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David Axelrod: "The Gold Standard in Astroturfing"

3:37 PM, Aug 5, 2009 • By MICHAEL GOLDFARB
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Democrats are accusing industry groups, Republicans, and anyone else who opposes the president's health care reform health insurance reform effort of "astroturfing" -- creating the appearance of grass roots opposition when grass roots opposition fails to materialize organically. The DNC puts out a release this afternoon saying, "America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) has taken a lead role in fighting health insurance reform efforts and are, along with other Republican allies like FreedomWorks, Conservatives for Patients Rights and Americans for Prosperity, now engaging in 'astroturf' campaigns in a desperate effort to 'kill' reform and 'break' the President."

Leaving aside whether or not the DNC's charge is true, and no doubt to some extent it is true -- just as most effective advocacy campaigns are managed and organized by existing groups -- it's worth noting that one of the pioneers in creating the appearance of grass roots support for a program where none really exists is none other than David Axelrod, the president's chief strategist and right-hand man:

The Secret Side of David Axelrod

The Obama campaign's chief strategist is a master of "Astroturfing" and has a second firm that shapes public opinion for corporations

David Axelrod has long been known for his political magic. Through his AKP&D Message & Media consultancy, the campaign veteran has advised a succession of Democratic candidates since 1985, and he's now chief strategist for Senator Barack Obama's bid for President. But on the down low, Axelrod moonlights in the private sector.

From the same address in Chicago's River North neighborhood, Axelrod operates a second business, ASK Public Strategies, that discreetly plots strategy and advertising campaigns for corporate clients to tilt public opinion their way. He and his partners consider virtually everything about ASK to be top secret, from its client roster and revenue to even the number of its employees. But customers and public records confirm that it has quarterbacked campaigns for the Chicago Children's Museum, ComEd, Cablevision, and AT&T.

ASK's predilection for operating in the shadows shows up in its work. On behalf of ComEd and Comcast, the firm helped set up front organizations that were listed as sponsors of public-issue ads. Industry insiders call such practices "Astroturfing," a reference to manufacturing grassroots support. Alderman Brendan Reilly of the 42nd Ward, who has been battling the Children's Museum's relocation plans, describes ASK as "the gold standard in Astroturf organizing. This is an emerging industry, and ASK has made a name for itself in shaping public opinion and manufacturing public support."

Read the whole thing here.