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The Untold Story of Astroturf: Corporate-Sponsored Environmentalism

Jeff Poor
Business & Media Institute
May 13, 2010

It’s the American way, right? It is patriotic to exercise the 1st Amendment by petitioning the government for a redress of grievances – unless of course your effort has a tie to some corporation or lobbying interest. Then regardless of its size, it’s phony baloney Astroturf activism.

While groups like the George Soros-funded have managed to elude the “Astroturf” moniker, from its inception, the Tea Party movement has taken shots from its critics. One of the most popular left-wing charges was to call it “Astroturf,” meaning it was presented as a grassroots efforts, but wasn’t really grassroots. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi labeled the Tea Party movement “Astroturf” back during the original Tax Day Tea Party protest on April 15, 2009.

“This initiative is funded by the high end – we call it Astroturf,” Pelosi said. “It’s not really a grassroots movement. It’s Astroturf by some of the wealthiest people in America to keep the focus on tax cuts for the rich instead of for the great middle class.”

That attitude has been widely echoed in media coverage of the Tea Party, as if it were a corporate effort to subvert the U.S. government’s ability to collect revenue and redistribute wealth through public works and social program.

Meanwhile, environmental causes, like Earth Day or global warming with their own corporate sponsorship – are rarely labeled Astroturf.

Green Movement Openly Corporate Sponsored, But Never Labeled ‘Astroturf’


For many companies, environmental causes and saving the planet have become a clever way to market or advertise a product. It’s a common phenomenon for retail outlets to use the environmental mantra to promote what they’re selling. In fact, it’s not only promoted by corporate interests, but it’s something the federal government encourages businesses do to sell their product, according to the U.S. Small Business Association’s Web site

“If you are already competitive in terms of price, quality and performance, adding ‘green’ claims and eco-labels to your marketing strategy may enhance your brand image and secure your market share among the growing number of environmentally concerned consumers,” the SBA Web site says. “Start your green marketing campaign by ensuring your green claims are credible. Do this by having your product certified that it was produced in an environmentally sound manner. Once certified, use the eco-labels from the certifying organizations to help consumers make educated choices.”

And one has to look no further than Earth Day 2010 to see the corporate fingerprint on so-called green activist efforts. Major U.S. corporations like Proctor & Gamble, Siemens, Wells Fargo, AT&T, UPS, Philips and Ford all had a major presence at the so-called Earth Day “Climate Rally” on the National Mall back on April 25. That’s in addition to a sponsorship from NASA, a federal government entity and media outlets, including the Washington Post and Gannett’s USA Today.

So you have all the components – corporate interests and government bureaucracies collaborating to push a political agenda. Isn’t that the textbook definition of “Astroturf?” Yet that label has failed to become a part of any green efforts.

But was that label ever applied by any media outlet to describe this particular Earth Day event?  A Nexis search of the last 90 days reveals no media outlet has used the “Astroturf” marker for Earth Day.

And it goes much further than just a clever marketing gimmick or effort by big corporation to appease an activist movement. On Glenn Beck’s May 4 program, he explained how the leaders of the green movement are actually set to profit off of environmental policy. Global warming is lucrative, and regulations that would make carbon usage a commodity will profit some, perhaps even much-maligned Wall Street boogeyman Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS)

“The global warming hoax continues to be one of their best tools,” Beck said. “We’ve shown you the CCX, the Chicago Climate Exchange, a carbon-buying and selling business that has been estimated to become potential $10 trillion gold mine – that’s if cap-and-trade is passed. Barack Obama invested via the Joyce Foundation. He was on the board. He helped the Joyce Foundation invest in CCX. And then, it just turned into a money mechanism for cap-and-trade. CCX potential attracted the attention of the London-based generation investment management. By the way, have you seen his new house? Al Gore. Yes, Al Gore decided to invest along with Goldman Sachs. Didn’t we just see the protests? Aren’t these guys all angry at Goldman Sachs because they’re so evil? Why would they be here?”

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