PRESS RELEASE -- Amsterdam, 28 June 2005
WATCHDOGS CRITICIZE MISLEADING SOFTWARE PATENTS LOBBY CAMPAIGN, CALL FOR TRANSPARENCY
LobbyControl and Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) have today written to European Commissioner Siim Kallas to alert him of misleading lobbying campaigns run by public relations firms. The two watchdog groups are part of ALTER-EU, a new civil society coalition for enforceable transparency and ethics rules for lobbyists. Anti-fraud Commissioner Kallas oversees the preparations for the European Transparency Initiative, intended to increase transparency around lobbying.
The ‘Campaign for Creativity’, which lobbies to make Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) vote for software patents, is the most recent example of a dubious ‘grass roots’ campaign. “Mandatory disclosure and ethics rules are the only way to effectively discourage such deceptive lobbying practices”, says Ulrich Mueller of LobbyControl.
In its lobbying towards MEPs, the ‘Campaign for Creativity’ (C4C) pretends to represent artists, musicians, designers, engineers and software developers. The texts on the C4C website give the impression that the authors are part of the creative sectors (www.campaignforcreativity.org). In reality, however, C4C is orchestrated by Campbell Gentry, a London-based public affairs firm (www.campbellgentry.com). C4C is de facto run by Simon Gentry, a public affairs consultant who in the past also lobbied for biotech patents on behalf of SmithKline Beecham. The English language website vaguely mentions that the campaign is “supported by” corporations including software multinationals Microsoft and SAP, and industry association CompTIA. Simon Gentry, however, refuses to disclose how C4C is actually financed. Gentry claims that C4C has some hundred individual supporters, but these do not contribute financially. The companies, Gentry told LobbyControl, contribute to specific actions of the campaign, not on a fixed scheme. Gentry dismissed our questions about finances as “meaningless”, arguing that the campaign also benefits from resources provided (e.g. providing access to rooms or help from a patent lawyer), not only money. The burning question, who the Campaign for Creativity really represents, remains unanswered.
"The campaign not only misleads decision-makers, but also potential supporters visiting the website", explains Ulrich Mueller. There is no reference anywhere to the fact that C4C co-ordinator Simon Gentry is part of the public affairs firm Campbell Gentry. The German and French language versions of the site do not even mention the support of companies and industry association CompTIA for C4C.
In recent speeches on the European Transparency Initiative, Commissioner Kallas has suggested that voluntary transparency around lobbying may be sufficient. Lobby Control and CEO, on the other hand, argue that the ‘Campaign for Creativity’ and other examples of public affairs firms establishing bogus NGOs and coalitions on behalf of industry clients prove the urgent need for mandatory lobbying disclosure and ethics rules. “Exactly these deceptive forms of lobbying benefit from the continued absence of transparency and ethics obligations. Such obligations must therefore be part of the European Transparency Initiative”, says Erik Wesselius of Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO).
For more information, contact:
- Erik Wesselius, Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO)
tel +31-30-2364422 / +31-20-6127023, ceo[at]corporateurope.org
- Ulrich Mueller, LobbyControl
tel +49-221-8018343, umueller[at]lobbycontrol.de
Letter to Commissioner Kallas, 28 June 2005.
Some background on the EU software patents directive, Corporate Europe Observatory, 28 June 2005.
The lobbying battle over the EU software patents directive, CEO backgrounder, 28 June 2005.
- LobbyControl is a new German civil society initiative that provides information on lobbying, PR campaigns and think tanks and promotes transparency and democracy. www.lobbycontrol.de/blog
Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) is an Amsterdam-based research and campaign group targeting the threats to democracy, equity, social justice and the environment posed by the economic and political power of corporations and their lobby groups. http://www.corporateeurope.org/
Lobby Control and CEO are concerned about the lack of transparency and the use of unethical tactics in lobbying towards the EU institutions. The two organizations are themselves not engaged in the lobbying battle around the CII directive.
- The Alliance for Lobbying Transparency and Ethics Regulation (ALTER-EU) is a coalition of civil society groups calling upon the European Commission to introduce mandatory disclosure rules that would allow effective democratic scrutiny of the role of lobbyists in EU policy-making.
- The European Transparency Initiative, launched by European Commissioner Kallas early March this year, aims to strengthen transparency around lobbying towards the EU institutions. The Commission has now established an intersectoral working group to prepare a Green Paper, to be published coming autumn. See the section on the European Transparency Initiative on Commissioner Kallas' website.
- Burson-Marsteller has over the last 12 months at three occasions been forced to step up transparency after critique emerged over its role in establishing and de facto running “the Coalition to Prevent Deep-Vein Thrombosis" (on behalf of Aventis), “European Women for HPV Testing” (on behalf of Digene Corporation) and the “Bromine Science and Environmental Forum” (on behalf of major producers of bromine flame retardants). In all these cases, the involvement of the companies – let alone Burson Marsteller – was initially hidden or kept vague. See Corporate Europe Observatory, House of Mirrors; Burson-Marsteller Brussels lobbying for the bromine industry, January 2005
Daniel Guéguen, Brussels lobby veteran, has recently predicted that controversial tactics will become more and more widespread in EU lobbying in the near future. In an interview with the EurActiv news-service Guéguen explained: "Because the stakes are higher, because Brussels is the number one centre of power in Europe, because Brussels will become the permanent theatre of heavy industrial warfare." "In the future […] we will tend to adopt ever tougher lobbying strategies and ever more sophisticated approaches to economic intelligence that will probably involve practices such as manipulation, destabilisation or disinformation."
De Wittenstraat 25 1052 AK Amsterdam Netherlands
tel/fax: +31-20-612-7023 e-mail: ceo[at]corporateeurope.org