Astroturf

CLEAR for Launch

For years, the Clearinghouse for Environmental Education, Advocacy and Research (CLEAR) did yeoman's work researching the financial ties and extremist rhetoric of the corporate-funded anti-environmental movement. Until recently a project of the Environmental Working Group, CLEAR recently spun off to become independent.

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Andersen Holds "Spontaneous" PR Stunt

A flashy publicity stunt outside a Houston federal courthouse accompanied accounting firm Arthur Andersen's not guilty plea to Justice Department obstruction charges. "As Andersen pleaded not guilty inside the courtroom, outside the firm launched a public relations blitz designed to portray government prosecutors as overzealous and heartless to the plight of its 28,000 U.S. employees," USA Today's Greg Farrell reports.

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Ethics Complaint Filed Against PHRMA

"The Maryland Citizens' Health Initiative has filed a seven-page complaint on March 18 with the State Ethics Commission about the hardball lobbying tactics employed by the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America and its grassroots firm, Bonner & Assocs.," O'Dwyer's PR Daily reports. "The non-profit group is an advocate of universal healthcare and a backer of a Maryland bill that would lower the cost of prescription drugs for Medicaid patients and the uninsured. PhRMA opposes the bill.

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Astroturf Used By Drug Companies To Kill Bill

The Baltimore Sun reports that Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) hired Washington-based lobbying firm Bonner & Associates to kill legislation that would lower the cost of prescription drugs for Maryland's Medicaid program and for lower-income residents who have no medical insurance. According to the Sun, Bonner & Associates recruited a small Michigan-based nonprofit group called the Consumer Alliance to front for PhRMA.

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Dead People Support Microsoft

Earlier this year, Utah State Attorney General Mark Shurtleff received two letters from dead people requesting that the state go easy on Microsoft. As it turns out, the letters are part of the computer giant's nation-wide astroturf campaign, targeting the offices of 18 attorneys general who have joined the Justice Department's antitrust lawsuit. The Los Angeles Times reports that in recent weeks, Microsoft has been refining its letter writing strategy so that no two letters are identical. The giveaway, however, is in the phrasing.

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Porter Novelli Caught in Bogus Letter-Writing Scam

An Australian radio station, DMG Radio, has won a court battle against rival stations after their PR consultant, Ken Davis of Turnbull Porter Novelli, admitted that he was involved in a bogus letter-writing campaign designed to undermine DMG's credibility. Davis sent out more than 50 letters using a fake identity to Australian politicians and the media, accusing DMG of destroying country radio and sparking a parliamentary inquiry into the "decline of local radio programming." Turnbull Porter Novelli is the Australian office of Porter Novelli International.

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Memo Enlists Lobbyists to Trade White Collars for Hard Hats at GOP Tax Cut Rally

A memo from the National Association of Manufacturers urged lobbyists to "dress down" when attending a rally and photo opportunity supporting George W. Bush's tax cut plan. "The Speaker's office was very clear in saying that they do not need people in suits," the memo stated. "If people want to participate -- AND WE DO NEED BODIES -- they must be DRESSED DOWN, appear to be REAL WORKER types, etc. We plan to have hard hats for people to wear. Other groups are providing waiters/waitresses, and other types of workers."

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"Grassroots" Support for Alaskan Drilling

Arctic Power, a self-described "grassroots" organization, has laid down $4 million dollars to hire Qorvis Communications. The mission? To promote President Bush's plan to expand oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. How grassroots is Arctic power? Their website vaguely refers to people from all walks of society, without much in the way of details. But their board includes representatives from such business groups as the Alaska State Chamber of Commerce, the Resource Development Council, and the Alaska Oil & Gas Association. Grassroots? You make the call.

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Honor Among Thieves

Margery Kraus of APCO Worldwide has been named "International PR Professional of the Year" by PR Week magazine - a fitting honor to a woman whose company specializes in the worst sleaze the industry produces -- from helping the tobacco industry promote "sound science" to orchestrating a phony "grassroots" campaign for "tort reform" as a way of making it hard

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Grass Roots Seeded by Drugmaker

"Showing all the signs of a thriving grass-roots movement, a host of new health-care groups are drawing attention to the perils of a contagious, sometimes lethal virus called hepatitis C," writes Robert O'Harrow. "But contrary to appearances, these coalitions are not spontaneous gatherings of concerned citizens. They are instead a key part of a carefully orchestrated marketing campaign funded by Schering-Plough Corp. to sell the primary therapy for hepatitis C, Rebetron, which costs $18,000 a year." Several members of the Hepatitis C Coalition are on the payroll of the Shandwick PR firm.

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