Thursday, July 30, 2009

Astroturfing: Health Care and Insurance Reform

I happened to come across an interesting article from Think Progress on the battle for health insurance reform earlier today. The article, EXCLUSIVE: Infamous Astroturf Lobbying Firm Behind New Anti-Health Reform Group, by Lee Fang does a deep dive into some of the PR groups behind some astroturfing of the issue.

Here's a quote:
The new anti-health reform front group known as the Coalition to Protect Patients’ Rights, is being managed by the lobbying firm known as the DCI Group. After being contacted by ThinkProgress this afternoon about its sponsorship of CPPR’s press conference last week, DCI Group staffers acknowledged that they coordinate PR for the front group. Not be confused with Conservatives for Patients’ Rigths, another front group opposing health reform, CPPR has been organizing lobbying efforts against health reform and publishing op-eds across the country with misinformation about the public option.

Tom Synhorst, a former staffer to Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Bob Dole, joined fellow right-wing operatives Doug Goodyear and Tim Hyde to form DCI Group in 1996. The firm quickly flourished working for the tobacco industry, coordinating a sophisticated astroturf campaign to build public opposition to tobacco regulations. Ironically, before helping to manage this “patients’ rights” campaign, DCI founded “Smokers’ Rights” groups across the country for the tobacco lobby. Indeed, DCI has specialized in manufacturing “grassroots” support — using telemarketers, PR events, and letter writing campaigns — to achieve policy results for narrow corporate interests:

Guilt by Methodology
Assuming that there is some legitimate business justification for astroturfing, the approach leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I think it's worth understanding the mechanics and the practices because you may find yourself faced with a situation where people are asking you to implement programs that -- if they come to light -- could be considered astroturfing. One good resource that I've found for this is PR It's an interesting read, and I apologize if it carries a political message that conflicts with your personal ideology; regardless of your view, the site is a good exploration into 'black hat' and 'gray hat' PR.

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