This memo, written in 1971 by Lewis Powell, an influential member of the corporate legal community, called on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to take a more active and aggressive role in the country in promoting their voice. In it, he detailed the many avenues of influence the Chamber could take in asserting their influence.
It is a key element to understanding the uniform voice coming from mainstream media, universities, public agencies, government officials — local, state, and federal — and the many “public-private” partnerships.
Lewis Powell became Associate Justice on the Supreme Court the following year, serving on the Supreme Court from 1972 – 1987.
This memo was cited in the Robert Parry article “The Victory of ‘Perception Management'”.
Powell was a partner for over a quarter of a century at Hunton, Williams, Gay, Powell and Gibson, a large Virginia law firm, with its primary office in Richmond (now known as Hunton & Williams LLP). Powell practiced primarily in the areas of corporate law (especially in the field of mergers and acquisitions) and in railway litigation law. He had been a board member of Philip Morris from 1964 until his court appointment in 1971 and had acted as a contact point for the tobacco industry with the Virginia Commonwealth University. Through his law firm, Powell represented the Tobacco Institute and various tobacco companies in numerous law cases…
On August 23, 1971, prior to accepting President Nixon’s request to become an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, Powell sent the “Confidential Memorandum” titled “Attack on the American Free Enterprise System.” He argued, “The most disquieting voices joining the chorus of criticism came from perfectly respectable elements of society: from the college campus, the pulpit, the media, the intellectual and literary journals, the arts and sciences, and from politicians.” In the memorandum, Powell advocated “constant surveillance” of textbook and television content, as well as a purge of left-wing elements. He named consumer advocate Ralph Nader as the chief antagonist of American business.
This memo foreshadowed a number of Powell’s court opinions, especially First National Bank of Boston v. Bellotti, which shifted the direction of First Amendment law by declaring that corporate financial influence of elections through independent expenditures should be protected with the same vigor as individual political speech. Much of the future Court opinion in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission relied on the same arguments raised in Bellotti.