Gingrich-Connected PR Firm Issues Baffling Response To WSJ Disclosure Failure

The Wall Street Journal had to issue an “amplification” to a Newt Gingrich op-ed after it was revealed the paper failed to disclose Gingrich's financial ties to a group involved in the piece's subject. A PR firm associated with Gingrich attempted to defend the lack of disclosure, but their baffling explanation is just further proof the Journal should have included the information in the first place. 

As Media Matters originally noted, the Journal published a July 1 op-ed by Gingrich attacking the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and promoting the U.S. Consumer Coalition without disclosing that the anti-CFPB group employs him as a paid adviser. The paper updated the piece this morning with the sentence: "Amplification: Newt Gingrich is a paid adviser to Wise Public Affairs, whose clients include the U.S. Consumer Coalition, which opposes some policies of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau."

Washington Post writer Erik Wemple reported that Brian Wise, head of Wise Public Affairs, claimed that Gingrich has a relationship with his firm, but "'not necessarily a direct relationship with the USCC,' which is a client of Wise Public Affairs. 'The USCC wasn't involved at all in the creation of that article,' says Wise." Wise also reportedly said that Gingrich “has not advised USCC on the CFPB data-mining issue” and didn't see a problem with the WSJ piece. 

Wise's response is puzzling, since the USCC states on its website and Facebook page (see hereherehere) that Gingrich is an advisor to the group. Indeed, the group's press release promoting Gingrich's WSJ op-ed identified him as “US Consumer Coalition Senior Advisor and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich.”

Additionally, Gingrich's op-ed contains similar rhetoric as USCC's anti-CFPB talking points. 

The remarks are also disingenuous since USCC and Wise Public Affairs “are basically one and the same.” As Mother Jones' Patrick Caldwell reported in February, Wise and his “colleagues at his PR firm now do double duty at the Consumer Coalition.” He added, “Setting up groups like the Consumer Coalition seems to be a big part of what Wise Public Affairs offers its customers.”  

Wise Public Affairs states on its website that it offers “Strategic Advocacy Campaigns” for clients that “are designed to win, whether that means overcoming an industry's negative public image, averting a PR crisis, building support for a corporate merger, or accomplishing a challenging public policy objective.”

Mother Jones reported that “the Consumer Coalition's interests don't make it any easier to decipher who's funding it. Wise--who admitted that corporate donors and 'people who have interest in the industries' backed the group--denied that 'any financial institution' was involved in paying its bills. ... The group's true funders may never be known. As a 501(c)(4) nonprofit, the Consumer Coalition is permanently exempt from revealing its donors.”

Despite its murky corporate funding, USCC has regularly appeared in media outlets like The HillFox NewsWashington Times, and Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Newspaper editorial pages have frequently failed to disclose relevant financial ties by conservative op-ed writers. Recent culprits include the Journal (again), New York TimesWashington Post, and Chicago Tribune.