Astroturf

Posted by Lisa Graves on February 28, 2013

Last week, the Center for Media and Democracy and The Nation magazine worked together to publish a package in The Nation and a new online wiki resource on Pete Peterson and the Campaign to Fix the Debt, an entity we consider an "astroturf supergroup" with a huge budget working hard to create the fantasy that Americans care more about national debt and deficits than jobs and the economy. Fix the Debt is currently exploiting the "sequester" debate in Congress to encourage steep cuts to incredibly popular social programs like Medicare and Social Security.

Posted by Mary Bottari on January 02, 2013

For better or worse, a bill passed Congress in the wee hours of 2013 averting the much-hyped "fiscal cliff" for now and raising taxes on couples making over $450,000 and extending a lifeline of unemployment benefits to 2 million Americans.

Posted by Harriet Rowan on October 23, 2012

The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) "I Built My Business" astroturf bus tour started rolling through Wisconsin this week in support of Republican candidates for office. NFIB advertises itself as the nonpartisan "Voice of Small Business," but CMD's new web resource NFIBexposed.org presents a wealth of facts that challenge that assertion.

Posted by Harriet Rowan on August 08, 2012

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker flew to DC over the weekend to thank the Americans For Prosperity astroturf group for its help with the Wisconsin recall. Walker headlined AFP's 2012 "Defending the American Dream" Summit two months after winning his June 5 recall battle -- with a $10 million assist from the organization that was founded and is funded and led by billionaire David Koch. (The $10 million spent by AFP was $3 million more than what was spent by Walker's opponent.)

Posted by Emily Osborne on April 15, 2012

Americans for Prosperity Tax Day rally in Madison.Americans for Prosperity (AFP), the Koch-funded astroturf group, held a Tax Day rally in Madison on April 14. This year's Tax Day rally was dramatically smaller than the 2009/2010 rallies at the Capitol and even smaller than last year's rally which took place in the sleet and the snow at the height of the Wisconsin Uprising. With the sun shining down on this year's rally, this year's themes included the supposedly fake "War on Women" and claims about how well Governor Scott Walker's policies are working for Wisconsin.

Wisconsin's chapter of AFP has been very supportive of Walker and his policies over the past year, running ads supporting the passage of Walker's union-busting "Budget Repair Bill," that sparked unprecedented protests in February and March of 2011. In more recent months, they have also partnered with the conservative belief tank, the MacIver Institute, to launch an expensive TV ad and Internet campaign called "It's Working," suggesting that Walker's collective bargaining measure and budget cuts have been successful.

Posted by Anne Landman on January 06, 2012

"Energy Citizens," a front group backed by the American Petroleum Institute (API), has launched a new national ad campaign in advance of the 2012 elections to try and make it sound like substantial public support exists for increased oil and gas drilling known as fracking. The print and TV ads, coordinated by the Edelman PR firm, are titled "I'm an Energy Voter." They feature supposedly average people looking into the camera and saying "I vote ...for American domestic energy" and promoting the industry's goals of opening up more land to drilling. The ads link increasing drilling to job creation, economic prosperity and national energy security.  (PRWatch has previously reported how, in fact, the increased fracking for "natural" methane gas has actually led to dramatically increased exporting of America's natural gas.)  The industry's ad also drives viewers to the website "Vote4Energy.org." The homepage of the website give no indication that Energy Citizens is a creation of the oil industry, as CMD has previously reported. API CEO Jack Gerard insists the effort is "not an ad campaign...It's a conversation with the American people." But when API put out a casting call to recruit volunteers to star in the commercial, a Greenpeace activist showed up. When he started to read his lines, he veered off-script and  decried the "lies and influence peddling" of the oil industry and he was quickly shown the door.

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Posted by Brendan Fischer on September 12, 2011

CNN Tea PartyCNN Online has published a story titled an "angry electorate helps sustain tea party," ignoring the clear evidence the "movement" is only sustained by thinly-veiled religious zeal and wealthy funders like the Koch brothers.

Posted by The PRW Staff on August 04, 2011

FreedomWorks, Inc., a non-profit organization heavily involved with the Tea Party movement, announced on August 3rd a new round of Tea Party rallies throughout Wisconsin.

Posted by Anne Landman on July 21, 2011

TicketscalpThe Fans First Coalition, formed in May 2011, appears to be a consumer group formed to oppose scalpers who buy event tickets and then re-sell them to the public at prices greater than face value. What is less apparent is that the Fans First Coalition is and astroturf group created with the help of a Washington, D.C. public relations firm and funded by Live Nation Entertainment, the parent company of online ticket seller Ticketmaster. The Fans First Coalition sprang out of a fight between Live Nation and a website called StubHub (a division of EBay) where people can buy and sell event tickets. To defeat ticket re-sellers, Ticketmaster started using a paperless ticketing system in which tickets are issued electronically. Ticket purchasers must present identification to collect their tickets when they arrive at the event venue. To battle Ticketmaster's new paperless ticketing system, StubHub created its own fake grassroots group, the similar-sounding Fan Freedom Project, which, like the Fans First Coalition, was created with the help of a Washington, D.C. public relations firm. The Fan Freedom Project argues that Ticketmaster's restrictive electronic ticketing system infringes on consumers' rights to possess, transfer or resell tickets as they desire. Such fake, grassroots front groups are unusual in the entertainment business, but all too familiar to those involved in politics. Ellen Miller, executive director of the Sunlight Foundation, which monitors lobbying activity, says "This is a classic -- where you find many so-called grassroots organizations financed by interested industries" to do battle with one another. Miller says, "The campaigns present themselves as ground-up activities, but they are really nothing more than fronts for particular interests."

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Posted by Anne Landman on June 22, 2011

Florida Governor Rick ScottFlorida Governor Rick Scott now has a page on his campaign website, RickScottforFlorida.com, asking people to send pre-written letters of praise about him to the editors of Florida's major newspapers. Scott's campaign staff wrote the flattering form letter lionizing Scott and his performance in office. It says in part, "I voted for Rick because he's always been a businessman, not a politician. While politicians usually disappoint us and rarely keep their promises, Rick is refreshing because he's keeping his word." Visitors to RickScottforFlorida.com can click to send the letter to one of seven major Florida newspapers, including the Miami Herald, the Fort Lauderdale Sun Sentinel, the Orlando Sentinel, and the Tampa Tribune. They can alter the letter, if they wish, or just sent the suggested pre-written version. The effort to create an appearance of a groundswell of public support for Scott and his actions in office comes shortly after Quinnipiac University released a poll showing 57 percent of Florida voters now disapprove of Scott's performance as governor -- the lowest score of any governor the University surveyed. Scott's record low approval rating comes just five months after he took office.

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