AHIP’s Astroturf Consulting Firm Also Hosts Anti-EFCA Website For Former AFP Affiliate (UPDATED)

Independent Women's Forum president and CEO Michelle Bernard

Independent Women's Forum president and CEO Michelle Bernard

Over at ThinkProgress, Lee Fang lays out how America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) has enlisted the corporate consulting firm Democracy Data & Communications (DDC) to host its “grassroots” lobbying campaign against the public option. As Fang points out, “DDC has made a name for itself as one of the most effective stealth lobbying firms.”

Earlier this summer, DDC was caught using a front group called ‘Citizens for a Safe Alexandria’ to attack the Obama administration for seeking to prosecute Guantanamo Bay prisoners in Alexandria, VA. DDC also helped to orchestrate “grassroots” support for President Bush’s push to privatize Social Security. And the group is evidently not through helping advocates of anti-worker policies.

Case in point, according to a list of DDC-hosted domains obtained by ThinkProgress, DDC is hosting the website, which is chock-full of misinformation regarding the Employee Free Choice Act (in multiple languages, no less). Though EFCA-info purports to be “a website dedicated to providing visitors with factual and up-to-date information regarding the Employee Free Choice Act,” it spreads various falsehoods about EFCA eliminating the secret ballot or destroying small businesses. And it’s no surprise that the site has this slant, once you look at who keeps it going.

The site is supported by the Independent Women’s Forum (IWF) and the HR Policy Association, along with the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and the National Black Chamber of Commerce. The IWF, according to SourceWatch, “is an anti-feminist organization predominately funded by conservative U.S. foundations.” IWF is funded by Koch Industries, which also funds Americans for Prosperity (AFP) and FreedomWorks, both of which were instrumental in organizing the anti-Obama tea party protests. [See response from Koch Industries below]

In fact, from 2003 to 2008, the IWF and AFP operated out of the same office space and had the same president — Nancy Pfotenhauer, a consistent member of the Koch Industries family and former spokeswoman for Sen. John McCain’s (R-AZ) presidential campaign. Currently, the IWF is headed by Michelle Bernard, who earlier this month appeared on MSNBC to declare that “quite honestly, a lot of labor unions are what holds America back and keeps us from being as good as we can be.”

This circle of groups — funded by Koch’s petro-dollars — are trying to derail reform on a variety of fronts, under the guise of grassroots lobbying. And they’re doing it with the aid of DDC’s servers.


Koch Industries’ Melissa Cohlmia writes in to say that, while IWF is funded by the Claude Lambe Charitable Foundation, one of the Koch Family Foundations, “none of that foundation’s funds come from Koch Industries”:

It is not correct to say that Koch Industries contributes funds to CRLF. Koch Industries has not contributed funds to CRLF. We have not corrected this with SourceWatch or others but are starting to make those efforts because of misinformation that continues to be repeated…Each nonprofit organization is separate from the other, each is funded by separate sources (none of which includes a contribution of funds by Koch Industries), and each has its own independent mission and causes supported.

She also said that Koch Industries does not fund FreedomWorks.

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