The Role of Left Gatekeeping Foundations in Suppressing Dissent
Since the October 2008 economic collapse, American workers have faced an unprecedented “austerity cuts,” with major hits on their livelihoods and labor and pension rights. Yet Americans, unlike the rest of the world, don’t respond by taking to the street in the millions. Why is this? Many progressive pundits are deeply dismayed at the apparent passivity and apathy of the American public. Others, myself included, feel the power elite has been laying the groundwork for decades for a totalitarian takeover (also known as fascism) of democratic government.
The Deep State, Peter Dale Scott’s term for shadowy network of government officials and corporate elite that secretly steers foreign and domestic policy behind the façade of democracy, seems to rely on two main strategies in suppressing opposition to their agenda. The first involves the indoctrination, via a multibillion dollar public relations industry, of two generations of Americans with a passive, non-engaged consumerist mentality. The second involves a vast interlocking network of left gatekeeping foundations that totally dominate progressive organizing in the US.
Progressive media critics have written extensively about the corporate takeover of the mainstream media that has facilitated censorship of anti-corporate news and the total saturation of American life with pro-corporate messaging. The role of left gatekeeping foundations, which may be even more critical in suppressing organized dissent, receives scant attention, even in the “alternative” media (e.g. the Nation, Democracy Now, the Progressive, Mother Jones). This may relate to the heavy reliance of these outlets on left gatekeeping foundations for much of their funding.
The CIA Funds Both the Right and the Left
I first learned that the Nation was indirectly funded by the CIA through Sherman Skolnick’s investigation of the 990 and 990A tax returns of the Ford Foundation and other allegedly “liberal” foundations that were funding them. Skolnick felt this was the main reason for the Nation’s rabidly dismissive attitude towards the scrupulous research of Peter Dale Scott, Carl Oglesby, Sylvia Meagher and other scholars into the role US intelligence played in both Kennedy assassinations, the Martin Luther King assassination and other so-called “conspiracies” involving government criminal activity.
I was unaware of the domestic “counterinsurgency” role – involving a range of “Cointelpro”-type functions – of left gatekeeping foundations prior to reading Webster Tarpley’s Barack H. Obama: the Unauthorized Biography. It’s really impossible to understand who Obama is or his policy choices without understanding that the so-called liberal foundations that gave him his political start in Chicago had the same fundamental pro-corporate agenda that has characterized his presidency. An agenda underscored by the funding these and similar foundations receive from right wing, CIA-linked foundations.
The Role of the CIA in Protecting Corporate Interests
I think it’s also essential here to clarify what the CIA is and who they represent. Their official function is to gather intelligence overseas, though it’s an open secret that they also engage in international “counterinsurgency” activities: they covertly influence foreign elections (via advertising and paying local campaigners); they create political instability and even “color” revolutions, by funding and training opposition groups (as in Libya); they organize military coups to overthrow democratically elected governments (as in Guatemala, Chile, Iran and Indonesia); they organize and fund mercenary armies (often by collaborating with them in narcotics trafficking) Afghanistan) to overthrow democratically elected governments; they torture suspected Islamic terrorists; and they covertly assassinate foreign political leaders and labor and human rights activists.
According to the corporate media spin, the CIA does all this to protect the American public from Communists, Muslims, immigrants or whatever bogeyman the corporate media happen to be serving up on the six o’clock news. However a careful study of their history shows that the CIA operates exclusively to support and protect corporate interests. The CIA was initially started by Wall Street lawyers (Allen Dulles, a former United Fruit Company board member, and Frank Wisner) and largely recruits its leadership from Yale, Harvard, Princeton and other Ivy League Schools. When it assassinates a foreign leader overthrows a democratically elected government in Chile, Indonesia, Iran or Guatemala, it does so for the benefit of Wall Street companies who want access to that country’s natural resources (the 1954 coup in Guatemala followed Arbenz’s attempt to nationalize a United Fruit Company plantation), cheap labor and markets.
Oh No, Another Conspiracy Theory
Although both Tarpley and Skolnick are often dismissed as conspiracy-obsessed wing-nuts, the fundamental role left gatekeeping foundations play in progressive American politics isn’t a half baked conspiracy theory. There is an extensive, carefully documented body of research into why these foundations were formed and why they knowingly agreed to be co-opted by the CIA.
