Saturday, April 18, 2015

Will Coggin: Another Oily Cog in Dr. Evils Big Greasy Land Stealing Machine of Deception

By Bob Ferris

Above are side-by-side pictures of Will Coggin—one with a beard and one without.  None but the most unobservant would think that these are two different people, but Richard Berman (AKA Dr. Evil) hopes that folks will fall for a similar deception as he rolls Mr. Coggin out in his various “disguises” to fool the public into believing that people—rather than the corporate interests his PR and lobbying firm represents—want our federal lands to be sold, our waters to be more polluted, our food to be less protected, and our air less breathable as well as more likely to speed climate change and ocean acidification.

This deception of the American public is painful to observe because our media are often complicit in the trickery through failing to properly steward their opinion or letters pages (1,2,3,4,5,6,7) through adequately disclosing the qualifications and affiliations of the authors of op-eds and LTEs.  It is painfully material, for instance, when Mr. Coggin argues that the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership (1,2,), Trout Unlimited (1,2,3,4) or Backcountry Hunters and Anglers are groups supported by “outside” interests that the Western reader understands that he is doing so fueled by a salary derived from corporate interests at a keyboard near Washington, DC.   Irony dipped in hypocrisy should always leave us angry.

I suppose that some would argue that I should cut the publications some slack but information sources are by definition supposed to be informed and Mr. Berman is anything but subtle in his actions.  Granted he and Mr. Coggin try to bury their deception through a legion of front groups, aliases, projects and the like, but it really does not take much to unravel this awkward non-profit construct (see Source Watch).  And it has been publicly exposed repeatedly from a 60 Minutes piece (above) to a cautionary note on Charity Navigator. It is all on the extreme side of hinky.

Mr. Coggin characterized on Heartland Institute site.
Normally someone or something so bad, notorious and amateurish would not be a credible threat but this threat is acting synergistically with a highly compromised Congress, a nearly lethargic regulatory environment and a crisis of monumental proportions unfolding across the nation and around the world.  And like climate change it is a lot of little things that lead up to a huge impact.   It is this move to sell or divest federal public lands.  It is the push to get rid of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF).  And it is the tax-break and associated anonymity recently granted by the House to mega-donors bent on making our politic system more like a game of Monopoly rather than the democracy free of corporate influence envisioned by the Founding Fathers.

From Mr. Coggin's LinkedIn profile.
So what can you do?  You have three choices.  The first is that you can buy into the deception, don a hat festooned with tea bags and watch your public lands become wastelands and your country go back to being a resource colony.  You could also understand all of the above and do nothing.  Or you can get active by supporting the groups under attack above, calling out these newspapers for facilitating this deception and do as much as you can to get candidates elected that think that people and the quality of our lives—including clean air and water as well as access to healthy public lands—matter.

Money passing to Mr. Berman's firm from non-profit organization where he is the president (see 990).  

(Note: Mr. Coggin's conservatism-at-all-costs and regardless of the consequences runs deep as evidenced from two episodes during his college days at William and Mary: one involving opposition to affirmative action (1,2) and the other involving the public release of information about a young woman who claimed to have been raped.)

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