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HCAN Affiliate Partners with Group Hiring Health Reform Canvassers Nationwide (Update)

John on August 10, 2009 at 10:40 am

An HCAN affiliate called Progressive Future is partnered with Fund for the Public Interest. Fund for the Public Interest is hiring people nationwide to do “canvassing” for Obama’s health reform agenda. [Note: Lots of digging later...The most recent job listings are from a different HCAN affiliate, US PIRG. Progressive Future was hiring canvassers for the same purpose through FFPI, but not since June. See updates below but the bottom line is the same: HCAN is paying "canvassers" to push ObamaCare. ]

First, credit where it’s due. Caleb Howe at Red State got a tip about some strange job listings on Craigslist the other day. What he found surprised him:

Turns out there are hundreds, if not thousands, of advertisements seeking “activists” who will be paid to support Obamacare. That’s right CNN. That’s right Olbermann. You want astroturf? It’s out there by the dozens. In support of, not in opposition to.

He posts a bunch of screen shots, but rather than steal all his work, I decided to do my own search. Here’s what I found on the LA Craigslist site. Click on the image for full size:

craigslist-health-reform

Not just one, but two listings per day! Here’s what they look like if you click on them. Click for full size:

craigslist-healt-reform-jobs

All the listings lead to this site, the Fund for the Public Interest. According to this page, they mostly work on environmental issues, partnering with groups like the Sierra Club. So what are they doing working on health reform?

Connection to HCAN

That same page mentions that one of their “current partners” is a group called Progressive Future. Progressive Future is part of HCAN and so not surprisingly, if you jump over to their site, you find that one of their headline items is pushing Obama’s health reform agenda. They aren’t hiring themselves, but they do refer people looking for a job to, you guessed it, Fund for the Public Interest.

But here I think is the smoking gun. This page on the Progressive Future site describes the action they are taking to fight for health reform. It says:

[T]his summer is the key time to ramp up the public pressure for reform.  Every member of Congress needs to hear from us, that we won’t wait any longer for real health care reform.

Progressive Future is stepping up to the challenge:

We’ll be sending out hundreds of canvassers in nine cities across the country to talk directly with more than 50,000 citizens about the need to solve our health care crisis, building our rapid-response network, and engaging supporters immediately.

I think that probably settles who is ultimately hiring all those summer canvassers (click on that job listing image above if you haven’t, they are for summer canvasser jobs making $4,000-$6,000). I haven’t nailed down how many cities these Craigslist listings have appeared in but I’m going to guess nine.

It’s also worth mentioning that, according to this page, Progressive Future is looking for people to “fight the hecklers” who are involved in a “fake grassroots” plan (read: astroturf) to disrupt town hall meetings (So I guess they’ve been reading Lee Fang). Clicking on one of those pages gives you a list of upcoming town hall events with little radio buttons so you can indicate which one you plan to attend to help “fight” the hecklers.

I’ve contacted both Progressive Future and Fund for the Public Interest seeking comment on the nature of their partnership. Not that I think any more clarification is necessary at this point, but around here we don’t do things the way Lee Fang at Think Progess does. So I’m giving them a chance to set the record straight. If I receive a response from either group, I’ll post it.

Just to sum up the big picture here based on what we know now… One of HCAN’s partners is mobilizing people nationwide to “fight” against opponents of reform and is partnering with a group that has put ads for paid canvassers ($4,000 to $6,000 for the summer) on Craigslist nationwide. In effect, HCAN is hiring people to literally get in people’s faces and push Obama’s agenda.

This is what the left considers “grassroots.” Meanwhile, a memo written by a guy in Connecticut which was sent out to 10 people is proof that reform opponents of Obama Care are part of a deceptive astroturf campaign. Hopefully that’s all making perfect sense now.

On the downside for Dems, the astroturfing argument is over. On the plus side, working for “reform” pays better than McDonalds.

Update: I suspected this might be the case, but it looks like Ed at Hot Air has found the ultimate source of money going to all these HCAN canvassers.

Update #2: I just received this e-mail from Progressive Future:

U.S. PIRG and the state PIRGs are also doing a lot of work on health care, and are partners with the Fund.  For info on Craigslist ads, please contact the Fund directly.  You can find them at www.FundforthePublicInterest.org.

Sort of a strange, non-denial denial. US PIRG may indeed be working with Fund for the Public Interest, but so are you according to FFPI’s website. My question was what are you partnering with them on and is it those Craigslist ads? I’m going to follow up and see what I get. Still no response from FFPI.

Update #3: Okay I’ve exchanged a few more e-mails with Progressive Future. I asked again about the craigslist ads and the response I got from the Adam Lioz at PF was that they had indeed worked (past tense) with FFPI back in May and June. Here’s a portion of his e-mail (btw, I told him up front everything was for publication):

[W]e were working with the Fund to canvass on health care in nine cities in May and June, and we plan to do more canvassing through the Fund in the future.  I’m sure they do plenty of recruiting on Craigslist, but we hire them to recruit members and educate the public and they are the experts that determine how best to do that…

So they worked with them in the recent past and plan to do so again in the near future, but they aren’t hiring canvassers just now. At least that’s the implication, though he never really says so.

I should also add that Adam also says in this e-mail that the present tense statements on his website are a result of it not being updated recently. He said he just completed an update which should take effect (changing all this stuff to past tense) shortly. Of course the PPFI site also lists them as a current partner, but maybe their site is out of date too…?

Still no response from FFPI. Time to make some calls.

Update #4: Contacted FFPI at the number listed on their website. The person I spoke with knows of three environmental campaigns going on now, but hasn’t heard of one related to health reform. He suggested I contact the local FFPI office for more info.

I called the state-wide office and the person there didn’t know anything about it either. The only person who might is in Boston for training so I was invited to submit my question by e-mail and they’d get back to me. Okay, but how is it there is someone able to pay canvassers $4,000-$6,000 dollars to work on health reform, but no one at the group placing the ads knows who is hiring them?

Update #5: This is interesting. A job listing on Philadelphia craigslist from PennPIRG, that’s the state chapter of Public Interest, which has a link to that same jobsthatmatter.com website for interested applicants. So maybe it is US PIRG that’s doing the current hiring on Craigslist.

Of course this doesn’t change much. What we’ve learned so far…

  • Progressive America has contracted FFPI to hire canvassers to work on health reform as recently as June.
  • US PIRG is apparently still hiring canvassers to work on health reform, paying up to $14 an hour.

Someone want to explain to me how the tea parties were astroturf but this is grassroots?

Update #6: Here’s another one from Sacramento that specifies CalPIRG. So I think that settles it. US PIRG is the group doing the hiring.

Oh and in case you’re wondering, US PIRG is also an HCAN affiliate, so my headline stands. HCAN affiliates are hiring people at $9-$14 bucks an hour to push ObamaCare.

Final update (I hope): Caleb Howe, who broke the original story has a follow up featuring what I’ve found plus work by a few others. What’s faker than astroturf? is here.

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