Astroturfing goes rogue | Arkansas Blog

Astroturfing goes rogue

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You might have noticed a story in the morning paper on forged letters sent to a federal agency about proposed rules changes for commodity derivatives trading.

The New York Times Deal Book blog says
it's gotten to the bottom of the letters. It began with a Boston firm that specializes in ginning up "grassroots" letter-writing campaigns.

But Dewey Square contracted with lobbying firms in Rhode Island and Arkansas to spread the word, the spokeswoman, Ginny Terzano, said. The results were good in Rhode Island — elected officials, consumer advocates and corporate chieftains signed on to similar letters calling for tougher rules.

Arkansas was a different story. Dewey Square’s contractor there outsourced the job to a local woman who forged several letters that she then sent to the C.F.T.C., according to a statement Ms. Terzano issued late Tuesday. That woman, who had no affiliation with Dewey Square, “no longer works” for the contractor, Ms. Terzano said. She did not know the woman’s name.

“Dewey Square had no reason whatsoever to believe that the letters were not authentic and had no knowledge that they were in fact unauthorized until questions were raised in media accounts,” Ms. Terzano said in the statement. “We deeply regret that these misrepresentations were made in the course of work that our firm had requested.”

The head of the Arkansas contracting firm, Miles M. Goggans, expressed regret as well in a statement.

“This action was the sole doing of a subcontractor of mine who has worked for me only this past year,” said Mr. Goggans, a former Capitol Hill staffer who now lobbies for General Motors and Anheuser-Busch. “I deeply regret what this has done to these Arkansas businesses and individuals, and deeply regret that this inexcusable conduct occurred in the course of work I performed for Dewey Square, a firm that has the highest standards of professionalism and ethics.”

Goggans did not name the subcontractor, whose name HE presumably knows.

UPDATE: Some legitimate work was done in Arkansas (to the extent astroturfing is legitimate). I've talked this morning with a person who was solicited to sign one of these form letters on behalf of his organization by an Arkansas contact and did so. He's given me the contact's name, a woman he believes now lives in Arkansas. I'm going to try to reach her before passing along the name.

UPDATE II: This could be going to the Justice Department. I've been unable to reach the woman, a Fayetteville resident who formerly lived in Fordyce (which probably explains some letters with Dallas County connections), who reportedly worked on the project for Goggans.

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