When it comes to professional conduct, attorneys, physicians and elected officials are subject to review by their peers through private associations and public commissions. They can face disbarment, censure, loss of licenses to practice, as well as removal from office through recall and impeachment.
For the public relations industry, however, no such oversight exists. While lying for a living has been normalized in American society, promoting racism still has to face the court of public opinion. Admittedly, this is a challenging task in light of the consolidation of private equity media ownership, but unethical conduct can still be exposed on the Internet.
A case in point is straight talk hate talk. Straight Talk Consulting’s Craig Cole, spokesman for Gateway Pacific Terminal (GPT) and Director of Northwest Jobs Alliance — a front group for GPT — has spent the last four years drumming up resentment against Lummi Nation, a member of the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians (ATNI), in order to overcome its opposition to fossil fuel export in its traditional territory–especially in five ATNI member tribes’ Usual and Accustomed treaty fishing areas.
Cole’s misconduct has been extensively documented in online publications, including a September 2015 expose at IC Magazine, a publication of the Center for World Indigenous Studies–a think tank established in 1979 by leaders from the National Congress of American Indians and the Assembly of First Nations in Canada. In March 2014, award-winning Native American journalist Terri Hansen exposed the GPT-funded, Tea Party-led PACs and their ally Citizens Equal Rights Alliance (CERA) — the “Ku Klux Klan of Indian country” — in a feature story at Indian Country Today.
Exposure of Cole’s direct involvement in facilitating financial and organizational connections between promoters of anti-Indian racism and fossil fuel industrial developers in the Pacific Northwest recently garnered investigative journalist Sandra Robson the prestigious Paul deArmond Citizen Journalism award. Robson’s groundbreaking feature stories on GPT and Cole won her Public Good Correspondent awards in both 2014 and 2015.
While Cole’s threatened libel suit against Robson never materialized, as Northwest Citizen reported in February 2014, this was a classic corporate effort to silence journalists. In a follow-up article, the editor observed that mainstream media in the greater Seattle region declined to mention this very important news.
Named a Fellow by the National Association of Corporate Directors, “the highest level of corporate credentialing for corporate directors and corporate governance professionals” in February 2014, Cole, who was simultaneously threatening journalists, exhibited an astonishing level of hubris for a promoter of racism. As a former liberal, now Tea Party hero, Cole must find it difficult to rationalize his misconduct since selling his soul to Wall Street. Meanwhile, the National Association of Corporate Directors might want to reconsider Cole’s fellowship.