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New Series at Government Bytes: And WE'RE Astroturf? Part I

by Andrew Moylan / /

You've no doubt heard liberal Members of Congress and other interest groups calling the Tea Party movement "astroturf," a play on the term grassroots.  Like our good friend Nancy, for example...

Or the liberal pro-net neutrality group Free Press, which has an entire section on its site devoted to "outing" so-called Astroturf operations.  This page includes a handy-dandy widget with a graphic of large corporations pulling the strings of Congress.

They claim that the whole movement is the invention of a bunch of Beltway insiders backed by piles of corporate cash.  For them, it simply does not compute that ordinary Americans could be fed up with trillions of dollars in debt, tax hikes, and runaway spending.  It MUST be the orchestrations of rich puppet-masters in DC, right?  Instead of spending hours debunking those claims, I'll point to a post I made on our old blog after the massive 9/12 March on Washington that NTU helped to organize.  Several hundred thousand people from all across the country do a better job of dismissing these silly claims than I could here.  Instead, the "And WE'RE astroturf?!" series will focus on liberal activists employing exactly the kind of shady strategies that they accuse us of using.

So, that group I mentioned, Free Press?  The ones that have a page on their site to expose "Astroturfing?"  Last week, they were outed as being the true authors behind a letter supposedly written by Congressman Jay Inslee (D-WA).  The letter is being passed around to various Congressional offices to solicit support for FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski's radical effort to thumb his nose at the limits of his regulatory authority.  But the properties of the electronic file show that the real author of the letter was not Mr. Inslee or a member of his staff, but none other than Free Press Policy Director Ben Scott!

I've worked in government affairs for the National Taxpayers Union for nearly five years now.  Never in my life have I ghost-written a letter for a Member of Congress, nor have I offered to or been asked to do so.  It's just not a part of the discussions we have with Congressional offices.

So, Free Press, what say you?  Are you pulling Jay Inslee's strings?  What other seemingly spontaneous pro-net neutrality efforts have you coordinated?  How many other letters or bills have you written behind closed doors without getting caught?