From The Bozeman Daily Chronicle comes this story:
D.C. PR Fim Targets Montana Hunting Groups
A secretive out-of-state group is attempting to influence Montana politicians on land and water issues with a campaign that targets state sportsmen’s groups.
On Feb. 3, Will Coggin of a group called the Environmental Policy Alliance sent an email to Montana legislators claiming that Montana sportsmen’s groups were really left-wing lobbying groups.
He listed the Montana Wildlife Federation, Montana Hunters and Anglers and the Montana Sportsmen Alliance and pointed legislators toward a website called “Green Decoys Montana” hosted by the Environmental Policy Alliance.
“Montanans should be wary of these groups that claim to speak for sportsmen while being funded by radical environmentalists and special interest groups,” Coggin wrote in the email.
Right. Will Coggin. I suppose a little background information is in order.
For starters, let me note that the rise of the earth-poisoning Koch Brothers and their various right-wing "grass roots" organizations, has cast sunshine on the proliferation of "astro-turf" organizations created by, and pocketing money from, their pay-masters: thieving big oil, toxic mining companies, poisoning tobacco companies, price-gouging pharmaceutical companies, puppy mill purveyors, chemical companies, and the like.
To say that these groups have nothing to do with the interests of hunters, anglers, and campers does not begin to say enough; these groups are diametrically opposed to everything hunters and anglers stand for.
I suppose I should also note that I have lived and worked in Washington, D.C. for a long time and, as a consequence, I have battled my fair share of "liars for hire."
In fact, astro-turf organizations are a major industry in this town. There are companies who do nothing but create fake "citizen groups" which are little more than Hollywood western towns, one board thick, with nothing but the desert behind them.
Among these charlatans, bunko artists, flim-flam peddlers, and pretenders, there are repeat-players, such as Tech Central Station which is owned and managed by DCI, which in turn is sponsored by pharmaceutical companies and fast food restaurants, which is only too happy to tell you that if you are fat, sick and depressed from eating too much drive-thru food, perhaps a powerful anti-psychotic, made by Pfizer, can help. No, I am not kidding.
Of all the two-faced money-grubbers that exist in this town, however, one is particularly notorious, and that person is Richard Berman.
This is the fellow who rather famously got the founder of Mothers Against Drunk Driving to stand with the alcohol industry and lobby for breweries. Yes, money was involved!
Berman's modus operandi is to create dozens of organizations to do industry bidding and to label them as if they are supported by voters and due-paying citizens. They aren't, as I detailed some time back in a post entitled "Toxic Sludge is Good for You."
These are classic front groups staffed by liars for hire who will not tell you who pays their salary.
Berman, of course, has a few young side kicks who are actually responsible for cranking out the content of these front groups, answering the phone, and making sure the checks from big companies make it all the way to the bank.
One of those young hacks is a fellow by the name of Will Coggin.
As luck would have it, Will Coggin emailed me last year.
I suppose because I have taken a few head shots at HSUS, PETA, the ASPCA, and the RSPCA for being direct mail mills and pocketing money from the stupid, the ignorant, and the naive, he thought I might be a point he could use to generate more spin.
In any case, he wanted to have lunch.
Okaaaay. This might be fun. At the very least, I would find out who this guy was.
Here's what I found out….
Will Coggin is a very young guy who shot his mouth off at William & Mary College as an undergraduate (and he did it on more than one occasion), and as a result he probably could not easily find a job anywhere when he got out of school. After that, there was a slight whiff of foul odor about him. Companies were not lining up for his services, and his degree was not in something the world needed much more of. The brutal truth is that over-educated suburban white boys without clear skill sets are a dime a dozen. Slightly damage goods? Next!
And so Will Coggin took the first job offered to him, and never mind who was offering it, or what it was about. Beggars can't be choosers!
The job offer was from one of Richard Berman's front groups. Coggin would be paid to troll through mounds of paperwork to find some lie, overstatement, bit of fakery, or obvious example of moral cowardice being perpetrated by the Humane Society of the U.S., or the ASPCA or PETA. He would not have to do much heavy lifting!
Coggin was similarly paid to attack any group pushing for clean water, healthy food, or an end to industrial poisoning of the American people. He was to be a human cog in the "opposition research" groups assembled by Richard Berman to defend any company that got a few dollars a day more if they poisoned fresh water, ripped down forests, exploited workers, killed puppies, or left our children fat and stupid.
