Free Press Exposes Astroturf Groups

Launches Interactive Tool to Highlight Deceptive 'Consumer' Groups Backed by the Phone and Cable Industry
Contact Info: 
Moira Vahey, Free Press, (202) 265-1490 x31

WASHINGTON -- Today, Free Press launched an online interactive tool to expose phony grassroots groups hired by big phone and cable companies to advance their political agenda.

These "astroturf" organizations -- many of which also work for the health insurance, energy and tobacco industries -- are mobilizing to spread misinformation about Network Neutrality and Internet policies.

Free Press’ new tool -- available at www.freepress.net/astroturf and easily posted on any blog or Web site -- tracks the huge amounts of money that phone and cable companies spend on lobbyists and campaign contributions; it reveals the contradictory and dishonest claims about Net Neutrality and other issues from top industry executives; and it puts a spotlight on the deceptive activities of groups like FreedomWorks, Americans for Prosperity, NetCompetition and the Heartland Institute.

"The fake grassroots groups are spending major resources to deceive the public and promote agendas of the corporations that sign their paychecks," said Timothy Karr, campaign director of Free Press. "We need transparency, accountability and honest debate. The crucial policy decisions being made right now about the future of the Internet must be based on independent research, reliable data and facts. The phone and cable companies must stop distorting the issues and hiding behind their astroturf groups, sock puppets and hired shills."

Along with exposing astroturf groups, the interactive tool features "The Money Trail," which tabulates spending by big phone and cable on an army of lobbyists to push their agenda in Washington. In the past two years alone:

  • Comcast spent more than $45 million on campaigns and lobbying. This same amount could have provided one year of broadband service to 150,000 households;
  • Verizon spent more than $70 million on lobbying. This same amount could have been used to deploy FIOS to 87,500 new homes;
  • AT&T spent $73 million on lobbying, which instead could have bought 730,000 iPhones for students;
  • Qwest spent $10 million on lobbying that could have provided broadband to 5,500 libraries for one year; and
  • Time Warner Cable spent $24 million on lobbying. This same amount could have subsidized 100,000 low-income households for one year of broadband service.

Explore the new interactive tool at http://www.freepress.net/astroturf

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Free Press is a national, nonpartisan organization working to reform the media. Through education, organizing and advocacy, we promote diverse and independent media ownership, strong public media, and universal access to communications. Free Press and the Free Press Action Fund accept no money from industry, industry groups, political parties or government sources. Learn more at www.freepress.net

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