June 2, 2014

Matt Miller, Which Hat Is He Wearing?


Out of a crowded field of candidates hoping to replace retiring Representative Henry Waxman in Los Angeles, Democrat Matt Miller has attempted to distinguish himself by touting a variety of experiences. Miller’s campaign advertisement lists his various positions as a radio show host, education expert, former Clinton administration official, and business advisor. As he announced his candidacy, Miller took a leave from the Washington Post and NBC, where he was a columnist and contributor. What hasn’t been widely reported is his other bread-winning job: PR consultant.

Ethics forms filed by Miller to the House Clerk’s office, a standard procedure for any candidate for Congress, reveal that Miller received $239,099 from Burson-Marsteller, the influence and public relations firm, in 2013.

The ethics forms show a laundry list of other corporate clients, including American Express, General Electric, Linder & Associates, RLM Finsbury, and Wal-Mart. The New York Times’ Mark Leibovich, in his write up of the race, described Miller as a former consultant to McKinsey & Company. The ethics forms show that Miller continued to receive a salary at the firm up until announcing his run: $295,927 in 2013 and 2014, and $318,721 in the previous year, 2012. Many of Miller’s clients continued to pay him up until he announced his candidacy, including RLM Finsbury, which bills itself as a public affairs firm that helps influence lawmakers and regulators. RLM Finsbury says Miller left the firm as he launched his campaign.

For an insider with deep ties to the lobbying community, it may seem surprising that the Los Angeles Times, in endorsing Miller, counted him as outside the flock of candidates who are “embedded members of the system.”

The many corporate consultancy gigs held by Miller may cast his policy and pundit positions into question. For instance, when Miller penned a column for the Post defending corporations that take full advantage of the tax code to dodge paying billions in corporate income taxes, he did not disclose at the time that he was being paid by GE, a company that has become a symbol of this problem. Miller has endorsed cutting entitlement programs such as Social Security. As PR Week reported, Miller’s Burson-Marsteller was retained by billionaire Pete Peterson’s Fix the Debt campaign to help advocate for spending cuts to reduce the national debt.

Miller, in response to a query from Republic Report, says he has “always kept my editors and producers at my various outlets informed about my business activities, and have routinely made disclosures on air or in print where a reader or audience member should know of such work to avoid any conflict.” On KCRW radio, where Miller has hosted the popular show “Left, Right, and Center,” Miller says he has mentioned on air that he is an advisor to GE chief executive Jeffrey Immelt.  “I advised on strategy, policy and communications, and helped lead work on two reports issued by McKinsey’s education practice on the achievement gap and on elevating the teaching profession in the US. At Burson, I advised clients on external communications and reputation matters, and helped with client development,” Miller says.

As Republic Report has reported, several lobbyists and consultants working in the world of corporate advocacy have made the jump to run for Congress this year. In Virginia, we revealed that Republican candidate Ed Gillespie has been quietly consulting for oil and gas lobbying groups, while also advising firms such as AT&T and Bank of America. In North Carolina, we disclosed the many financial industry clients of Taylor Griffin, an establishment backed candidate who failed in his primary bid against Congressman Walter Jones (R-NC).

*This post has been updated to correct and clarify information about the timing of Miller’s income from certain clients, in particular to clarify that Miller stopped working for the above-cited clients by the time he launched his campaign. We regret the error. Miller also says that his payments from GE and American Express related to his work advising President Obama’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness. The two companies, Miller says, shared expenses for his services. After publication of this article, Miller contacted Republic Report but would not reveal the identity of his Burson-Marsteller clients.*


  • Wunky Finkerbean

    Matt Miller is truly a slime ball of a person. His abysmal record proves what a corporate shill he is. He’s not at all an advocate for “the people” and he should be continually exposed as the ruthless pol and operative that he is.

  • Stephen K. Mack

    Not one time as a regular listener to LRC did I ever hear Matt Miller talk about his being a corporate hireling. Not once! I hope this information
    contributes to an overwhelming loss in the house seat he is running
    for. No wonder he was so defensive,even hysterical when Robert Scheer
    opined on almost any subject, he was probably speaking against one of Mr. Miller’s many employers.


    • Joel MaHarry

      Holy shit! I’m with you, Mr. Mack. Feeling totally hornswoggled by Matt Miller. Years of checking into LRC left me with the specific sense that Miller was an objective reporter. Shilling, hacking and whoring for companies is fine (heck, that’s what I do for a living, and proudly.) American, even. But doing the shilling, hacking and whoring under the pretense of being an objective reporter or opinion journalist is hypocrisy. I would expect KCRW to pull the plug on Miller’s roll as the LRC arbitrator.

      • Stephen K. Mack

        Mr. MaHarry,
        Mr. Miller left the show with his announcement that he would seek public office. If Mr. Miller loses in the Primary, I think there are 17 candidates, I hope KCRW will not consider reinstating him. I’m torn, because Mr. Miller is likable and if he manages to contain both his effusive and sometimes political hysterical chatter-in sum he has a great deal to offer. I’m very disappointed and angry at him for his betrayal of a trust I foolishly invested in him! Although he has a great deal of talent for that kind of repartee, and his personality is congenial, when he isn’t defending one of his many corporate clients-what to do?
        Best regards,

  • AnOuthouse

    Dude, why do you think they’re paying you 300k a year for if its not to rent out your column space for their view points? You really think your private, personal, opinion is that valuable? What a narcissist.

  • solotar

    “This post has updated to correct the fact that its main point was dead wrong. We really regret the error.”

  • Truck_Party

    That correction is kind of a biggie

  • Stephen K. Mack

    The question is not, for me, about the fact that these business ties were severed before he started to run for office! It’s about the years Mr. Miller spent writing for the Washington Post and hosting LRC: the point that I think is most relevant is not that his employers knew of his far flung business interests, but that his readers and listeners did not know! And would have never known without Mr. Fang’s essay, here. It is demonstrative of an utter lack of personal/political integrity! It’s that simple. It’s not about poor judgement, it is about a dishonesty of omission, exercised over time. This man has no shame! Mr. Miller’s request for a ‘clarification’ just adds to the cumulative facts, that Mr. Miller was employed by many corporations while employed as the ‘Center’ seat on LRC and an opinion writer for the Washington Post.

  • lol @ that correction

  • Shuler Causnick

    Now I know why he’s always shushing the excellent Robert Scheer on Left, Right & Center, interrupting him as he’s making great points with “Bob… Bob… Bob” like he’s some kind of kook that needs to be reigned in. All makes sense now…