New report profiles telecom’s Astroturf and other allies fighting for industry friendly policies, not the public interest

Common Cause on Tuesday released a new report exposing “Astroturf” lobbying groups and other allies created by the telecommunications industry to pressure lawmakers to enact industry-friendly policies as Congress debates critical issues worth billions of dollars to the industry.

The report, “Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing: Telecom Industry Front Groups and Astroturf,” profiles nine Astroturf groups and industry-funded think tanks pushing for telecom reform legislation as Congress debates issues such as network neutrality, video franchising competition, broadband access, as well as revisions to the Telecommunications Act of 1996.

“Right now, in many states, there are ads all over television touting so-called ‘consumer benefits’ like lower prices, more competition, better customer service,” said Common Cause President Chellie Pingree.

“But those are just big business promises. The public’s voice – what real people want and need out of our media system – is being left out of the debate.”

Jeff Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy, who recently wrote a book on media politics that examined the role of front groups, said: “These organizations are deployed to weaken the effectiveness of independent nonprofit groups that advocate for the public at large. Policymakers often remain clueless that these ‘helpful’ think tanks or groups may actually be housed at the office of a lobbyist for the media industries. If one ‘follows the money,’ one can see that often groups and their independent experts have received funding from the same corporate source. That’s why it’s important to ask: where does the money come from and how does it relate to the position being endorsed?”

Telecommunications reform is a hot topic for Congress right now. Video franchising, competition, network neutrality and broadband access are all issues on the table, and they’re worth potentially worth billions of dollars to the telecom industry. That’s why Common Cause is shining a light on the front groups and Astroturf organizations that the telecom industry players are using. You can find a copy of the report on our website at