The French Connection to the Palin Smears

The Jawa Report's outing of public relations man Ethan Winner as the poster of a professionally-produced anti-Sarah Palin smear video to YouTube has brought the company Publicis to the American public's attention.

As Rusty Shackleford and his colleagues have shown, Winner and several other members of the Los Angeles-based Winner & Associates public relations firm -- including company CEO Chuck Winner -- appear to have been involved in a concerted effort to make the anti-Palin video "go viral" on the Internet. Winner & Associates is a 100% owned subsidiary of French giant Publicis.

And what is Publicis? By its own account, Publicis is the fourth-largest communications group in the world, having generated some €4.7 billion (or $6.9 billion) in revenue in 2007. With its distinctive postmodern headquarters on Paris' Champs-Elysées just a stone's throw from the Arc de Triomphe, Publicis also happens to be one of those highly politically-connected French firms that are so characteristic of the upper echelons of the French economy.

The principal shareholder in Publicis is Élisabeth Badinter, the daughter of company founder Marcel Bleustein-Blanchet. According to the Publicis 2007 financial data (p. 73), Badinter controls some 10% of the shares in the company and nearly 17% of the voting rights. A joint venture between Badinter and the Japanese Dentsu Corporation controls another 5% of the capital and 7% of the voting rights.

Ms. Badinter is well-known in France as a "feminist" philosopher and the author of numerous books. Her husband is none other than Robert Badinter, a renowned French jurist and Socialist Party politician, whose career is closely intertwined with that of the late French president François Mitterrand. From 1981 to 1986, during Mitterrand's first seven-year term as president, Robert Badinter served as the French minister of justice. In 1986, he was then appointed by Mitterrand to head France's Constitutional Council, a sort of "committee of wise men" -- not all of them necessarily jurists, oddly enough -- that is the country's highest authority on constitutional matters. Badinter is probably best known in France nowadays for having spearheaded the campaign to abolish the death penalty. Although less known to the broad public, he also played an important role in shaping European policy during the Balkan Wars of the 1990s: namely, as the head of the so-called "Badinter Commission," which was established by the then-European Community to provide legal "opinions" on events in the former Yugoslavia. The rulings of the "Badinter Commission" have been criticized by international law scholars (such, for instance, as Barbara Delcourt of the Université Libre de Bruxelles) for, in effect, dressing up political decisions in pseudo-legal garb. Mr. Badinter is presently a member of the French Senate.