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Business-Managed Democracy

“Business-managed democracies are those in which the political and cultural arrangements are managed in the interests of business”

Sharon Beder

Business-Managed Environment

Political Influence of Astroturf


According to the people who staff congressional offices, grassroots cams are far more effective than traditional lobbying, or even monetary contributions in persuading politicians to vote in a particular way. One survey, by a doctoral student at the University of North Carolina Business School, found that grassroots activism was ranked as the most effective strategy by 57% of respondents, compared with 28% who said lobbying by company executives and 5% who said political donations. The rationale for this is that politicians have to worry about being reelected so they care what voters think.


Randy Haynie, whose firms represents corporations such as Philip Morris and Waste Management, Inc, explains how they categorise politicians according to their past votes and other factors into those likely to support a bill, those likely to oppose it and the others who could go either way. It is this last category of politicians who are targeted with grassroots campaigns. Corporate lobbying now commonly includes a grassroots component.

The letters and telephone calls resulting from PR efforts tend to have an exaggerated  effect on politicians because most operate under the traditional assumption that a letter writer or caller is extremely committed and motivated and that for every letter that the politician receives, there are hundreds or thousands of citizens who feel the same way but who lacked the time, resources, skills or motivation to write a similar letter. Also someone who goes to the trouble of writing a letter is likely to feel strongly enough to actually monitor how the politician votes on the issue and decide their own vote accordingly when he comes up for reelection. With grassroots organising however these assumptions about letter writers and callers are not valid since the so-called letter writers are not necessarily as committed and motivated as a genuine letter writer. 


Front groups and PR generated grassroots responses also help politicians who want to vote for or against a piece of legislation because of corporate inducements but also want to be seen to be responsive to voters. According to Michael Pertschuk, codirector of the Advocacy Institute: “Fronts are useful for politicians who essentially want to do industry’s bidding but are reluctant to be seen as tools of industry.”


These methods are not confined to the US. Such services are also available in Canada. In his speech to the 1993 Wise Use Conference entitled How to use communications technology to compete with radical environmentalists, Ross Irvine, President of the Canadian firm, Public Relations Management Ltd, explained to the audience the value of computer generated letters as a powerful way of influencing Canadian politicians. “Politicians feel compelled to respond to letters, and for each letter they receive politicians believe there are 10, 100, 1000 or 10,000 voters who feel the same way as the letter writer.”


How about if you make a few copies of the computerized list of law makers and prepare form letters which can be merged with your list of names.
Then you give copies of these computer disks to all your members, to all your friends, to all your neighbours, -- to everyone you know -- and ask them to send letters to the law makers.


James Gardner, author of Effective Lobbying in the European Community has described “the soaring growth in transnational lobbying by giant global corporations” and contended that grassroots lobbying is likely to be used widely in future in many countries.

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