Community Organizations Say They Never Actually Joined Bogus Anti-Net Neutrality Astrotufing Group
from the because-of-course-they-didn't dept
"You go down the Latino people, the deaf people, the farmers, and choose them.... You say, 'I can't use this one--I already used them last time...' We had their letterhead. We'd just write the letter. We'd fax it to them and tell them, 'You're in favor of this.'"This seems to be standard practice for the big broadband companies. We highlighted how AT&T got "The Latino Coalition" to speak up in favor of their attempted (and eventually failed) merger with T-Mobile. Meanwhile, Comcast recently got the US Hispanic Chamber of Commerce to come out in favor of Comcast buying Time Warner Cable. And, of course, the dirty secret in all of this is that the way this works is the big companies toss a bunch of money at these organizations to get them to "support" whatever positions the companies want them to support. For example, the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce received $320,000 from Comcast.
We recently wrote about the latest round of astroturfing groups that the broadband players were supporting, and who were out arguing in force against net neutrality. Lee Fang, at Vice, who wrote the original report that was based on now has a followup, talking about how many of the organizations listed as "members" of the astroturf group "Broadband for America" claim they have no idea what that is and did not choose to sign up.
Bob Calvert, the host of TalkingWithHeroes.com, a radio program listed as a Broadband for American member, told us that he is not familiar with the net neutrality debate. "My program is a non-political program supporting our men and women who serve and who have served our country and their families," said Calvert, in response to an inquiry from VICE.Some directly say they disagree with Broadband for America's position on net neutrality.
Another Broadband for America member, the Texas Organization of Rural & Community Hospitals, said it had joined only to support broadband access in rural and underserved areas, not on issues relating to net neutrality or the classification of broadband as a utility. "We will reexamine this endorsement and make a determination whether to continue supporting the coalition should we find that the current policies they are proposing would undermine the original goal of greater access for all Americans," said Dave Pearson, president of the group, which represents rural hospitals in Texas as the name suggests.
There's more in the original article. But it's pretty straightforward: many of the named members either had no idea or thought they were signing up for something very, very different. And yet now they are "supporting" policies they either don't know about or don't support. But this is how things are done in the cynical corners of Washington DC. You get support in any way necessary, no matter how ridiculous.
Don Hollister, the executive director of the Ohio League of Conservation Voters, said he was unaware of his organization being listed as a Broadband for America member. After our inquiry, Hollister wrote to us to share a message he sent to Broadband for America:
"The Ohio League of Conservation Voters does not endorse your position on broadband. This is not a policy area that we take positions on. Why are we listed as a Broadband for America member? I am unaware of Ohio LCV taking any position on broadband issues and I have been Executive Director since 2011. The Ohio LCV is not a member of Broadband for America. Remove us from your listing of members."
Other groups we contacted were simply confused. "I'm not aware of them and I pay all the bills. I've never heard of Broadband for America," replied Keith Jackson, an accountant with the Spread Eagle Tavern & Inn, a cozy bed and breakfast in Ohio that is listed as a Broadband for America member.