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home / ftcr / goon squad



David Horowitz
CALA - Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse
Voter Revolt
Michael Johnson
Andrew Tobias
Planning & Conservation League
Walter Zelman
Greenlining Institute
Jeffrey O'Connell
U Wisc.'s Auto Accident Compensation Project
Philip Howard
Ever wonder about those people you see on television ads urging you to vote YES or NO on ballot propositions. . .journalists, elected officials, environmental "leaders," "independent analysts," "minority" groups, taxpayer advocates, etc.?

Chances are, they're being paid to lie to you.

It's all part of the destruction of initiative democracy by big corporations trying to disguise themselves.

California's initiative and referendum process was created by Governor Hiram Johnson in 1911 to provide the public with a powerful tool of direct democracy as an antidote to legislative inaction and corruption induced by special interests. It's one of the most unique features of California politics. Californians are glad for the opportunity to deal with issues directly at the ballot box and proud that California initiatives often propel an issue to national attention. Proposition 13's property tax cut, Proposition 103's insurance reforms, to name two examples, swept the nation once California voters enacted them.

Designed to overcome the power of special interest lobbyists in the state legislature, the "people's" initiative process has increasingly become the province of the special interests themselves, however. With unlimited money to spend, insurance companies, tobacco firms, utilities, Wall Street interests and Silicon Valley investment firms have co-opted the initiative process. It is not uncommon for these corporate campaigns to spend $40 million or more, largely on television and radio advertising.

With all that big money around, it is not surprising that the initiative process has become an extremely lucrative business for a handful of private public relations and consulting firms which specialize in drafting initiatives, collecting signatures to qualify them for the ballot, and campaigning for their passage on behalf of corporate interests.

Money talks in politics, and the more of it, the louder it gets - especially when supporters of citizen initiatives rarely can afford television advertising.

But California voters are rightly suspicious when corporations invade the initiative process - if they find out the truth. When insurance companies (1988's insurance reform battle) or tobacco companies (1994) mounted ballot initiative campaigns - in both cases, to block reform true legislation - voters resoundingly rejected the corporate-sponsored measures, despite a massive imbalance in resources spent by the other side (Insurers spent $80 million in 1988, while Prop. 103 won with $2.9 million. The tobacco industry spent $18 million in 1994 and was defeated by a $4 million educational campaign).

In those campaigns, the public was able to figure out which side was which - and voted accordingly.

So in recent years the corporations and their political consultants have developed a new strategy to fool the public: hire people and organizations to front for the corporations, to provide a "grassroots" cover or pro-citizen disguise for their efforts.

Here's how it works: when consumer advocates sponsor HMO reform, or utility rate reduction proposals, for example, insurance lobbyists or utility executives stay behind the scenes. Instead, they give money to individuals or organizations who then appear in their television ads, press conferences and other events, pretending to be impartial experts, consumer advocates, environmentalists, etc.

The strategy's been called "astroturf" or "corporate camouflage." We call these phony individuals and organizations the "goon squad."

It's a national phenomenon, which we expose in this detailed report that names all the names. Click below to read more about:

David Horowitz
"Consumer Reporter" Gets $136,000 from Utility Companies, Credit Card and Long Distance Companies

Voter Revolt
How Political Consultants Are Selling A Non-Profit's Reputation for over $5,000,000 from Insurance Companies and Silicon Valley Business Interests

Andrew Tobias
State Farmer

Planning and Conservation League
"Environmental Group" Supports Utility Companies' Bailout of Nuclear Power for $70,000

Walter Zelman
Mr. HMO

Greenlining Institute
San Francisco "Minority" Organization Sides With Utilities In Exchange for $330,000 from Pacific Gas & Electric and Southern California Edison between 1996 and 1997; Receives Major Funding From Insurance Companies and Other Corporations, As Well.

Jeffrey O'Connell
University of Virginia professor supports insurance industry, and it supports him.

University of Wisconsin's "Auto Accident Compensation Project"
Academic aura for insurance propaganda organ.

Philip Howard
The Truth About Philip Howard's "Common Good"



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