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Telecom Industry's Biggest Astroturfer Gives Self 'Ethics' Award
And people wonder why telecom policy is broken...
by Karl Bode 12:11PM Friday Oct 02 2009
If you still don't know what astroturf is, it's bogus grass roots efforts designed by corporations to present the illusion that a company policy has broad public support. Using fake consumer groups, co-opted (read: paid off) minority and disability groups and think tanks, lobbyists and PR firms are paid to create a sort of "sound wall" of bogus public applause for corporate political positions. This pseudo-grass roots support is then trotted before lawmakers and seeded in the media to suggest anti-consumer policy has consumer support.

While we're sure astroturfers and the people who pay them would describe what they do in polite terms such as "community outreach" or "blogger relations," the reality is that astroturf is unethical propaganda used to screw consumers. One of the biggest names in the telecom astroturf field is Sam Simon. Simon and his company Amplify Public Affairs (formerly "Issue Dynamics") have their fingers in a huge array of artificial consumer groups and other lobbying organizations, the majority of which are used by AT&T and Verizon to crush competition, eliminate consumer protections, and pass bad regulation.

One of the biggest tricks in Simon's and Issue Dynamics bag is to use existing, pseudo-legitimate organizations to preach cable and telco policy positions. Back in 2003 Simon reportedly paid seniors rights group the Gray Panthers to help Verizon attack Worldcom. In more recent years, everyone from minority to deaf disability groups have been given funds to preach against things like net neutrality, and for things like the elimination of price controls, or laws that legalize broadband cherry picking. Sound pro-consumer to you?

Apparently, cash for a new events center often outweighs any pesky moral pangs formed by supporting policies that are against your constituents' best interest. Simon, meanwhile, uses his connections to these groups (and his brief stint working for Ralph Nader) to help build up his artificial consumer street cred with the myriad of public affairs groups he works with (see his Bio over at Amplify Public Affairs).

With Simon being at the very heart of a decade of mega-ISP disinformation efforts, imagine our surprise to see that Simon's being given an ethics award by the United Church Of Christ. Well, perhaps more amusement than surprise, given the Church Of Christ is one of the many organizations Simon uses to put corporate words into the mouth of groups that are supposed to be protecting the downtrodden and marginalized. Interestingly, the Church is also giving an award the same day to Consumerist editor Ben Popken, we'll assume to lend legitimacy to the proceedings.

Wait. It gets better. The honor being bestowed is called the Everett C. Parker Ethics in Telecommunications Lecture, an ethics award series coordinated by a group called the Telecommunications and Research Center and the National Consumer's League (NCL). One guess who founded TRAC? Sam Simon. Guess who chaired the NCL? Sam Simon. So, in short, you have the telcom industry's biggest astroturfer, with a history of paying consumer groups to argue anti-consumer positions, essentially giving himself an ethics award.

Update: I sent an e-mail to Consumerist editor Ben Popken to gauge his level of awareness about Simon and his litany of operations. "I didn't know about Simon or Issue Dynamics before people started pointing out the connections, but I think the suggestion that this was some sort of telecom astroturf apple-bobbing party is a stretch," says Popken. We won't press, as being informed of the possibility that you were a prop in a stage show probably isn't particularly enjoyable, and we love Popken's work. Popken and the Consumerist deserve awards.

Still, Popken's response is more than a little disheartening, and speaks to an overall lack of awareness to some of these less ethical policy practices that extend beyond pure astroturf. Given the Consumerist does such great work on consumer issues, it's unfortunate that they aren't particularly keyed in to co-opted policy groups or the damage guys like Simon do to consumer advocacy. Asked for their input, one major consumer group lamented the League as a one time legitimate endeavor that's now a "total front group."

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KodiacZiller
Premium
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1 recommendation

Does this mean..

Does this mean Obama backs the United Church of Christ giving out this award? Obama is a member of the Church.

n2jtx

join:2001-01-13
Glen Head, NY

3 edits

Re: Does this mean..

said by KodiacZiller:

Does this mean Obama backs the United Church of Christ giving out this award? Obama is a member of the Church.
So am I

At least I can vote with my pledge! I copied my senior minister on this to get his take.

