You are probably thinking, “What does astroturf have to do with ethics?” Well we’re talking about a different kind. This type of astroturfing according to PR Week is about lobbying or campaigning that appears to be authentic, but was really paid for by an organization. That is actually how it got its name because astroturf is that fake, plastic material made to look like grass. You can see this happen in many areas today, but especially politics. However, the industry we are going to follow is the oil industry.
In this case, the Waxman-Markey bill is the subject of debate. The plan of the bill was to aim at cutting greenhouse gas emissions exponentially by the year 2050. There was also a huge possibility that many employees of large oil companies would lose their jobs due to this piece of legislation. Before the House of Representatives was going to vote on the bill, a man by the name of Drayton McLane was hosting a rally to attack President Obama’s agenda on clean energy.
The rally was hosted by Energy Citizens. They are a lobbyist group who are made up of employees of major oil companies to fight this bill. Due to their lobbying against the legislation and many others that have to do with taxes on energy and jobs in the oil industry, the Waxman-Markey bill has still yet to pass.
On their website, which you can click on above, they state their issues, talk about the latest news on energy, and even blog about topics in the industry. From an outside perspective, it looks like site this was made by people who genuinely care about the issues they state. You would never know that most of the people who make up Energy Citizens are actually employees of some of the major oil companies.
The fact of the matter is that there is no one saying that you can’t astroturf and it is a perfectly legal thing to do. The issue in itself is the fact that the people who are apart or create these groups have to live with themselves. They have to come with terms that they tricked people into believing something that is false and there lies the ethical problem. In this case it was either lose your job over a piece of legislation or save it and make someone else pay. What would you do in this situation?
The video below is an illustration of what astroturfing can affect. In the video you will see Rachel Maddow, host of her self-titled MSNBC talk show, uncovering the truth about a “grass-roots” organization named American’s For Prosperity. In this particular case, the organization was lobbying against the Olympics being in Chicago. The reason behind this would be the sole fact that it would both raise taxes and would hurt big businesses.
Take a look for yourself.