The Ford Foundation and the CIA
Attorney General Robert Kennedy was the first, in 1967, to investigate the use of the Ford Foundation and other foundations as “conduits,” “pass-throughs,” and “fronts” to disguise CIA funding for domestic operations (it’s technically illegal for the CIA to operate on US soil under federal law). The investigation ended with Bobby Kennedy’s assassination in 1968 but in 1976 was taken up by the Church Committee, a Senate Select Committee formed in the aftermath of Watergate. The Church Committee found that between 1963-1966, 164 foundations gave out 700 grants over $10,000. Of these, 108 involved partial or complete funding by the CIA (Frances Stoner Saunders, Who Paid the Piper?: the CIA and the Cultural Cold War)
Saunder’s work was the first, in an impressive body of research by progressive academics and investigative journalists:
- Who Paid the Piper?: the CIA and the Cultural Cold War (1999) by British historian and journalist Frances Stonor Saunders
- Foundations and Public Policy: The Mask of Pluralism (2003) by New Hampshire political science professor Joan Roelof
- The Revolution Will Not Be Funded: Beyond the Non-Profit Industrial Complex(2007) by Incite! Women of Color Against Violence
- The Shock Doctrine (2007) by Canadian author and social activist Naomi Klein
- Towers of Deception: the Media Cover-up of 911 (2006) by Canadian journalist, documentary producer and political activist Barry Zwicker
- Barack H. Obama: the Unauthorized Biography (2008) by historian and journalist Webster Tarpley
CIA Funding of Alternative Media
Most of the research into left gatekeeping foundations involves the funding of so-called alternative media outlets, largely based on information derived from tax returns. The most prolific writer in this area is Massachusetts-based investigative journalist Bob Feldman. Feldman published the bulk of his research in a paper in Critical Sociology “Report from the Field: Left Media and Left Think Tanks – Foundation-Managed Protest?” Although Critical Sociology charges a fee to download this paper, Feldman and others have republished excerpts elsewhere on the Internet. Edward Ulrich published a helpful digest of Feldman’s work in March 2011 at his blog “News of Interest“.
The History of CIA/Ford Foundation Collaboration
Feldman starts by recapping the history Frances Sanders lays out in Who Paid the Piper?: the CIA and the Cultural Cold War).
The Ford Foundation was created in 1936 from the immense Ford family fortune. Historically its governance and mission has been conservative and pro-corporate, in line with its namesake Henry Ford, a rabid anti-Semite who admired Adolph Hitler and helped finance his rise to power.
The CIA-Ford Foundation collaboration began in 1953, when John McCloy, another Nazi sympathizer, because the director of the Ford Foundation. McCloy’s corporate credentials include serving as chairman of Chase Manhattan Bank, Westinghouse, AT&T, Allied Chemical and United Fruit Company. As a lawyer, he served as chief counsel to Standard Oil of New Jersey, Mobil, Texaco and Gulf I.G. Farben (German chemical company that was Hitler’s primary German sponsor and which developed the nerve gas used in the mass executive of European Jews). Mcloy watched the 1936 Berlin Olympics from Hitler’s box seat and as the Assistant Secretary of War, blocked Jewish immigration to the US, as well as the bombing of railroads leading to Nazi concentration camps. As High Commissioner of Germany following the war, he pardoned a large majority of Nazi war criminals and assisted in their secret repatriation in the US and South America. Finally in 1963-64 he served on the Warren Commission, which like the 911 Commission, played a critical role covering up FBI, CIA and Pentagon involvement in the JFK assassination.
McCloy publicly advocated for the Ford Foundation to cooperate with the CIA. He argued that open collaboration was a better alternative than having the Agency secretly infiltrate the Foundation’s lower echelons and subvert their work. McCloy also chaired a three man committee that had to be consulted every time the CIA wanted to use the Foundation as a pass-through.
Ford Foundation archives reveal a raft of joint Foundation-CIA projects. The most prominent of these CIA fronts are the Eastern European Fund, the Congress for Cultural Freedom, and International Rescue Committee (where William van den Heuvel, father of Nation editor and publisher Katrina van den Heuvel, was a long time board member). The Ford Foundation has also been the primary funder of two secret elite planning groups, the Council on Foreign Relations and the Trilateral Commission.
Alternative Media Outlets Funded by the Ford Foundation
According to Feldman, the so-called alternative media outlets receiving Ford Foundation funding (based on their tax returns) include:
- Democracy Now!
- Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) and their radio program Counterspin
- Working Assets Radio
- The Progressive
- Mother Jones
- South End Press (Z Magazine)
- Alternative Radio
- Ms. Magazine
- Political Research Associates (run by rabid anti-conspiracist Chip Berlet)
As Feldman points out, each of these outlets has systematically marginalized independent researchers who have systematically studied 9-11 and the JFK and other political assassinations. Feldman currently blogs at “Where’s the Change?”
The Nation Magazine and the CIA
Bob Feldman’s unraveling of the indirect CIA funding received by the Nation and Radio Nation is the most instructive in demonstrating how “pass-through” funding works (see http://www.questionsquestions.net/feldman/nation_ned_1.html). According to their tax returns, the Nation Institute receives major funding from the MacArthur Foundation and the J. M. Kaplan Family Foundation. Both, according to Frances Stoner Saunders (Who Paid the Piper?: the CIA and the Cultural Cold War), have a history of accepting CIA “pass-through” funding and collaborating with them on cold war projects. The Nation also also has an interesting relationship with a third left gatekeeping foundation the Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute (FERI), in that publisher, editor and part owner Katrina van den Heuvel serves on the FERI governing board and her father, William vanden Heuvel, on the board of directors. FERI, like its namesake Eleanor Roosevelt has always pursued a clear mandate of supporting the development of anti-communist “parallel left” political groups.
Moreover William van den Heuvel himself has well-established intelligence credentials, as a protege and executive assistant to “Wild Bill” Donovan, the founder and director of OSS (Office of Strategic Services). The OSS, which oversaw intelligence operations during World War II, became the CIA in 1947. In 1953-54 van den Heuvel accompanied Donovan to Thailand, where he served as ambassador (and lead CIA agent) to Thailand. Later as executive assistant to Robert Kennedy, van den Heuvel was the architect of the Kennedy administration’s staunch anti-Castro policy.
Other Left Gatekeepers Funding Alternative Media
Here is a brief summary of “alternative” media outlets the Feldman has linked to foundations the Church Committee identified as receiving CIA pass-through funding (see http://www.oise.utoronto.ca/legacy/research/edu20/moments/1976church.html?cms_page=edu20/moments/1976church.html). It is also of note that they all systematically marginalize journalistic and academic research into 911 and CIA-linked political assassinations.
- The Progressive
- Working Assets Radio
- The Progressive
- Working Assets Radio
J. M. Kaplan Family Foundation
Soros Family Foundation
- Pacifica Radio
- The Nation
Although Soros himself has no known CIA connections, he’s strongly linked to the military industrial complex as a major stockholder in Bush senior’s Carlyle Group and through his direct funding of “color” revolutions in Eastern
- Mother Jones
- Z Magazine
Run for many years by “progressive-lite” Bill Moyers, the Schuman Foundation (as evidenced by the projects it funds) has a rabidly pro-capitalist agenda. According to Feldman, Moyers himself has engaged in some pretty anti-progressive behavior, such as orchestrating (as Lyndon Johnson’s press secretary) the wiretapping of Martin Luther King and leaking the transcripts to the media. And his heavy promotion of the anti-Semite and Holocaust denier Joseph Campbell on PBS , http://constantineinstitute.blogspot.com/2009/06/profiles-of-americas-beloved-tv.html and http://mindbodypolitic.com/2010/06/17/barry-zwicker-noam-chomsky-and-the-left-gatekeepers/)
Feldman notes that the alternative magazine Counterpunch receives no direct left gatekeeper funding, although one of their editors is on the Nation payroll (which does).
The Cointelpro Role of Left Gatekeeping Foundations
The two most prolific contemporary writers regarding foundation funded Cointelpro-style counterinsurgency tactics are historian and journalist Webster Tarpley (in Barack H Obama: the Unauthorized Autobiography) and Australian-born academic researcher Michael Barker. A list and link to all Barker’s publications (which include fascinating articles on Noam Chomsky’s anti-conspiracy views and the aggressive promotion of “non-violent protest” by CIA-funded foundations) can be found on his website and blog at http://michaeljamesbarker.wordpress.com/ My sense, related to direct personal experience with foundation-funded “astroturf” (see * below) and “counterinsurgency” activity in the single payer movement, is that the domestic variant of left gatekeeping tends to rely less on CIA or other government funding than on direct right wing corporate funding.
Barker’s articles devote particular attention to the role played by the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), the US Institute for Peace, the Albert Einstein Institute, the Arlington Institute, Freedom House, the NED-funded Human Rights Watch, the International Republican Institute and individual philanthropists (for example, Bill Gates and George Soros) in “democracy manipulating” activities overseas.