In short, because of a minor blemish on his resume which, over time, he could have probably rubbed out as a youthful indiscretion, Will Coggin made the colossal error of going in the other direction and doubling down on lies and stupidity.
Did he know what he was doing? I doubt it.
After talking to him, I found he was not that bright. Clever, perhaps, but not bright.
He’s one of those guys who sees issue advocacy as a game, and actual knowledge and experience as being unnecessary. As far as he’s concerned, it's all about scoring cheap points. He’s Sarah Palin in drag, with smaller tits, and less poufy hair.
For the record, and by his own admission to me, Will Coggins does not hunt.
He does not fish.
He does not camp or hike.
He knows nothing about farming.
He knows nothing about wildlife.
He does not give a fly about the environment.
He never travels outside of the city or the suburbs.
He knows nothing about nonprofits or direct mail.
When I asked him, he claimed he did not actually know how it all worked over at Richard Berman’s multiple shops.
He was also evasive as to who actually paid his salary. He acted as if he did not even know what the paycheck said.
I am not sure what he thought he was doing when he told me that.
I did not think he was THAT stupid.
I DID think he was a liar.
I could tell he was ashamed that I had pulled him apart in 10 questions – exposed how little he knew about what he wrote about, and how little he cared about it as well.
I am no friend of HSUS, PETA, or the lunatic liars that run direct mail mills. I have hammered them all mercilessly on this blog.
At the same time, however, I actually hunt and fish. I actually spend time on farms. I have been an environmental professional, and I love America’s forests, fields and farms.
This stuff is not an abstraction for me.
It’s not a fucking game.
The rest of my lunch conversation with Will Coggin was, quite frankly, paternalistic. This kid was younger than my daughter and he was screwing himself up in a way that would be hard, if not impossible, to repair later.
I told him he needed to get the hell out of Richard Berman's shop, and do it FAST.
I told him his resume had been only mildly damaged by his stupid pranks at William & Mary, but it was never going to recover if he stayed at Berman’s shit shack. Berman was getting rich while Will Coggin was pouring gasoline on his own future and setting it afire in order to admire the shadow puppets he could make against the wall. It was idiocy.
I told him he was too young to actually understand where he was is in his own career, or what he was doing to it. He could do what he wanted, but my advice (and I was going to make no money from giving it) was to GTFO.
He was shocked, I think.
I was clearly not “the opposition,” but at the same time I was not some Cato Institute drinking buddy he could game around with. I sneered at HSUS, PETA, the ASPCA, and the other direct mail lie factories, but I also very clearly hated ALL liars, cheats, and thieves.
I was calling him out for being part of that.
I told him, in no uncertain terms, that he was MORE of the problem, not a single bit of any part of the solution.
In the end, I walked away and just shook my head. Will Coggin was almost certainly not energetic enough to get off his ass and find another job, and he was probably not bright enough to realize that my harsh talk was not delivered from any place other than a genuine belief that he had put himself in a perilous place. Will Coggin was going to end up being replaced, soon enough, by some lower-priced liar-for-hire who would offer to do the job better and for even less money.
Hey Richard Berman, why not outsource this job to a team of investigative reporters in India or Africa? You can pay them a bucket of fish heads and two bowls of rice for a salary, and with the Internet and Sykype, no one will ever know.
And what will Will Coggin do then? Will anyone else ever trust him to carry any message of real value? I doubt it. This is not a man who actually values -- or even understands -- the substance of what is being said. He is simply a paid shill whose competitive skill is that he is only too happy to package up nonsense in order to dupe ignorants at the behest of corporate poisoners. The dead and the sick are in his wake? I suppose he claims that's just Darwin in action, not that he has actually read Darwin, mind you. That would be too much like work.
I ended up asking Coggin if he would tell me who his donors were. Oh no! He had no obligation to do that!
Right. No obligation to do that. But why not? Who knew truth to suffer in a free and open debate? No one! Why were his donors not PROUD to announce his work and be associated with it? Why was he not anxious to show them off as well?
Will Coggin will, of course, read this post. He will remember the lunch and what I said: Get the hell out. Change your name. Stop being “Will” and start using Bill or William so “the Google” cannot tar you for past stupidities. Reinvent yourself.
But, above all, GTFO of Rick Berman’s shop. As I told him at the time, if you smear your hands with bullshit, do not be surprised if folks are not anxious to shake them in the future.
A word to the wise is sufficient. Walking away from lunch, I knew it was insufficient in this case.
And now, in the latest clip from The Bozeman Daily Chronicle, that has been confirmed.