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The Astroturf Presidency

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By Michelle Malkin  •  January 25, 2010 03:18 AM

Who is Ellie Light?

I predict you’ll start seeing the question as a popular bumper sticker soon (a la “Who is John Galt?”…and voila, someone has already made a t-shirt!).

It’s a handy rhetorical rejoinder the next time the White House or your nutroots neighbors and co-workers try to tar the Tea Party or any other grass-roots revolts against President Obama as phony, top-down operations.

When Obama’s Soros-funded, Big Labor-directed, K Street-organized goons engage in classic projection and you need a glib way to call out the pot calling the kettle black, just snap back:

Who is Ellie Light?

A Cleveland Plain Dealer blog first broke the story over the weekend of a “suspicious” letter-writer named “Ellie Light” who submitted more than a dozen pro-Obama letters to the editors in recent weeks using addresses from Philadelphia to California and all points in between. Open-source-optimizing blogger Patterico has added much more information on both “Donald Trump Astroturfing” (“a letter published in multiple places from one person claiming to live in multiple cities”) and “David Axelrod Astroturfing” (“identical letters published in multiple places claiming to be from different people”).

Kudos to the Plain Dealer for smoking out the initial ringer and Patterico and his readers/tipsters for delving deeper. But so much for the rest of the vaunted gate-keepers of the Fourth Estate, eh?

The bogus letters are just the latest example of Obama theater — doctors in costumes, town hall stage props, trumped-up Obamacare anecdotes, kiddie proxies, etc., etc., etc.

Underscoring this administration’s dependence on centrally planned, teleprompter-dependent perpetual campaigns of manufactured support, the other half of Obama’s Astroturf Twin Power — David Plouffe — will soon rejoin Chicago cronies David Axelrod, Valerie Jarrett, and the rest to rescue the Democrats in a new expanded role as outside White House adviser.

A reminder from my August 21, 2009 column on Corporate Shills for Hope and Change:

Money from pharmaceutical firms and health care companies is dirty, evil, and corrupting – except when key members of Team Obama are pocketing it. White House spokesman Robert Gibbs derides grass-roots opponents of socialized health care as industry-funded lackeys with questionable motives and conflicts of interest. But what about the corporate shills at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue?

Two weeks ago, the White House embraced $150 million in drug industry ads supporting Obamacare. This week, Bloomberg News reported that White House senior adviser and chief campaign strategist David Axelrod’s former public relations firm, AKPD Message and Media, has raked in some $24 million in ad contracts supporting Obamacare – along with another p.r. firm, GMMB, run by other Obama strategists.

The ads are funded by Big Pharma, the AARP, AMA, and the powerhouse Services Employees International Union (whose Purple Shirts dumped $80 million in independent expenditures to get Obama and the Democrat majority elected). In trademark Axelrod-ian style, the special interest coalition adopted faux grass-roots names – first under the banner of “Healthy Economy Now” and more recently as “Americans for Stable Quality Care.”

Because, well, “Corporate Shills for Hope and Change” doesn’t have quite the same ring of authenticity.

Astroturf master Axelrod was president and sole shareholder of AKPD from 1985 until last December, when he resigned to take his White House position. His son, Michael, works there. So does former Obama campaign manager David Plouffe. Axelrod is prominently featured on AKPD’s website, from a founder’s quote on the front page (“CHANGE IS SOMETHING YOU HAVE TO FIGHT FOR”) to the glamorous election night photos of Plouffe and Axelrod with the Obamas. AKPD still consults with Axelrod on “strategy and research” for the Democratic National Committee. The firm owes Axelrod $2 million, due in annual installments of $350,000, $650,000, $400,000 and $600,000.

That Axelrod and his old firm benefit mutually from their respective roles selling Obamacare should be gobsmackingly obvious. Axelrod pushes the White House plan on TV news shows. AKPD derives mega-income from ad contracts selling the White House-endorsed plan. The windfall allows AKPD to settle its debts with Axelrod, whose name, face, and high-powered ties are critical to future wheel-greasing for AKPD — and future salary-earning for Axelrod’s son and close associates.


