What's an Astroturf Group?
An Astroturf group is an organization created by industry lobbyists that attempts to pose as a legitimate grassroots organization. These "sock-puppet" groups advocate for industry-backed interests while pretending to have the well-being of consumers in mind.
Often times these groups engage in multi-million dollar smear campaigns against legitimate organizations working for the interests of consumers. While their baseless attacks are always proven to be mere innuendos and outlandish claims, they do tend to distract the American public from the real issues and truth.
The best tactic against these Astroturf groups is to expose their industry ties and clear bias. Please check back as we highlight more Astroturf groups and help preserve responsible lending practices.
To learn how to spot an Astroturf group, please check out this article in The Consumerist.
Featured Astroturf Group
Center for Economic and Entrepreneurial Literacy (ECON4U.ORG):
The Center for Economic and Entrepreneurial Literacy and its website econ4u.org are part of Rick Berman's PR firm. This group "promotes" financial educational programs and provides other personal finance "advice" from a pro-industry perspective, often times endorsing predatory loan products such as payday loans and pushing pro-business research. To learn more about the explicit links between the payday lending industry and this group, please read this article by Daniel Schulman, associate editor of Mother Jones.
For more visit:
More Astroturf Groups
The website ActivistCash.Com is yet another creation of the PR firm Berman & Co. Launched in 2001, the sole goal of the website is to discredit activist organizations by questioning their sources of funding and implying dubious motives.
The Center for Consumer Freedom is one of the many front groups created by leading "public affairs" specialist Rick Berman. The group is mostly concerned with the interests of the restaurant, food, alcohol, and tobacco industries, but often advocates heavily for the payday lending industry.
For more on the Center for Consumer Freedom and Rick Berman visit:
The Consumer Rights League is a fake "grassroots" organization created and backed by the industry. The CR League was launched in early 2008 and, according to the Columbia Journalism Review, "appears to exist for no other purpose than to attack [Self-Help CEO Martin] Eakes and promote the payday lending industry."
For more visit:
The Employment Policies Institute is another one of Rick Berman's "Astroturf" groups. While the group is mostly preoccupied with wage and employment related issues, they sometimes take the time to push predatory lending policies and to discredit our research.