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I support the right to keep and arm bears.

ohdan

join:2008-11-10
Adelanto, CA

Re: Does this mean..

said by n2jtx:

said by KodiacZiller:
Does this mean Obama backs the United Church of Christ giving out this award? Obama is a member of the Church.
So am I At least I can vote with my pledge!
The UCC is congregational; you joined your local church which is aligned with other churches through the UCC. Only your church, as a distinct body, can be a member of the UCC - individuals cannot.
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Not quite a release candidate.
jc10098

join:2002-04-10

1 edit

Re: Does this mean..

O gee, the Church doing Unethical things... How insanely shocking and original. If you didn't note my sarcasm here, let me add to the list of other unethical things the great churches have done throughout time. I guess their pie in the sky ideas are no better than that of GREEDY CORPORATIONS. The exception? They try to preach morality and "GOD" with their hands WIDE OPEN and their Morals saying one thing, while doing another......

Outstanding Ethics awards to the church:

Assisting Genocidal Leaders trying to Exterminate Races of People. A La 1945 and Hiter.

**** Douchey Award!!! *****

»news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/euro ··· 7748.stm

Or How about this Guy. He takes the

***Biggest Asshole Award*****

»www.haaretz.com/hasen/sp ··· 624.html

A prominent American televangelist and outspoken supporter of Israel publicly apologized Friday for remarking that the Holocaust was the work of divine providence, and that "God sent Adolf Hitler to help Jews reach the promised land."

Better yet....

***** LEADER OF the "DUMBASSES" Finds friendship with them****

»www.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/e ··· dex.html

»www.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/e ··· dex.html

Kiddie Fiddler award goes to the Pope Sleeping with the Youngest Altar Boy....

»www.npr.org/news/special ··· priests/

So on and so forth... I'M SHOCKED the church is involved in impropriety and unethical behavior... ABSOLUTELY at a loss of words......Wait... NO I'M NOT!!!

ohdan

join:2008-11-10
Adelanto, CA

Re: Does this mean..

Huh?
jc10098

join:2002-04-10

Re: Does this mean..

Maybe more appropriately to Kodiac but point remains. Like it's surprising the Church is involved in acts of impropriety.

ohdan

join:2008-11-10
Adelanto, CA

Re: Does this mean..

said by jc10098:

Maybe more appropriately to Kodiac but point remains.
I think your point was heard - loudly.
said by jc10098:

Like it's surprising the Church is involved in acts of impropriety.
Like any other organization of people. And the UCC isn't exactly known for its "acts of impropriety." Maybe you could take the time to learn a little bit about it (that may make your points more salient to see an exception to the rule).
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jc10098

join:2002-04-10

1 edit

Re: Does this mean..

I googled the UCC and I will take a less harsh tone, seeing they are Protestant.

Which means they do not have the "Tained" past as the rest of "Christianity". However, the Term Christianity is that of Muslim. If one wishes to group all, then all falls on it's shoulders. No matter who or what one wants to argue.

As for the Protestant Denomination, they can be commended for opposing Hitler and their Openness to Gays and acceptance of people, unlike many other denominations of Christianity.

Consequently, I'll refrain from "Ripping them a new one".

However, in the ACT OF FAIRNESS...What they are doing now is some REAL HORSE SH*T that betrays the trust of their congregants and those who look to them for guidance.

ohdan

join:2008-11-10
Adelanto, CA

Re: Does this mean..

said by jc10098:

What they are doing now is some REAL HORSE SH*T that betrays the trust of their congregants and those who look to them for guidance.
In regards to this "ethics award" I'm willing to bet that the people who organized this have no idea about this fellow. Maybe this item will educate them - you never know.
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jc10098

join:2002-04-10

Re: Does this mean..

One can hope, but one also should never hold their breath......

As for their "Awareness of this fellow", that's an excuse. I hate to say it, but before I'd put my name to something, I'd damn well check it out in full.

Think of it in terms of cosigning a loan. Would you put your signature down for some stranger who walks up to you and says hey man, I'm short 10,000. Mind helping me out? Highly Unlikely. So why do you put your name to something, you don't examine in full beforehand?

