Rendon Group - Vieques Campaign
On July 25, 2005, a startling revelation was released by Judicial Watch, a non-profit organization that specializes in uncovering and prosecuting governmental corruption. Upwards of $1.7 million dollars was illegally paid to the Rendon Group by the U.S. Navy so as to influence the outcome of a referendum scheduled to take place in Vieques, Puerto Rico in 2001. The referendum was to decide the fate of the continued presence (or not) of a four-decade long U.S. naval presence which involved bombing exercises. Indeed, the bombing exercises had done significant damage to the island in terms of damage its environment, local economy (fishing & tourism) and public health and even resulted in the death of a security worker (David Sanes Rodriguez, in April 1999). This was a scandal of significant proportion and gave the media a chance to highlight corruption that involved high ranking officials illegally using taxpayer funds. The press release distributed by Judicial Watch presented scathing evidence against clearly illegal activities by the Navy. One paragraph in the release read as follows:
- The Navy contract tasks for The Rendon Group included: “. . . organize local leaders to build grassroots communications support . . . ensure the integrity of the voting process . . . develop methods and tracking procedures to increase support among citizens.” Federal law restricts the political activities of government agencies and employees. Also, the Smith-Mundt Act of 1948 (22 U.S.C. ' 1461), forbids the domestic dissemination of U.S. government authored or developed propaganda or “official news” deliberately designed to influence public opinion or policy. 
The history of the Rendon Group is such that breaking the Judicial Watch story could have lent well to a deeper investigative piece of the Group’s shady history from its past public relations work. PR Watch has the following description of the multi-million dollar PR firm:
- The Rendon Group is a secretive public relations firm that has assisted a number of U.S. military interventions in nations including Argentina, Colombia, Haiti, Iraq, Kosovo, Panama and Zimbabwe. Rendon’s activities include organizing the Iraqi National Congress, a PR front group designed to foment the overthrow of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.
Judicial Watch not only revealed a scandal of significant proportions, it had to invest significant resources, time and money into a legal battle with the government to be able to do so. After over 11 months of evasion by the government over a lawful open records request, Judicial Watch was finally able to obtain the documentation it needed. The Navy apparently did not need to worry, however, as what would have been quite a damaging and scandalous revelation was completely uncovered by every single major U.S.-based newspaper surveyed in the Lexis-Nexis database, save for the Chicago Tribune.