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WI: 2 pols who opposed cable bill say their names were misused

By saveaccess
Created 05/20/2007 - 10:42am

Note: This is an astroturf technique, manufacturing names for petitions. A New Jersey verizon astroturf did something very similar during that state franchise battle.

from: Capital Times [1]

2 pols who opposed cable bill say their names were misused

Judith Davidoff — 5/17/2007 11:46 am

A couple of lawmakers were surprised to find their names on a list of Wisconsin residents supportive of a video franchise bill when, in fact, both oppose the legislation.

"Apparently I couldn't convince myself to vote for the bill," joked state Rep. Joe Parisi, D-Madison. Parisi was one of 28 state representatives who voted against the measure when it easily passed the state Assembly last week.

State Rep. Sondy Pope Roberts, D-Middleton, also found her name included as a bill supporter in a thick binder submitted to state legislators by TV4US, a coalition of groups led by AT&T working to pass the legislation. She said she made the discovery after a constituent called to say her husband's name was also erroneously included in the binder.

Noting that none of the names are accompanied by signatures, Pope Roberts said she is now skeptical of the entire binder.

Each page in the binder reads: "Consumers across Wisconsin are demanding an end to the cable monopoly and want choices in the video market. Your constituent, listed below, supports bringing real alternatives to cable in Wisconsin."

Parisi said many of the comments submitted seemed to be directed at the cable companies -- one read "commercials -- too long and too close together" -- rather than state legislators.

He said he is not convinced, as a legislator, by the "piles of letters that all look alike that are generated by a large lobby group spending thousands and thousands of dollars."

"Anyone who goes to this length to appear grassroots obviously isn't," he added.

Parisi said he might have been included as a supporter because he signed up for automatically generated e-mails on the TV4US Web site.

Thad Nation, executive director of the group, said that could very well be the case.

Nation said the Web site does invite people to "join the campaign to bring cable competition to Wisconsin."

Nation said he did not know how Pope Roberts ended up on the list, but said he has apologized to her for the mistake.

He said more than 30,000 people have signed up in support of the bill through his group, most through tear-off postcards included as inserts in newspapers.

Nationacknowledged that some of the comments expressed general dissatisfaction with cable service, but said others were more pointed about the bill.

"When you're reaching out to the public, you're going to get a whole variety of comments," he said.

The bill would end the 30-year-old practice of allowing local governments to negotiate service agreements with cable companies and would open the market to other video service providers. State agencies would take over the task of regulation in a much more limited way.

Critics say consumer protections would be lost in the process, but supporters say consumers would be served by increased competition.

While the Republican-controlled Assembly acted swiftly to pass the measure, the Democrat-controlled Senate has referred it to the Joint Finance Committee to determine how much the new licensing and regulation requirements would cost the state.


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