Dem Astroturfing Campaign Targets Conservative Talk Radio

Conservative dominance of the talk radio airwaves continues, but liberals are making concerted efforts to get their voices heard through large top-down campaigns.

Organizing for America--the campaign arm of the Obama administration--is rolling out the astroturf in an effort to get liberal voices heard on the nation's most popular (i.e. conservative) talk radio shows. The campaign is called "On the Air."

Visitors at radio.barackobama.com (talk about grassroots!) are provided with a phone number of a conservative talk radio show, and a list of health care talking points. They are instructed to call when health care comes up and reissue these points for the benefit of that station's audience.

OFA makes sure to note that the talking points are "only to provide extra information and suggestions." Tell that to Ellie Light.

"Since millions of folks turn to talk radio as a trusted source of news and opinions," writes OFA on the "On the Air" website, "we need to make sure OFA supporters are calling in with a pro-reform message."

They suggest supporters use the following talking points:

  • For most Americans, their health care plan covers too little and costs too much. Far too many people delay or even skip the care they need because they simply can’t afford it.
  • The plan the President laid out includes the largest health care tax cut for middle class families in history and makes coverage more affordable for tens of millions of families and small business owners and expands coverage to over 31 million Americans who are currently uninsured.
  • This plan will give millions of Americans new choices in health insurance by making coverage more affordable, ending the denial of coverage for pre-existing conditions, putting power in the hands of consumers instead of insurance companies and providing one of the largest tax cuts in history while also reducing our national deficit.
  • Reform couldn’t be more urgent – just this month consumers in California were told their premiums could go up as much as 39 percent.
  • Too many in Washington are now saying that we should delay or give up on reform entirely, but Americans understand the stakes for our economy and our lives, and we want action.

The campaign is nothing new. Rush Limbaugh has seen his fair share of "seminar callers," as he dubbed them. They traditionally heap praise on the host, say they are lifelong Republicans and generally agree with what the host says, but…something.

The sense among the blogosphere seems to be that this effort will not yield much fruit, simply because talk radio hosts are generally quick on their feet and more knowledgeable than the average OFA supporter. As Bruce McQuain wrote today,

It’s an interesting effort, but reading through the talking points, my guess is it will become quickly obvious to any listener who the OFA members are as soon as they begin their presentation of those points. Callers are encouraged to use those discussion points, but OFA reminds them that “the most important part of your call is your own story about why you support reform.”…

Talk radio listeners are pretty savvy listeners and fairly quickly identify such efforts as disingenuous and tune them out. And call screeners will soon find a way to ferret them out. But listening for them for as long as this lasts should at least be entertaining anyway.

So for all those talk radio listeners out there, know that if you begin noticing more "seminar callers" on your favorite program, it is the result of a calculated astroturfing campaign by Organizing for America.