Sunday, November 20, 2011

Exclusive:Occupy Wall Street - Lobbying Firm's Memo Spells Out Plan to Undermine

A well-known Washington lobbying firm with links to the financial industry has proposed an $850,000 plan to take on Occupy Wall Street and politicians who might express sympathy for the protests, according to a memo obtained by the MSNBC program "Up w/ Chris Hayes."

The proposal was written on the letterhead of the lobbying firm Clark Lytle Geduldig & Cranford and addressed to one of CLGC's clients, the American Bankers Association.

CLGC's memo proposes that the ABA pay CLGC $850,000 to conduct "opposition research" on Occupy Wall Street in order to construct "negative narratives" about the protests and allied politicians. The memo also asserts that Democratic victories in 2012 would be detrimental for Wall Street and targets specific races in which it says Wall Street would benefit by electing Republicans instead.

According to the memo, if Democrats embrace OWS, "This would mean more than just short-term political discomfort for Wall Street. ... It has the potential to have very long-lasting political, policy and financial impacts on the companies in the center of the bullseye."

The memo also suggests that Democratic victories in 2012 should not be the ABA's biggest concern. "... (T)he bigger concern," the memo says, "should be that Republicans will no longer defend Wall Street companies."

Two of the memo's authors, partners Sam Geduldig and Jay Cranford, previously worked for House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio. Geduldig joined CLGC before Boehner became speaker; Cranford joined CLGC this year after serving as the speaker's assistant for policy. A third partner, Steve Clark, is reportedly "tight" with Boehner, according to a story by Roll Call that CLGC features on its website.

Jeff Sigmund, an ABA spokesperson, confirmed that the association got the memo. "Our Government Relations staff did receive the proposal -- it was unsolicited and we chose not to act on it in any way," he said in a statement to "Up."

CLGC did not return calls seeking comment.

Boehner spokesman Michael Steel declined to comment on the memo. But he responded to its characterization of Republicans as defenders of Wall Street by saying, "My understanding is that President Obama is the single largest recipient of donations from Wall Street."

On "Up" Saturday, Anita Dunn, Obama campaign adviser, responded by saying that the majority of the president's re-election campaign is fueled by small donors. She rejected the suggestion that the president himself is too close to Wall Street, saying "If that's the case, why were tough financial reforms passed over party line Republican opposition?"

The CLGC memo raises another issue that it says should be of concern to the financial industry -- that OWS might find common cause with the Tea Party. "Well-known Wall Street companies stand at the nexus of where OWS protestors and the Tea Party overlap on angered populism," the memo says. "...This combination has the potential to be explosive later in the year when media reports cover the next round of bonuses and contrast it with stories of millions of Americans making do with less this holiday season."

The memo outlines a 60-day plan to conduct surveys and research on OWS and its supporters so that Wall Street companies will be prepared to conduct a media campaign in response to OWS. Wall Street companies "likely will not be the best spokespeople for their own cause," according to the memo. "A big challenge is to demonstrate that these companies still have political strength and that making them a political target will carry a severe political cost."

Part of the plan CLGC proposes is to do "statewide surveys in at least eight states that are shaping up to be the most important of the 2012 cycle."

Specific races listed in the memo are U.S. Senate races in Florida, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Wisconsin, Ohio, New Mexico and Nevada as well as the gubernatorial race in North Carolina.

The memo indicates that CLGC would research who has contributed financial backing to OWS, noting that, "Media reports have speculated about associations with George Soros and others."

"It will be vital," the memo says, "to understand who is funding it and what their backgrounds and motives are. If we can show that they have the same cynical motivation as a political opponent it will undermine their credibility in a profound way."

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