11:15 AM Eastern - Friday, August 7, 2009

Your Guide to Corporate Astroturfing: Lobbyist-Run Groups Orchestrating...

Now that we're closer than ever before to reforming our health care system, the opposition is ratcheting up the fear-mongering and deception. They'll say anything to dominate the public conversation and disrupt productive dialogue, and do anything to block reform--including harassment, intimidation, and physical violence.

For several days now, radical-fringe right-wing opponents bent on blocking any reform legislation have disrupted town hall meetings conducted by members of Congress. At the same time they're engaging in Astroturf [read: fake grassroots] activism, these radical-fringe groups are disseminating discredited myths about health care reform bills that were adopted by four Congressional committees. Astroturfing by conservative opponents of reform is particularly dishonest because it masks the true motivations of the powerful interests--like the desire of industries to maintain the status quo.

These conservative lobbyist-run groups are leading the way orchestrating town hall mobs.

According to TPM, FreedomWorks is teaming up with the Tea Party Patriots to target Blue Dogs on health care reform. "Take, for instance, an email exchange, obtained by TPMDC, between a protester and a FreedomWorks field organizer on a list serv operated by the latter. Last month, Tom Gaitens, a FreedomWorks field manager posted a spreadsheet containing contact information for Blue Dogs and their chiefs of staff, to a tea party organizers list serv that he manages." In addition, Roll Call reported that FreedomWorks is one of the organizations "behind the efforts" to disrupt town hall meetings. [Talking Points Memo, 8/4/2009; Roll Call, 8/5/2009] The group, chaired by former House Majority Leader Dick Armey, is emailing 380,000 supporters an "August Recess Action Kit" link this week.

Conservatives for Patients' Rights
Conservatives for Patients' Rights, a $20 million operation that's running a national campaign against a public plan to kill progressive health care reform, is now publicly taking credit for helping stir up the sometimes-rowdy outbursts targeting House Dems at town hall meetings around the country. Which makes these disruptions seem....a little less than spontaneous, or simply a reflection of grassroots sentiment. CPR has posted a list of congressional town halls to be held over August recess "as a resource for our visitors." The fact-checking website Politifact.com has rated Conservatives for Patients' Rights statements about health care reform, "Barely True."

Americans for Prosperity
Americans for Prosperity Helping to Organize Tea Party Protests. The Charlotte Observer reported that Americans for Prosperity is "the organization behind this year's taxpayer tea parties," and the Roanoke Times reported "the Tea Party Patriots and Americans for Prosperity organized the Nationwide Tea Party protest day." [Charlotte Observer, 7/22/2009; Roanoke Times, 7/18/2009] The group is listed as a "Health Care Freedom Coalition Partner" on the Tea Party Patriots website. It was established by oil magnate David Koch, and its creation is a result of a split from an earlier Koch-based enterprise, now called FreedomWorks (sound familiar?) AFP was also instrumental in orchestrating the anti-Obama, anti-tax tea party protests in April.

Americans for Prosperity's various fronts and disclosures that point to ever-increasing oil and corporate donations to the group are guided by AFP President Tim Phillips--who, as The Wonk Room notes, "has built a long career of inventing fake grassroots causes." Phillips' resume includes founding an Atlanta-based firm with Abramoff-connected Ralph Reed. The firm, Century Strategies, has a history of mounting "grassroots lobbying drives," and Reed in the past has said (when attempting to help Enron deregulate the electricity industry), "it matters less who has the best arguments and more who gets heard -- and by whom."

Club for Growth
Right-Wing founder Steven Moore pushed for ending all assistance to low-income Americans, calling Medicare "Catastrophic." In 2000, Moore advocated abolishing welfare, stating, "The most valuable step the Congress could take to help dismantle the welfare-poverty trap would be to abolish all programs that provide benefits for not working: food stamps, AFDC, and public housing, for example." In 2003, Moore wrote, "Every American taxpayer knows full well the fiscally catastrophic impact of programs like Medicare, Medicaid and other black-check income redistribution programs." [Washington Times, 4/07/00; Detroit News, 7/21/03]

Americans for Tax Reform/Grover Norquist
Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist Pushing Members to Attend Town Hall Meetings. Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, "said he encourages his members to attend town-hall meetings - and arms them with suggested questions." [Roll Call, 8/5/2009]

A serious and civil discourse about healthcare reform - tied to facts, not myths - will substantially increase the public's support for reform. "America's families want the peace of mind that comes with knowing that health insurance and care can never be taken away - when they switch jobs, lose jobs, start a business, or become sick. That's why a civil discourse is so important, and that's why health insurance reform is essential," said SEIU Healthcare Chair Dennis Rivera.

Playing politics with health reform is simply unacceptable. We must fight back against lies and fear-mongering to drown out the opposition--and send the message that health care reform must happen this year. That starts with knowing who we're up against--so read our "fact checks" on FreedomWorks, Conservatives for Patients' Rights, Americans for Prosperity, Club for Growth and Americans for Tax Reform/Grover Norquist.

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