How to Tell-a-Phone-y

Tips on how to tell when a caller who claims to represent a grassroots movement is really throwing you a corporate-contrived astroturf pitch:


You ask: “Who do you work for?”
The caller says: A group beginning with “Citizens for…,” “Consumers Against…,” or “Americans who…”

You ask: “Where are you located?”
The caller says: “I can’t reveal that information.”

You say: “I’m in the middle of dinner. Can I call you back?”
The caller says: “Sure” and gives you a toll-free number.

You call the toll-free number.
An operater says: “Legislative hotline!” and offers to route you to the appropriate staffer.

You ask for more information.
They send papers labeled “grassroots effort.”

You ask: “How does this issue affect me?”
The caller says: “This will hurt all consumers in your state!”

You ask: “When I call my senator, what do I say?”
The caller says: “Say that this will hurt all consumers in your state!”

You ask: “What else can I do?”
The caller says: “Write your senator a letter saying that this will hurt all consumers in your state!”

Not every grassroots call is necessarily fake. Just demand details. And remember: The Princeton Dental Resource Center was once sponsored by M&M/Mars to convince the public that candy is good for your teeth. For more information on identifying phony campaigns, consult Mask of Deception: Corporate Front Groups in America, which is available for $15 through Essential Information (a Ralph Nader front group); call (202) 387-8030 or go to www.essential.org

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate

Share your feedback: We’re planning to launch a new version of the comments section. Help us test it.