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:

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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

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It’s really that simple. But if you’d like to read a bit more, our membership lead, Brian Hiatt, has a post for you highlighting some of our newsroom's impressive, impactful work of late—including two big investigations in just one day and covering voting rights the way it needs to be done—that we hope you’ll agree is worth supporting.

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