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Who's keeping Common Cause accountable for supporting undisclosed astroturfing?

Common Cause claims in their tagline that they are "Holding Power Accountable." Well it appears as if Common Cause may have a double standard problem of holding others to a higher and different ethical standard than they hold themselves. 

Lets review some key facts. Fact One: Common Cause claims it is "...one of the most active, effective and respected non-profit organizations...in America."  and it claims to be "committed to honest, open and accountable government..." Part of its stated mission is "to strengthen...faith in our institutions of self government...and to promote...high ethical standards for government officials..." 

Fact two: Common Cause is listed prominently as one of the top 15 Charter Members of the SavetheInternet coalition. 

Fact three: in early August of this year Common Cause listed me and netcompetition.org in their report: "Wolves in Sheeps clothing, Part 2: More Telecom Industry Front Groups and Astroturf. I countered August 10th in my blog that I fully disclose who I work for, broadband companies; and that I never represent myself as a grassroots group -- as they allege. I also called their report on Net Competition.org a not-so-veiled intimidation of free speech.

Fact four: SavetheInternet.com (of which Common Cause is a prominent charter member) has been actively supporting a new pro net neutrality website, called weownthenet.org. SavetheInternet is obviously fully embracing the weownthenet.org site because a SavetheInternet person goes so far as to conduct a mock interview with the fictional character Mr. Merriweather of CT&TCOM, and they have posted that interview prominently on the SavetheInternet site. SavetheInternet does not appear to be hiding that they support the weownthenet.org site and that they know who produces it.  

Fact five: the weownthenet.org is completely undisclosed. It is not publicly discernible  who produced the site, who funded it, who registered it, or who hosts it for whom. The site is very very slick and clearly top-of-the-line expensive. It represents some of the most expensive advocacy production work that I have seen in this debate on either side. This was not produced by anyone in a garage. The experts I consulted were impressed and estimated that such a site involving a professional actor -- probably cost six figures to produce.

Fact six: Common Cause has had no public objection to date to being affiliated so closely with an undisclosed astroturf group -- which they so often rail against as a threat to democracy and accountability.

What am I or you to conclude from these facts? In the interests of fairness, let's give Common Cause the benefit of the doubt that they are not aware of this potentially embarassing integrity problem and give them some time to correct it.

However, once they are made aware of this potential integrity and public accountability problem, lets see if Common Cuase is committted to living the principles of honesty, accoutability and ethics they hold others to -- by taking swift and unambiguous corrective action. 

  • I trust Common Cause will either insist on public disclosure of the funding source behind weownthenet.org and apologize to their citizenry for being involved in "astrotrufing", or
  • Alternatively I trust Common Cause will then withdraw its support from the SavetheInternet coaltion, if SavetheInternet is unwilling to publicly disclose who is behind this astroturfing subtrfuge.

This is an important public accountability opportunity for Common Cause and its board to lead by example. Does Common Cause hold itself to the same standards that they hold others? Does Common Cause truly believe that citizens are served best by full disclosure of who is funding and influencing public policy? Or is Common Cause going to lower itself and behave like the entities they say they oppose -- becuase their high-minded ends justify whatever means are necessary to win the net neutrality fight?

 

 

 

 

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Q&A One Pager Debunking Net Neutrality Myths