A well-known Washington D.C. lobbying firm with close ties to the financial industry recently pitched a $850,000 plan to launch a smear campaign against Occupy Wall Street and the politicians who might support it, a memo obtained by MSNBC program Up with Chris Hayes has revealed.
In the proposal from lobbying firm Clark Lytle Geduldig & Cranford and addressed the American Bankers Association, CLGC suggests the ABA pay the lobbyists $850,000 to conduct opposition research. Such research, the memo says, could then be used to construct negative narratives about the protests.
In the memo, CLGC expressed great worry about the influence of Occupy protests, and especially the danger of having the Democratic Party embrace the OWS movement.
This would mean more than just shot-term political discomfort for Wall Street... the memo read. It has the potential to have very long-lasting political, policy and financial implications on the companies in the center of the bulls-eye.
The CLGC memo outlines a 60-day plan to conduct surveys and research on OWS and its supporters, so that Wall Street companies could then conduct a smear campaign against the Occupy movement in the media.
Wall Street companies likely will not be the best spokespeople for their own cause, according to the memo. In order to get around this difficulty, outside parties must be convinced to stand up for them, to the detriment of Occupy Wall Street demonstrators.
A big challenge is to demonstrate that these companies still have political strength, the memo read, and that making them a political target will carry a severe political cost.
A second part of the plan outlined by the Washington lobbyists however, deals with upcoming elections, and how to manipulate the Occupy protests' effect on them.
CLGC proposed statewide surveys in at least eight states, targeting Florida, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Wisconsin, Ohio, New Mexico and Nevada, as well as examining the gubernatorial race in North Carolina. These states are shaping up to be the most important of the 2012 cycle.
Using that information, the lobbyists would then look into who has contributed financially to OWS, as well as what politicians appear sympathetic to Occupy's cause.
It will be vital, the memo says, to understand who is funding it [the Occupy protests] and what their backgrounds and motives are.
If we can show that they have the same cynical motivation as a political opponent, the memo, now rather ironically, ends, it will undermine their credibility in a profound way.
The memo also says however, that the greatest blow to the ABA and its associates would not be that Democrats score big victories in 2012, but that their doing so, and the growth of OWS, causes Republicans to stop supporting Big Business in order to win more votes.
The bigger concern for the American Bank Association, the memo read, should be that Republicans will no longer defend Wall Street companies.
CLGC and Republican Party
ABA spokesman Jeff Sigmund confirmed that the association received the memo in question, but said the group had no intention of following CLGC's suggestions. It [the memo] was unsolicited, and we chose not to act on it in any way, Sigmund said.
The bigger issue however, is not even whether the plan would have gone into action but the fact that such a memo was released in the first place, laying out as blatantly as it does the ties between prominent political conservatives and Wall Street companies, and how far these groups may be willing to go to squash any threats to that bond.
Three of the memo's authors, and current partners at Clark Lytle Geduldig & Cranford, are directly connected to the Republican Party. The memo is dated Nov. 24, five days after it became public.
Geduldig and Cranford are both former employees of Republican House Speaker John Boehner. Geduldig joined CLGC before Boehner became speaker, but Cranford joined the lobbying firm this year after serving as Boehner's assistant on policy issues. A third partner, Steve Clark, is close to Boehner, with a story highlighting their bond featured on the organization's web site.
Boehner spokesman Michael Steel declined to comment on the memo, and CLGC has not returned calls for a statement.
Occupy and Tea Party: United We Divide?
The memo itself however, stands an indicator of how some Wall Street lobbyists and companies view the Occupy movement, and the threat it poses.
It may be easy to dismiss OWS as a ragtag group of protesters, the lobbyists wrote, but they are very nimble and capable of working the media, coordinating third party support and engaging office holders to do their bidding.
This third party support could even spread to another decentralized, steadily growing movement on the conservative end of the spectrum: the Tea Party protests.
Well-known Wall Street companies stand at the nexus of where OWS protesters and the Tea Party overlap on angered populism, the memo frets.
At the moment Occupy Wall Street, while remaining defiantly independent, is seen by many as the liberal counterpoint to Tea Party protests, with one side opposing Big Business and the other fighting against Big Government.
The two would seem to be at loggerheads and have little in common beyond generalized disillusionment and resentment. But that, Washington lobbyists fear, may be enough.
This combination has the potential to be explosive later in the year, the partners of CLGC wrote, when media reports cover the next round of bonuses and contrast it with stories of American making doing with less this holiday season.
Though the ABA continues to insist it had no part in the lobbying firm's memo, and has no intention of carrying out its $850,000 plan, talk of opposition research and negative narratives may end up fulfilling the very fears this memo put down and sought to combat.
It also stands as a written testimony to how seriously some on Wall Street are taking the now-global Occupy movement, and how threatening these protests, even as police raids destroy camps at many of the original sites, continue to be for proponents of Big Business. If the far right and the (apparent) far left unite, both Democrats and Republicans will face big shakeups in the 2012 elections.