Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Astroturfing Healthcare Reform

[UPDATE]: Seems Jeff Crank is not a cancer survivor at all. Someone else at the rally is the cancer survivor. CBS screwed it up and sent out a clip that was incorrect. Shocked.


You knew it was happening, right? Right?
The new anti-health reform front group known as the Coalition to Protect Patients’ Rights, is being managed by the lobbying firm known as the DCI Group. After being contacted by ThinkProgress this afternoon about its sponsorship of CPPR’s press conference last week, DCI Group staffers acknowledged that they coordinate PR for the front group. Not be confused with Conservatives for Patients’ Rigths, another front group opposing health reform, CPPR has been organizing lobbying efforts against health reform and publishing op-eds across the country with misinformation about the public option.

Tom Synhorst, a former staffer to Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Bob Dole, joined fellow right-wing operatives Doug Goodyear and Tim Hyde to form DCI Group in 1996. The firm quickly flourished working for the tobacco industry, coordinating a sophisticated astroturf campaign to build public opposition to tobacco regulations. Ironically, before helping to manage this “patients’ rights” campaign, DCI founded “Smokers’ Rights” groups across the country for the tobacco lobby. Indeed, DCI has specialized in manufacturing “grassroots” support — using telemarketers, PR events, and letter writing campaigns — to achieve policy results for narrow corporate interests.

Meanwhile, let’s move west, to Colorado and this anti-reform rally in Denver which featured speaker Jeff Crank, identified in newspaper reports as

state director for Americans for Prosperity, a public policy group backing free enterprise

I know about this because a clip from this rally was placed on the national news feed, and was aired on Nashville’s WTVF this morning. But Crank was identified simply as a “cancer survivor” (and he may well be) who made the outrageous claim that he “would have died” if his treatment had been in government hands. This is what prompted me to do what our local media would not, which is hit the Google.

Oh, my.

Jeff Crank, I have learned, is many things. He was a Republican candidate for Congress last year (he lost). He is a Republican lobbyist to the Colorado State Legislature whose clients include the Colorado Chamber of Commerce (which opposes healthcare reform) and the Colorado Chiropractic Assn. He is a conservative talk radio host.

And, as we have mentioned, he is Colorado state director of Americans For Prosperity.

Let’s look at Americans For Prosperity, shall we? According to SourceWatch, it is one of the groups behind the April 15 Tea Party protests. Americans For Prosperity’s other activities include sending a hot air balloon around the country to fight “global warming alarmism.”

And finally, they made their name fighting smoking bans around the country. Just like DCI Group. Gee, I wonder if there’s a connection.

Of course, none of this was mentioned when the news media interviewed “cancer survivor Jeff Crank” who would have died if the government had been involved in his healthcare in any way.

Meanwhile, let’s look at the activities of some other chapters of Americans For Prosperity, shall we? Yesterday, the Maryland chapter hung a Congressman in effigy at their state rally. Lovely.

By all means, let’s listen to the wackadoodle, racist, fringe of the Republican Party on healthcare, the people who oppose workplace smoking bans and hang Congressmen in effigy. And let’s pretend they are normal citizens when they are interviewed on the TV news, not the slithery, slimy things crawling under the rock that is the Republican Party.