Today, the New York City Board of Elections announced its contract with global public relations firm Burson-Marstellar for a $6.5 million campaign to "educate" New York residents about the wholly non securable computerized voting systems NY plans to implement in 2009.
Also today, B-M announced it appointed former U.S. Army Reserve Public Affairs Officer Pamela Keeton as a managing director in its U.S. Public Affairs Practice. Earlier this month, B-M hired Karen Hughes, the former U.S. Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, as Global Vice Chair based in Washington, D.C.
This $6.5 million expenditure follows yesterday's Financial Control Board meeting where Governor Paterson admonished city workers for "failing to appreciate" the economic crisis faced by the city and the state. Mayor Bloomberg warned that since he expected a $1 billion deficit in FY 2009 and a $2.3 billion deficit in 2010:
"That's why we've put the lid on City-funded spending... We've directed City agencies to be very judicious in identifying where and how to save, in order to maintain our essential services and our economic competitiveness."
The lid has slipped, Your Honor. The NYC Board of Elections cannot justify $6.5 million in promoting a brand new, high-tech, exorbitantly expensive voting system that doesn't work. Nor is it "essential" to switch to a new system when fiscal prudence demands that NYC retain its secure, reliable lever voting machine in light of such grave fiscal deficits.
According to Wiki, B-M's most notorious client is Blackwater USA, the mercenary group alleged to have murdered 17 Iraqi civilians last year. Though the Iraq Prime Minister's office sought murder charges, Blackwater has never been brought to justice. Blackwater's Iraq contract was extended for another year in April. Apparently B-M did its job.
B-M also headed the PR campaign to dispute allegations of genocide against the Nigerian government, and represented Argentina's military junta government of General Jorge Videla to attract industrial investment.
The military takeover ended a protracted civil war and was hailed by world media as a prelude to peace in Argentina. Burson-Marsteller's client was the Ministry of the Economy. During the Videla government's reign, thousands of Argentine citizens disappeared and many more were tortured for their political beliefs, known as the Dirty War. Burson-Marsteller has maintained through the years that it was never asked by its client to defend human rights violations.
Victor Emmanuel, the Burson-Marsteller public relations executive who was in charge of selling the Argentine junta's new business-friendly regime to the outside world, told a researcher that violence was necessary to open up Argentina's "protective, statist" economy. "No one, but no one, invests in a country involved in a civil war," he said, but he admitted that it wasn't just guerrillas who died. "A lot of innocent people were probably killed," he told the author Marguerite Feitlowitz, but, "given the situation, immense force was required."
No stranger to defending oppressive regimes, B-M also represents multinational corporations, like:
"Union Carbide Corporation, jointly responsible for the Bhopal disaster that killed some 2,000 employees and nearby neighbors and seriously injured thousands more. The plant was a joint venture of Union Carbide Corporation, a long time B-M client, and the Indian government. While originally operated by Union Carbide, it was taken over by local Indian management prior to the accidental discharge of a deadly gas used in the manufacture of insecticides." (Wiki)
Corporate Watch reports this list of B-M clients:
BP Chemicals - In 1992, it was found that BP's Hull facility discharges twice the level of methyl ethyl ketone (MEK) - a chemical which can cause genetic damage, fetal damage or birth defects at unsafe levels of exposure - into the water than the total amount of MEK released in the United States. 1 | 2
Kerr McGee - owners of a uranium mine in the Navajo Nation, New Mexico. Accused of paying low wages and not informing the workers about the hazardous effects of uranium. Deaths are being recorded every month.
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