The ‘Turf Gang: Gibbs, Plouffe, Obama, and Axelrod

Plouffe authored an op-ed for the Washington Post over the weekend crusading to save the Demcare government takeover. His Washington Post byline does not mention his position at AKPD and does not disclose his financial conflicts of interests in promoting Demcare while serving as senior adviser to AKPD, which raked in an estimated $24 million in drug industry ads supporting Demcare along with Obama-tied p.r. firm GMMB.

Another MSM failure to keep readers fully informed:

David Plouffe, campaign manager of Obama for America and Obama-Biden 2008, is the author of “Audacity to Win.”

On a related note, check out this recent Craigslist advertisement in the Astroturf gang’s hometown of Chicago soliciting paid canvassers for a Democratic National Committee-tied entity:

Background on Grassroots Campaign Inc. :

Grassroots Campaigns (GCI) is an independent organization that does strategic consulting, fundraising, and field organizing for good causes and candidates. We specialize in building and running face-to-face outreach operations in neighborhoods and in high-traffic public venues to build support for groups, issues, and campaigns.

GCI was founded in December of 2003, and by April of 2004 had opened offices in 40 cities throughout the country. By July 2004, we had over 2,000 staff knocking on doors and talking to voters on behalf of the Democratic National Committee. With continued work on behalf of MoveOn PAC in October, we added a volunteer force of 50,000 individuals canvassing their neighborhoods in 17 of the most hotly contested swing states of the 2004 Presidential Election. Since 2004, we’ve continued to partner with groups and campaigns to advance good issues, raise money for progressive causes, help take back Congress, and build activism at the grassroots level.

The people at GCI are seasoned organizing and fundraising professionals with a commitment to positive reforms. Our staff has over 150 years of professional experience. They have:
• Designed and implemented electoral, initiative, legislative, corporate, small donor fundraising, and petition gathering campaigns;
• Put together organization membership drives and raised over $500 million;
• Ran conferences of a couple hundred to a couple thousand college students;
• Trained thousands of professional organizers and campaign staff;
• Worked with scores of different groups on the national, regional, state, Congressional, local, and campus levels;
• Recruited and trained hundreds of thousands of volunteers;
• Helped launch or run over a dozen different organizations;
• Sat on the boards of directors for many groups and campaign steering committees.

Via Slate from 2004, GCI’s “for-profit canvassing” is seen as the “DNC’s secret weapon:”

Voters this fall in Democratic strongholds are witnessing an increasingly common sight. Staked out on busy sidewalks in at least 38 American cities, political activists carrying credit-card authorization forms are drumming up donations for the campaign to defeat George W. Bush. Outfitted in T-shirts emblazoned with star-spangled Democratic National Committee logos, these earnest young men and women come across as grass-roots volunteers of the most enthusiastic sort. Little old ladies interrupt their strolls to thank them for their hard work.

But appearances can be deceiving. The organization behind these fund-raisers is Grassroots Campaigns Inc., a for-profit company that counts the Democratic National Committee as one of its flagship clients. It’s a safe bet that few pedestrians talked into donating $149—”the price of a bus ticket from Washington, D.C., to Crawford, Texas”—realize that once these canvassers beat their daily quota, they keep up to 30 percent of the take.

In the rapidly shifting terrain of political fund raising, Grassroots Campaigns Inc. has emerged as a juggernaut.

“Appearances can be deceiving.”

Pretty much sums up the last year of the Obama White House — and the year to come with Axelrod, Plouffe, Gibbs, Jarrett & Co. working hard with their ringers and stagehands to put message over matter.

Who is Ellie Light?

***

Reader Bill e-mails about the Craigslist/DNC paid canvassing ad…

The ad offers a salary of $24k per year and says that the hours would be 80-100 per week.

Assuming 80 hours (the lower end)

$24,000/ 50 weeks (assuming 2 weeks paid vacation) = $480 per week
$480 / 80 hrs. = $6 per hour
Federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour.

I wonder if these community organizers will be advocating for an increase in that?

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