Are 'Grassroots Activists' For Real?
While drafting major legislation on energy policy, health care, and the economy this term, members of Congress have been bombarded with phone calls, letters, e-mails, and petitions from constituents. So-called grassroots campaigns are often effective because they’re thought to represent the will of the people. But what politicians—and many ordinary Americans—may not know is that some “grassroots” movements are actually sophisticated marketing campaigns financed by businesses and special-interest groups.
For example, Patients United Now (PUN), a group focused on health care, claims to be composed of “patients just like you” who are shocked at decisions being made in Washington by “big companies, lobbyists, and politicians.” In fact, PUN is a project of the Americans For Prosperity Foundation, launched by David Koch—a wealthy industrialist who opposes efforts to expand government-mandated health benefits. Another group, American Rights at Work, advocates making it easier for workers to unionize. It is funded in part by the AFL-CIO.
Craig Holman of Public Citizen, a consumer-advocacy organization, calls such campaigns “ astroturf,” not grassroots, and says they “typically adopt populist-sounding names that belie the fact that they are bankrolled by large corporations, trade associations, or ultra-wealthy individuals who have little in common with regular Americans.” At present, grassroots movements are unregulated and not required to disclose the interests behind them. Some politicians, like Sen. Bob Bennett (R., Utah), think that’s a good thing. “The First Amendment guarantees freedom of speech,” he says. “People should be able to speak out without having to register with the very government they are seeking to change.”
— Sharon Male
A Political Action Committee (PAC) is when a special interest group, union or corporation that wants to contribute to a political campaign they organize into PACs. They collect the money in a pool and “pay off” the candidates and because there is a limit to the amount they can “pay off“ they contribute to both candidates in both parties so that whoever is elected will be sympathetic to their cause. This is under the guise of being “regulated”. While it’s true some PAC will try to pretend they are “grassroots” (astroturfer’s) they are easy to spot. These are the groups that want your money.
True grassroots are more interested in your time and the last time I checked, we did not have to qualify our opinion with how much money is in our checking account. Many grassroots movements ARE started at personal sacrifice of time and money. In fact, correct me if I am wrong, our country was started by a grassroots movement.
I’m am not surprised by this article, however I am sad because it is clear many Americans have lost touch with what America is truly about, so as soon as something is done that they don’t like the instant reaction is “regulation” If you are truly interested in calling out astroturfer’s why don’t you start with the biggest offender, ACORN.