OnPoint by Keith Ng

56

Astrotobacco

Punchline: Big tobacco have hired the spin-doctors for the whaling lobby to astroturf as dairy owners to fight the tobacco tax.

Genius.

This came out of a blog post by Rory MacKinnon that various news organisations were citing press releases from the “Association of Community Retailers”, but none questioned who these people were.

According to their press release:

The ACR is a grass roots organisation, much like its predecessor, Stay Displays. It is funded from membership subscriptions and, through its part-time coordinators in Wellington, our members will be kept informed on a range of issues that affect how retailers do business,” Mr Gibson said.

Turns out, it's a really good question, with a hilarious answer. The ACR uses the same PO box as Omeke Public Relations, the firm established by Glenn Inwood. You may remember him from such news stories as:

Reports say Glenn Inwood's Omeka Public Relations company, which works for Japan's Institute of Cetacean Research, chartered planes in Hobart and Albany to track the Sea Shepherd's ship, the Steve Irwin, in December.”

Same PO box. So? Maybe the PO box lapsed. Maybe a pro-smoking group just happened to pick up an old PO box from a pro-whaling group.

The ACR works out of the same Thorndon office as SpinItWide.com. SpinItWide.com is registered to one Glenn Inwood. Among SpinItWide's clients are the Institute of Cetacean Research (ICR).

So, humour me for a moment, and assume that this Association of Community Retailers is connected to the spin doctor for the pro-whaling lobby. Maybe dairy owners found the money to pay for Inwood's services. Maybe Inwood is letting them use his offices because he shares their belief that smoking is a worthwhile cause. Maybe he gets their mail for them because he's a helpful guy.

The Wikipedia page on Glenn Inwood says (emphasis added):

Inwood's firm, Omeka, also works for Imperial Tobacco New Zealand, Japan Fisheries Agency, Japan Whaling Association, Species Management Specialists, and the World Council of Whalers."

The page references Omeka's own website in 2005, which hosted content for Imperial Tobacco New Zealand. SpinItWide is pimping Imperial Tobacco press releases right now.

Then there's also Richard Green and Murray Gibson, founding members and spokespersons for the ACR. Presumably this is the same “Discount Tobacconist shop owner Richard Green” quoted by the Manawatu Standard, since he said all the same things as he said in his press release.

Oh and hey, Rory also pointed to the fact that the ACR came out of the Stay Displays campaign. Not only was that campaign also fronted by Green and Gibson, but they had support from SpinItWide in that campaign too.

Funny, funny story. I wouldn't want to jump to conclusions about how much of the ACR campaign is driven by Inwood and staff. Nor would I want to speculate about any financial arrangements that Green and Gibson have with Inwood. And I most certainly would not want to speculate about any discussions that Inwood might have had with his tobacco-industry clients about the support he was providing for the ACR.

And if I wasn't speculating about the ACR, I wouldn't speculate about its predecessor, Stay Displays, either. Naturally, that would preclude me from speculating about any other organisations that SpinItWide.com has been helping.

I wouldn't, for example, have anything to say about the following organisations who use SpinItWide.com (emphasis added randomly, with no meaning implied):

* The New Zealand Association of Convenience Stores. Its "Premium Members" are: Cadbury, Coca Cola, Bluebird, Herbert Morton, Tip Top, Mars, Nestle, Streets, oh, and British American Tobacco and Imperial Tobacco.

* Lombard Finance & Investments.

* NZ Aged Care Association.

* Poutama.

* Te Ohu Kaimoana (The Maori Fisheries Trust).

* Facilitate Communications Ltd., on behalf of their clients. Its managing Director is Carrick Graham. He was the Director of Corporate & Regulatory Affairs for British American Tobacco New Zealand until 2006.

Just sayin'.

Honestly though, I hope these guys have a better comeback than Whaleoil.

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