Bought and paid for
G.M. Entangled in Pay-for-Publicity Dispute
By PHILIP SHENON
Published: April 28, 2006
WASHINGTON, April 27 — A public relations firm has apologized to General Motors after acknowledging that it may have offered money to former Labor Secretary Robert B. Reich in exchange for public comments supporting the automaker's employee buyout program. The offer would violate General Motors's policy against payments to opinion makers.
The firm's president, Richard Strauss of Strauss Radio Strategies in Washington, would not say if other commentators were offered payment for public support of the troubled automaker's buyout plan, which is intended to reduce sharply its work force of 113,000 hourly employees.
Mr. Reich, who was labor secretary under President Bill Clinton and is now a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, had complained publicly about the incident, which he said occurred three weeks ago. He described the offer of payment as a new instance of how "corporate America is paying pundits to shill for them."
Neither Mr. Strauss nor Mr. Reich would respond to questions about how much money might have been offered. A spokesman for General Motors said the company had a strict policy barring payment to outside commentators to promote its interests.
In a statement on Wednesday, Mr. Strauss said, "I may have mentioned the possibility of an honorarium" to Mr. Reich "out of deference and respect to him and his position."
While Mr. Strauss insisted that he did not "recall making an offer of money," he said that he had apologized to General Motors "for any misinterpretation that resulted from my conversations with Secretary Reich," adding that he was "fully aware that G.M. does not pay money or any other compensation for opinions." His statement was prepared in response to a reporter's questions.
In recent months, the practice by companies of hiring supposedly independent outside commentators to promote their interests has come under scrutiny in Washington.
posted by Steve @ 3:13:00 AM