More about Astroturf


Tennessee Example:

In 2014, the state of Tennessee was considering a bill that would have closed the Medicaid coverage gap and extended coverage to over 200,000 people. Sensing an opportunity, a coalition that included consumer advocates but was dominated by health plans, hospitals and business groups formed to support the Medicaid expansion. The coalition raised money and hired a lobbyist, but was resistant to the suggestions by consumer advocacy groups to build grassroots support for expansion. Americans for Prosperity and the Koch brothers stepped into this vacuum and began pouring money into the state, airing radio ads, sending direct mail and hosting a town hall to generate opposition to expansion. This astroturf spending was effective. Efforts to expand Medicaid in Tennessee failed in 2015 when the bill failed to get out of committee.
Learning from this devastating loss, consumer advocates in Tennessee carved out their own space for campaign planning and execution.  They built upon their strong base of supporters, mobilized consumers from across the state, coordinated call-in days and staged rallies. Advocates launched a grassroots movement that legislators could not ignore. In the spring of 2016, the Speaker of the Tennessee House of Representatives announced that she would form a Task Force to create a plan that would address the Medicaid coverage gap. The Task Force suspended its work because of the results of the 2016 election, but advocates did not let that stop their momentum. During the 2017 fight to repeal the Affordable Care Act, the advantages of focusing on building a grassroots base became clear. The advocates generated over 3,000 calls and 500 letters to their senators offices, encouraging them to resist repealing the law. This pressure was effective. Both Senator Lamar Alexander and Senator Bob Corker eventually stated publically that they opposed repealing the ACA without a replacement plan in place. With this kind of grassroots base in place, Tennessee advocates will not be nearly as vulnerable to a Koch-led astroturf campaign in the future.