However he also writes about the role three foundations (the Ford Foundation, the Benton Foundation and the International Center for Nonviolent Conflict) have played in “counterinsurgency” activities in the progressive movement within the US. His 2006 article “Corporate Fronts, Astroturf Groups and Co-opted Social Movements” (http://www.zcommunications.org/corporate-fronts-astroturf-groups-and-co-opted-social-movements-by-michael-barker) raises concerns about funding the World Social Forum, among other progressive groups, derives from CIA-linked foundations.
The Role of “Democracy Manipulating” FoundationsOverseas
According to Barker the “democracy manipulating role” played by CIA-linked foundations was first identified in William I. Robinson’s groundbreaking 2006 book Promoting Polyarchy. “Polyarchy” is defined “low intensity democracy” – a form of government that replaces violent coercive control with the type of ideological control (i.e. brainwashing) that Noam Chomsky describes in Manufacturing Consent.
In Promoting Polyarchy, Robinson describes how the CIA, the FBI and other intelligence agencies were pressured to cut back on many of their more repressive covert activities (i.e. covert assassinations) as a result of Church committee reforms enacted in the 1970s. This resulted, in 1984, in the creation of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), which works closely with the CIA and the US Agency for International Development (the USAID is a well-documented conduit for CIA funding), as well as the other “democracy manipulating” foundations listed above. Robinson specifically outlines how these US-based “democracy manipulating” foundations worked to bring about “non-violent” revolutions in the Philippines and Chile to prevent genuinely democratic governments from coming to power, as well as sabotaging democratically elected governments in Nicaragua (where they orchestrated the ouster of the Sandinista government) and Haiti (where they instigated a coup against the populist priest Jean Bastion Aristide).
Since then numerous studies (which Barker references on his website) have furnished further evidence where these foundations have infiltrated and “channeled” (i.e. co-opted) the genuine mass movements that form naturally in countries dominated by repressive dictators. The goal is too make sure they don’t go too far in demanding economic rights (for example, protections for organized labor or restrictions on foreign investment) that might be detrimental to the interests of multinational corporations. All the “color” revolutions in Eastern Europe, which also received substantial funding from George Soros’ Open Society Institute, have been a major disappointment to citizens that supported them, owing to their failure to bring about genuine change.
Senator Lloyd Bentson, himself a long-time Washington and Wall Street insider, is credited with coining the term “astroturf lobbying” to describe the synthetic grassroots movements that now can be manufactured, for a fee, by a dozen or so public relations companies. The Tea Party movement, largely created and funded by the infamous Koch brothers, is probably the most high profile example of astroturfing.
Left Gatekeepers Infiltrate the Progressive Movement
Wesbster Tarpley, in Barrack H. Obama: the Unauthorized Biography, uses the example of the Ford Foundation to outline how left gatekeeper foundations, often backed by CIA funding, have taken over some of the Cointelpro-type counterinsurgency functions of the US government. It’s really impossible to understand who Obama is or why he makes predominantly pro-corporate policy choices without understanding the Chicago left gatekeeping foundations he worked for prior to entering political life ( see The President with No Past).
Tarpley quotes extensively from conservative political commentator Heather MacDonald, “The Billions of Dollars that Made Things Worse,” City Journal, Autumn 1992 (http://www.city-journal.org/html/6_4_a1.html); Philadelphia attorney and writer Vincent Salandria “The Promotion of Domestic Discord,” October 23, 1971 (http://spot.acorn.net/jfkplace/09/fp.back_issues/16th_Issue/vs2.html); and immigration activist Tamar Jacoby, “McGeorge Bundy: How the Establishment’s Man Tackled the Problem With Race” (http://www.aliciapatterson.org/APF1303/Jacoby/Jacoby.html). He also cities MacDonald’s work in describing the pressure put on the Rockefeller Brothers Fund and the Carnegie Foundation (which they succumbed to) to follow the Ford Foundation’s example.
McGeorge Bundy: Former Army Intelligence Officer
What comes through clearly from these early investigations into left gatekeeping is that McGeorge Bundy, who assumed the leadership of the Ford Foundation in 1966, was principally responsible for expanding the Foundation’s counterinsurgency functions (which under McCloy were focused mainly overseas) to America’s progressive movement. A former army intelligence officer and National Security Adviser to both Kennedy and Johnson, Bundy was largely responsible for the cynical “strategic hamlets” policy in Vietnam.
