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Grassroots: The Chemical Industry's Astroturf Agenda

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- CMA Board Minutes, September 1980 (view entire document)

The term 'grassroots' usually conjures up an image of citizen activists like Lois Gibbs knocking on doors in Love Canal, or a group of citizens marching on Washington demanding civil rights or gun control. It is not normally associated with chemical industry lobbying efforts. But for more than 20 years, the industry has aggressively employed fake "grassroots" tactics. A better name for these tactics would be "Astroturf".

Authentic grassroots movements start over kitchen tables, in church basements and union halls. The Chemical Manufacturers Association conceived its Astroturf programs in the executive boardroom, with decisions and strategy emanating from CEOs, senior executives, and high-priced public relations and lobbying firms. In 1983, CMA's Executive Committee directed the association to develop a "coordinated grassroots system to augment our advocacy impact on priority federal legislative issues." (view entire document)

The decision to invest in "grassroots" lobbying arose from the visible power of real grassroots organizing by CMA's enemies community environmental activists. CMA thought that if it could create the appearance of grassroots support, "We can frame the debate on our issue on our terms and put our opponents on a defense." (view entire document)

CMA's grassroots 'volunteer' network is primarily (if not entirely) composed of member companies' management and retired chemical industry workers. The goal was and is clearly to influence politicians and media perceptions of the industry.

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(view entire document)

The industry's highly organized fake grassroots efforts are led by Congressional Liaison Representatives from each of the member companies. According to CMA:

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When CMA has a hot button issue that needs grassroots support, the group deploys their "grassroots managers" -- the Astroturf point person in each participating company -- to activate industry employees to take action. For instance, a grassroots manager might seek out a plant manager to 'volunteer' to write a letter to his Congressperson, or Monsanto's grassroots manager would call up a number of retired Monsanto employees asking them to call their representatives with a message scripted by CMA or the company.

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(view entire document)

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last updated: march.27.2009

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