November 16th, 2009
03:24 PM ET

50on50: Suckered – Part 1


Michael Schulder
CNN Senior Executive Producer

It happened again. My on-the-verge-of-50 savvy and life experience could not prevent my jaw from dropping. I'm aware lobbyists have influence in Congress. But this was another case of "I didn't know what I didn't know."


Imagine a member of Congress saying publicly, for the record: “A lobbyist for a major pharmaceutical company has convinced me that ….” Well, we don’t really need to finish such a statement. “A lobbyist convinced me” is not the quickest route to credibility. And yet ...

And yet, we learned in this Sunday’s New York Times that more than a dozen members of Congress, Democrats and Republicans, entered statements in the Congressional Record that were written by a lobbyist.

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/08/22/art.capitol.dome.cnn.jpg]

According to The New York Times, the language was spoon fed to congressional staffers, Democrats and Republicans, by a prominent pharmaceutical lobbyist, and regurgitated, word for word in most cases, by the members of Congress themselves. Regurgitated without any attribution.

The New York Times was apparently not able to find out whether these members of Congress knew their words had come directly from lobbyists, or whether the words were simply relayed to them by staff members who did not mention that salient point about the source to their bosses.

Thank goodness this is an aberration.

Say what?

NY Times page 24: "Asked about the Congressional statements," a lobbyist said, "This happens all the time. There is nothing nefarious about it."

That's what I get for reading the jump page.


I'm particularly sensitive to the importance of attribution, because I'm part of a large, experienced team at CNN which spends much time every day trying to ensure that we attribute our information as transparently as possible so you, our audience, can weigh the words of the people we put on our air. That's one of many ways we hopefully earn your trust.


This week, as part of my series to expose the weak foundation of the 18-49 audience demo before I get kicked out of it next month, I'll be writing about the connection between age and trust. I'm already learning in my reporting for this series that the "influencers" in our audience, those of you who are trusted in your community, are a key to creating A NEW DEMO FOR A NEW AGE.

And so, it's critical to get a handle on who SHOULD be trusted as influencers. How do we know who to trust?


One thing I can tell you.

Your antenna for who to trust gets sharper with age. Maybe that's because by the time you've approached 50, as I have, you've been suckered at least once in your career.

Tomorrow I'll reveal the worst time I was suckered and what happened to me as a result. I know who suckered me. It's public information. He's a prominent writer. He's written about the incident. But I don't think he knows I'M the one he suckered. I'm in the process of trying to track him down to finally have a little talk with him.

I won't give up easily. Trust me.


Follow Michael Schulder's battle against getting kicked out of the 18-49 demo here

Filed under: Michael Schulder • Opinion
soundoff (6 Responses)
  1. A. Smith, Oregon

    Big Pharma, routinely makes Billions of dollars PER popular prescription drug they market each year.

    To that end, Big Pharma spends hundreds of millions of dollars actively lobbying medical staffs, congressmen and senators on the state and federal levels to boost their corporates bottom line.

    In America, the Republican lawmakers know full well that Big Pharma spend mere penny's to create a drug they sell for $1000.00 dollars per month to senior citizens in America.

    In Canada, their parliament forces Big Pharma to rein in their profits, knowing full well that Big Pharma is only paying mere pennys to create any of the most popular drugs which sell routinely for some thousand dollars US per monthly refill.

    The Republican Party and their conscious is bought and paid for by the highest bidder.

    November 16, 2009 at 3:45 pm |
  2. Dean, Palm Springs, Florida

    I got involved in politics way before 50. I've parked myself in the offices of senators and congressman. People who want something had better learn how to write, there's noting worse than going to an aide and finding out that you are the only one complaining after 10 lobbyists were there before you dropping off the black bags. The term "convinced" means more than just "a little birdie told me...".

    November 16, 2009 at 2:44 pm |
  3. Helen

    Lobbyist, wrong and wrong!!!!

    Can't wait to read the "suckered" story tho'....LOL!

    November 16, 2009 at 2:42 pm |
  4. Jack L. Crain

    "Trust no one!"

    November 16, 2009 at 1:34 pm |
  5. JR, Miami, FL

    just wrong!

    November 16, 2009 at 1:18 pm |
  6. alex lyrics

    We need to do away with contributions, and lobbyist monetyy all together.

    our govenrment is corrupt

    November 16, 2009 at 12:32 pm |