NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


March 17, 2005

In "Biz-War and the Out-of-Power Elites: The Progressive-Left Attack on the Corporation," Jarol Manheim, a professor of media and public affairs at George Washington University, tells us why and how the left has adopted what he calls "anti-corporate" campaigns to demonize particular businesses in order to get them to adopt its agenda.

Since the early 1980s, when President Ronald Reagan and his revolutionary conservative agenda rose to prominence, liberals have organized a counter-movement through activist charities. These groups target the environment, unions and "social responsibility," says Manheim.

Rather than engage in a direct debate, these activists groups seek indirect methods to bring about social change. According to Manheim:

  • Some of these groups push for codes of conduct by companies and industries, realizing that the impossibly high standards set by such codes will be difficult to meet, thus setting up the targeted companies to be attacked for "bad faith."
  • These groups spread rumors, file lawsuits, make complaints to regulators and mount shareholder proxy campaigns; one group, Institutional Shareholder Services, gives "independent" advice to institutional investor managers on how to vote their proxies, without disclosing that it may have been involved in stirring up the proxy issue in the first place.

There are examples of each of the seven main tactics used in these campaigns: legal, regulatory, legislative, political, financial, commercial and public relations. Manheim provides a useful reader's guide to groups in the categories of environment, "social responsibility," religion, unions, pension funds and foundations.

Source: Jarol Manheim, "Biz-War and the Out-of-Power Elites: The Progressive-Left Attack on the Corporation," George Washington University, March 2004; and Peter Hannaford, "The Business of Liberalism," Washington Times, March 8, 2005.


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