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The Graham-Talent lobbying group wants its pie saved

Bob Graham and Jim Talent, a bioterror defense lobbying duo, are the very definition of nuisance astro-turfers.

For the last two years, they have regularly bashed the Obama administration with the same story:

Bioterror catastrophe of biblical proportion is coming. So heed our advice and fund the building of a new biodefense vaccine and nostrum facility at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

Jason Sigger describes it succinctly this morning at Armchair Generalist. He is no friend of theirs:

[Two billion dollars has] been sitting in the treasury for several years, without any active industry partner against which to obligate the funds. As former senators, Graham and Talent know that the money ought to be used against current priorities if it's not being obligated, but their desire to front for Big Pharma overwhelms their common sense.

The Graham-Talent bioterror defense industry lobby is upset because the Obama administration wants to spend money on the middle class. It wants to use two billion dollars from Project Bioshield to preserve jobs in this very bad economy.

Project Bioshield has been around since about the beginning of the war on terror. It has had a good long run and not produced much of benefit. But it has been considered a private inviolable fund by a very small and ineffective segment of the bioterror defense industry. A segment represented by Graham-Talent.

And for two years the Graham-Talent lobby has been allowed to masquerade as a bipartisan advisory group on opinion pages of newspapers. When it is nothing of the sort. It is just a sock-puppet for a very specialized industry.

This is backed up by the very public record of the Graham-Talent lobby.

The dirty laundry list is here. It is an accounting of all the opinion pieces and newspaper stories in which they proclaim catastrophe is coming if money isn't spent the way they they think it ought to be spent. The two work the directive that the truth of a thing is determined by how many times you plant a frightening scenario pertaining to it in newspapers.

And they regularly distort and exaggerate what is known about bioterror capabilities for the purpose of advancing their recommendations. It's manipulative and deceptive.

So, in today's Washington Post, they pull the same trick they've been doing for ... well, for way longer than the country deserves.

"Our nation failed to heed the warning signals that preceded the financial collapse in 2008 and the Gulf of Mexico oil spill," they write.

And they tell readers, "Information has since come to light [since Dec 08] about the possibility that one or more nation-states may choose to provide sophisticated biological weapons to terrorist groups."

No such information has come to light.

And it is the height of deceit and fear-mongering to conflate theoretical catastrophic bioterrorism with two very immediate and now well understood man-made calamities of our own making.

Using Graham-Talent's logic, one can justify spending for any pet project just as long as one has the stones to write or say "it would be as bad as" something we've already gone through. Just plug in your favorite special interest and add water.

Bob Graham and Jim Talent have no shame. They always try to rig the game by massaging opinion pages of newspapers nationwide.

"So who are these guys trying to fool?" asks Sigger at AG. "You, the general public, and Congress ... "

It's accurate and fair to say Bob Graham and Jim Talent had more than a good opportunity to voice their opinions. If their advice has been judged unsound or no longer appropriate to current needs, that is also fair.

They are little more than fixers for the bioterror defense business. And they continually work to get their favorite thing -- more money -- for this small private industry.

"Let's get a few Very Serious Persons to hype the threat, constantly beat that drum, so that Congress sends this money to a particular firm interested in producing vaccines," is how Jason Sigger describes it.

And when the Obama administration tries to ignore them or do something good, they refuse to get out of the way. Even though there is no public support for anything they want to do.

Therefore, they lash together a group of toady congressmen, easy to do in 2010, to make the case that spending on the insular bioterror defense industry they work for is very good. After all, it is always fine to look like you're opposing the president and theoretically beefing up national defense for an issue in which few know the fine details. There's no political cost to it while you're stealthily stiffing the middle class and clogging up the works again.

This is always better than spending any money on the nation's general welfare, on tangible things -- like preserving jobs. Because that would eat up some of their precious special biodefense industry pie.

Graham-Talent's contrived lobbying is a bad thing. Although it will never go away it ought to be ignored.

The Graham-Talent biodefense lobby massaging it earlier this year.

This post was published in an earlier form at Dick Destiny.

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