Using Race to Divide the Progressive Movement
When Bundy left government to run the Ford Foundation, he was very open in his view that efforts by Martin Luther King and the Student Non Violent Coordinating Committee to merge the struggle of the black community with the labor and antiwar movement posed a serious threat to the establishment (i.e. Wall Street) interests. His response was to have the Ford Foundation use its grant making power to create factional divisions in an exploding movement that was demanding an end to the Vietnam War. The result was a massive shift in the Foundation’s agenda away from broad economic needs – such as housing, education, mass transit and health care – to a number of black and Latino organizations that specifically targeted blue collar racism as the cause of minority disadvantage. According to Heather MacDonald, education resources were re-allocated to funding race-based organizations, which went from 2.5% of grant funding in 1966 to 40% in 1970. MacDonald and Salandria also describe some of the militant black and Latino organizations these grants went to and how they were used to launch divisive race-baiting campaigns against working class whites.
Another of Bundy’s strategic moves was to break up the traditional black-Jewish progressive coalition in New York City. He did so by funding minority community coalitions to churn out rabidly anti-Semitic propaganda directed at leftist Jewish teachers and administrators, many of whom had radical New Deal backgrounds. The demand posed by these community groups (backed by $1.4 million from the Ford Foundation) for the right to arbitrary fire teachers was a blatant violation of their union contract and an important precipitant of the disastrous 1968 teachers’ strike.
Richard Nixon: the Father of Affirmative Action
In 1968, Bundy, Richard Nixon and his secretary of labor George Schultz collaborated in pushing affirmative active and quota legislation (Martin Luther King had opposed affirmative action and quotas, due to their inherent divisiveness). In meetings with Republican Congressional leaders, Nixon acknowledged that his primary agenda in sponsoring mandatory hiring quotas was to “split the Democratic Constituency and drive a wedge between civil rights groups and organized labor.” (Hugh Davis Graham, The Civil Rights Era, New York: Oxford, 1990).
I find this extremely ironic. Exactly as Bundy, Nixon and Schultz predicted, these policies have created an enormous white blue collar backlash, which the Republicans have used very successfully to capture working class votes. Yet many progressives still mistakenly believe that affirmative action originated with the civil rights movement.
Infiltrating the Single Payer Movement
My own knowledge of left gatekeepers stems from 14 years as a single payer activist (1988-2002) in Washington State. Our local single payer movement was launched by a group of doctors belonging to Physicians for a National Health Program. Our goal was to reduce health care costs and cover the uninsured by following the example of all other industrialized countries, by lobbying the government to create a Canadian style government-funded “single payer” health program to cover all Americans. Our group seemed to make the most progress in the first five years, when we were a primarily doctor-run organization focused on educating other doctors, lawmakers and community groups about the mechanics of a single payer health care system. In fact we were an important partner in a broader coalition that included the Washington State Medical Association and the Washington State Hospital Association and that pressured the government to appoint a blue ribbon commission to develop a proposal for a state based, publicly financed health care system.
In 1993, when we joined with Seattle Gray Panthers to form a broad based citizen’s coalition, we began to have the same difficulties many of experienced in the antiwar and Central American solidarity movement, and which one African American member experienced as a Black Panther in Los Angeles. It started with the appearance, out of nowhere, of quirky strangers who disrupted and sabotaged our meetings, tampered with our database and seized control of our contact list to launch rumor and character assassination campaigns. In 1994 one of these “outsiders” managed to take control of the leadership and totally shut down the single payer for six months. After we learned he had done the same, seizing control of the database and the leadership and committee structure of two other groups – the Anti-Gulf War Coalition and the Seattle chapter of Democratic Socialists of American, we logically assumed he was a Cointelpro agent and worked for the FBI. I describe all this in the second half of my memoir The Most Revolutionary Act: Memoir of an American Refugee.
Who Infiltrated Washington’s Single Payer Movement?
In retrospect, some aspects of this “infiltration” of the single payer movement that strike me as distinctly different from classic the Cointelpro methodology. The first was a heavy reliance on the formation of “parallel” health care reform organizations, both to compete with us for new members and to discredit us. The second was a much higher level of sophistication and national coordination than is normally associated with the FBI operation. The FBI memos American Indian Movement activist Ward Churchill reproduces in the Cointelpro Papers suggest that J. Edgar Hoover’s Cointelpro operation was quite decentralized – that for the most part, he left it to field agents to devise their own strategies for infiltrating and sabotaging local Black Panther chapters.