Consequently, either through "Ignorance and failed due diligence" or "Will to Deceive for profit", the UCC has betrayed the trust of it's congregants. There's no getting around that fact.

ohdan

join:2008-11-10
Adelanto, CA

Re: Does this mean..

said by jc10098:

Consequently, either through "Ignorance and failed due diligence" or "Will to Deceive for profit", the UCC has betrayed the trust of it's congregants. There's no getting around that fact.
Is it a fact, though? I'll check with my congregation -even the regional conference- tomorrow and see how they feel about it. I'll bet you a) no one knows and that b) no one cares.
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sonofjay
Mission Accomplished - Bush May 1, 2003
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join:2001-05-14
Malden, MA
kudos:1

It's Laughable isn't it

Got to give them credit. It takes balls to be so blatantly fake. Sometimes you wonder if they are so far down the path of astroturfing that they believe what they preach themselves. Or if they are truly self-aware and know full well the fleecing of the public they are executing and are laughing all the way to the bank.
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Mission Accomplished

Karl Bode
News Guy
join:2000-03-02
kudos:44

1 edit

1 recommendation

Re: It's Laughable isn't it

Guys like Sam Simon have to be aware. The webs the guy is weaving are simply too ingenious. The organizations, I'm not always sure about.

I spoke with someone at the National Association of the Deaf recently to try and answer this exact question. When I asked them why they were supporting a particular piece of legislation that would actually HARM their constituents, they were completely oblivious to what the bill in question even did.

They were also kind of oblivious to the problems raised by letting Verizon write the entire technology issue portion of their website (they've since updated it).

I get the feeling that the people in charge of fund raising simply do this on their own, and any moral questions that are raised for parroting awful positions are quickly nullified by a nice, shiny check.

On one side you can't blame them for wanting the funding, especially when I'm sure donations are down during a recession. And if constituent are lucky, maybe even some of it actually winds up helping somebody. But I don't think the harm done on the policy level and the damage done to a group's integrity makes it worth it. But that's just me. I don't pride cold cash above all else.

FFH5
Premium
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Tavistock NJ
kudos:5

1 recommendation

Re: It's Laughable isn't it

said by Karl Bode:

But I don't think the harm done on the policy level and the damage done to a group's integrity makes it worth it. But that's just me. I don't pride cold cash above all else.
I have a question. Purely hypothetical, of course.

Is it a coincidence that there are extremely few negative articles about Google on the BBR front page? The Google that provides most of the ad revenue to BBR.
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funchords
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Re: It's Laughable isn't it

said by FFH5:

Is it a coincidence that there are extremely few negative articles about Google on the BBR front page? The Google that provides most of the ad revenue to BBR.
Weak! That's not fair at all.

»Malware Peddlers Latch Onto Google Wave Interest ... Google Wave attacked by malware ...

»CyanogenMod in trouble? ... Google threatens modder ...

»Privacy issues continue to dog Google's Gmail

»Tuesday Morning Links ... Google won't defend user privacy in lawsuits

»So Much For Google The ISP, Huh?

»Friday Evening Links ... Google's unfair maps competition

»Google Voice Ban Is Clear Network Neutrality Violation

»Google Announces PC Operating System ... (points out its just Chrome over Linux)
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FFH5
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Tavistock NJ
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Re: It's Laughable isn't it

said by funchords:

said by FFH5:

Is it a coincidence that there are extremely few negative articles about Google on the BBR front page? The Google that provides most of the ad revenue to BBR.
Weak! That's not fair at all.

»Malware Peddlers Latch Onto Google Wave Interest ... Google Wave attacked by malware ...

»CyanogenMod in trouble? ... Google threatens modder ...

»Privacy issues continue to dog Google's Gmail

»Tuesday Morning Links ... Google won't defend user privacy in lawsuits

»So Much For Google The ISP, Huh?

»Friday Evening Links ... Google's unfair maps competition

»Google Voice Ban Is Clear Network Neutrality Violation

»Google Announces PC Operating System ... (points out its just Chrome over Linux)
LOL. Most of those aren't NEGATIVE rants by Karl like those he unleashes on AT&T or Comcast. They were merely news articles. And half of them weren't by Karl but by REVCB with 1 line new links. If you had to dig that hard to find that, you prove my point.
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Karl Bode
News Guy
join:2000-03-02
kudos:44

Re: It's Laughable isn't it

You need a hobby.
Karl Bode
I have a question. Purely hypothetical, of course.

