harmful, increasing poverty and unemployment.
But something fundamental goes unsaid in the institute’s reports: The nonprofit group is run by a public relations firm that also represents the restaurant industry, as part of a tightly coordinated effort to defeat the minimum wage increase that the White House and Democrats in Congress have pushed for.”
So begins this great New York Times article on how the fight over minimum wage illustrates the many tactics utilized by industry when it comes to taking on policymakers.
Over the past year, we have made many mentions of how the food industry hides behind front groups to spin science, fight public health policy, attack health and nutrition advocates, and pat itself on the back for minimal efforts.
As the NYT piece explains, front groups mask the intentions of their funders “with the gloss of research, and play a critical and often underappreciated role in multilevel lobbying campaigns, backed by corporate lobbyists and labor unions, with a potential payoff that can be in the millions of dollars for the interests they represent.
What was most interesting was this “cameo” by the Corn Refiners Association (as you may remember, the Corn Refiners Association not only has RDs on staff, but also provides continuing education webinars for which RDs can receiving credit):
“Internal company documents show that members of [advertising and public relations executive] Mr. [Richard] Berman’s team — at least when they have been involved in some of the other corporate-backed projects — have discussed ways to massage academic data to change outcomes.
For example, an academic study published by researchers at the University of Southern California concluded that soda had higher concentrations of high-fructose corn syrup than advertised. Mr. Berman’s team, hired by the corn refining industry to defend its sweeteners, mobilized staff at his Center for Consumer Freedom to challenge the results.
“If the results contradict U.S.C., we can publish them,” said an email sent to Mr. Berman and other staff in October 2010 from a Berman employee at the time, referring to the University of Southern California report. The exchange became public recently as a result of a lawsuit between the sugar and corn refining industries. “If for any reason the results confirm U.S.C., we can just bury the data.”
This, of course, makes us wonder about the tactics utilized by other “institutes,” including Coca-Cola’s Beverage Institute for Health and Wellness, General Mills’ Bell Institute, and Nestlé’s Nutrition Institute (the first two are often referenced by the Academy as examples of objective and science-based data).