In contrast, single payer activists in Washington State quickly discovered that single payer activists in Ohio, Oregon and California were experiencing the exact same problems that we were. As in our own state, short-lived “parallel” single payer organizations were being created by brand new left think tanks or left leaning foundations that claimed to support single payer health care – but disagreed with grassroots organizing to mobilize public support for it. Despite their nominal support for nationalizing health care, their newsletters, brochures and publicly forums almost exclusively focused on arguments against lobbying for single payer health care.
What was even more uncanny was that the language articulated by the staff employed by these parallel organizations was virtually identical in state after state. All their arguments boiled down to the “political climate” and “politically timing” being wrong for single payer and accusations about grassroots single payer activists being “inexperienced,” “reckless,” and “wrong-headed” to aggressively push for it. In some cases, these parallel organizations also launched competing proposals based on the private health insurance model.
Co-opting and Forming Parallel Organizations
In Oregon, for example, single payer activists complained how the Oregon Health Action Campaign, which began as a single payer advocacy organization, was systematically co-opted by Governor John Kitzhaber and foundation-funded staff who argued the “political climate and timing” was wrong for single payer and revamped OHAC’s mission to advocate for Kitzhaber’s Oregon Health Plan. The OHP, enacted in 1994, employs state and federal funding to subsidize and maintain a private health insurance model.
Between 1997 and 2001, Washington’s single payer movement confronted four parallel foundation-funded (in Washington State, they also received substantial support from a very conservative Washington State Labor Council) health care reform organizations. The first, the Equal Opportunity Institute (EOI), was formed in 1997 to launch a health care initiative campaign (to expand the insurance-based Washington Basic Health Plan) to compete with our own single payer ballot initiative. The second was Just Health Care, which had a brief existence between 1999 and 2000, was solely focused on attacking our single payer initiative. The third was Code Blue Now! (2001-2008), which was supposedly formed to develop “public consensus” on the best way to reform health care (despite polling showing that 60% of Washington voters supported a single, publicly financed system). The fourth was the Rainier Foundation, a “progressive” foundation (2001-2005) also established to “promote consensus” around health care reform.
It was never clear from the website of these “parallel’ groups exactly where they got their funding. And since all but the EOI are now defunct, it would be quite complicated to get their tax records via the Freedom of Information Act. My sense has always been that they derived most of their funding from the private insurance industry (which stands to lose big if federal and/or state governments enact publicly financed health care programs). Thus in this sense they were most likely pure “astroturf” creations, though they clearly adopted techniques employed by CIA-linked counterinsurgency foundations and classic FBI Cointelpro operations.
Senator Lloyd Bentson, himself a long-time Washington and Wall Street insider, is credited with coining the term “astroturf lobbying” to describe the synthetic grassroots movements that now can be manufactured, for a fee, by a dozen or so public relations companies. The Tea Party movement, largely created and funded by the infamous Koch brothers, is probably the most high profile example of astroturfing (see http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2010/oct/25/tea-party-koch-brothers)
Many of the public relations firms that launch “astroturf” organizations have strong links to the intelligence community. Transferring to a private sector public relations company is a common career move for former intelligence officers – though not quite so common as taking up employment with a private intelligence/security contractor.
Unlike genuine grassroots activism which tends to be money-poor but people-rich, astroturf campaigns are typically people-poorbut cash-rich. Funded heavily by corporate largesse, they use sophisticated computer databases, telephone banks and hired organizers to rope less-informed activists into sending letters to their elected officials or engaging in other actions that create the appearance of grassroots support for their client’s cause. Source Watch (http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Astroturf) cites a number of examples (in addition to the Tea Party) in which ordinary citizens (and occasionally citizen’s groups, such as the United Church of Christ and the Gray Panthers), have been recruited into Astroturf organizations to promote corporate agendas, such as:
- blocking the transfer of federal licenses that WorldCom uses for its long distance and Internet services by Issue Dynamics Inc. using non-profit groups like the United Church of Christ
- defeating the Clinton administration’s proposed health care reform, through a front group called “Rx Partners” created by the Beckel Cowan PR firm, and the Coalition for Health Insurance Choices, created by public relations consultant Blair Childs
- harassing environmentalists through the Wise Use movement
- supporting clear-cutting American forests, through a front group called Citizens to Protect the Pacific Northwest and Northern California Economy
- opposing restrictions on smoking in public places, through a front group called National
Smokers Alliance, which was created by Burson-Marsteller
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