Is it a coincidence that there are extremely few negative articles about Google on the BBR front page? The Google that provides most of the ad revenue to BBR.
Hah. Did you just infer that I, somebody who rants endlessly about transparency and integrity, don't criticize Google because I'm afraid it would impact Google Adsense revenue I have absolutely nothing to do with?

Pretty funny.

You're off your game today, Tom.
ShellMMG

join:2009-04-16
Grass Lake, MI
Reviews:
·Frontier Communi..
Karl, I'm disabled and are as puzzled as you are. The internet is vital to me: it lets me shop online without trekking (and struggling) through stores. I can get access to medical information, pay my bills, do my banking, order my prescriptions and connect with the latest in health research and new technological improvements that could help me in the future. I benefit from an implanted medical device that wirelessly recharges -- like the new (expensive) laptop offered by Dell -- and I can't imagine risking the loss of such a precious resource.

Chiyo
Save Me Konata-Chan
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Charlotte, NC
kudos:1

Hey everyone needs awards

I guess everyone needs to be rewarded. I got out of bed on tme today I got a gold star on the wall. 10 gold stars is this guy has some spending money \o/.

Seriously though WTF why isn't this illegal saldy I can anwser my own question fucking greedy politicians and companies.
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michigandave

join:2007-05-16
Fenton, MI

Re: Hey everyone needs awards

said by Chiyo:

Seriously though WTF why isn't this illegal saldy I can anwser my own question fucking greedy politicians and companies.
And years in court because any laws to squash astroturfing will be fought under the 1st Amendment banner.
--

gkar1

join:2001-03-29
Chicago, IL

1 edit

1 recommendation

Re: Hey everyone needs awards

said by michigandave:

said by Chiyo:

Seriously though WTF why isn't this illegal saldy I can anwser my own question fucking greedy politicians and companies.
And years in court because any laws to squash astroturfing will be fought under the 1st Amendment banner.
Corporations have no and should not have full first amendment rights, ever. They are not individuals, they are creatures of the state, created and allowed to exist by the state for the sole purpose of generating profit for a group of individuals and to protect them in case their business venture fails. That way collectors only go after the corporation's assets and not those of the individuals who formed the company.

The government has selectively restricted first amendment rights for corporations throughout history to curtail their use of monetary might and size to influence laws in their favor. Remember what happened to Standard Oil for example.

Read up on the recent Hillary Clinton movie ban scandal to get a better picture of the battle that will go up to the Supreme Court soon. It basically boils down to allowing corporations to have the same full first amendment rights as an individual. This would mean they'd have no spending limits in regards to campaign contributions, formation of interest lobbying groups, commercials or any kind of media favoring/opposing candidates, etc.

What is worse is that corporations can afford to lose this battle because it would just continue the status quo, but the law lumps worker's unions together with corporations so in the end they win by nullifying the influence of unions.
SuperWISP

join:2007-04-17
Laramie, WY

Google gives "consumer" groups money too...

...to advocate against consumer interests. For example, the Washington DC lobbying groups "Free Press," "Public Knowledge," "Media Access Project," and "New America Foundation" all claim to act in the public interest. But they all take money from Google, and lobby for anti-consumer "network neutrality" regulation, which would harm the public in myriad ways.
namida12

join:2004-10-30
Las Vegas, NV

Re: Google gives "consumer" groups money too...

Network neutrality, is good for the all Internet user, preventing Comcast,Time Warner and others from blocking or filter content they do not own...

in 2000 Network neutrality, but now it needs to be put into words that moron's can read and understand.

Cable needs to be unbundled, and maybe Network neutrality will force that issue. I see ATT has unblocked Skype when the FCC was looking at that blockage.

Maybe Clear's wireless can expand nation wide, and result in more than a handful of markets having a little competition, as i understand on 264 markets have more than one broadband ISP for consumers.

JR

JR

Last Parade

join:2002-10-07
Port Colborne, ON

ljpoijpij

at first i thought this was the simpsons guy
SuperWISP

join:2007-04-17
Laramie, WY

"Network neutrality" astroturfers give one another awards

Karl, you fail to mention that the corporate astroturfers who are lobbying for "network neutrality" regulation frequently give one another awards. For example, see »www.theregister.co.uk/20 ··· _awards/