Free Press launches interactive tool to expose astroturf groups

Free Press has launched an online interactive tool to expose fake grassroots groups supported by big telco and cable companies to advance their political agenda. These “astroturf” organizations — many of which also work for the health insurance, energy and tobacco industries — are mobilizing to spread misinformation about Network Neutrality and Internet policies.

Check out the Free Press tool at You can easily post it on your website to allow your readers to track the massive amounts of money that phone and cable companies spend on lobbyists and campaign contributions. It puts a spotlight on the deceptive activities of groups like FreedomWorks, Americans for Prosperity, NetCompetition and the Heartland Institute (the last one is very familiar to readers).

“The fake grassroots groups are spending major resources to deceive the public and promote agendas of the corporations that sign their paychecks,” said Timothy Karr, campaign director of Free Press. “We need transparency, accountability and honest debate. The crucial policy decisions being made right now about the future of the Internet must be based on independent research, reliable data and facts. The phone and cable companies must stop distorting the issues and hiding behind their astroturf groups, sock puppets and hired shills.

Along with exposing astroturf groups, the interactive tool features “The Money Trail,” which tabulates spending by big phone and cable on an army of lobbyists to push their agenda in Washington. In the past two years alone:

  • Comcast spent more than $45 million on campaigns and lobbying. This same amount could have provided one year of broadband service to 150,000 households;
  • Verizon spent more than $70 million on lobbying. This same amount could have been used to deploy FIOS to 87,500 new homes;
  • AT&T spent $73 million on lobbying, which instead could have bought 730,000 iPhones for students;
  • Qwest spent $10 million on lobbying that could have provided broadband to 5,500 libraries for one year; and
  • Time Warner Cable spent $24 million on lobbying. This same amount could have subsidized 100,000 low-income households for one year of broadband service.
  • Explore the new interactive tool at


    1. Esme
      Don’t forget the amounts spent outside the beltway in local government and state government. This is where the misinformation goes unchallenged because of lack of resources.

    2. Garth,

      Very true. I’m hoping that each state has some version of Free Press that will take up the challenge of exposing these groups.

    3. Sadly in state and local governments I have not only seen this misinformation go unchallenged but I have also seen lobbyist money be directed towards private state consultants who basically tell the county and local governments what to do and what to buy.