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Did Microsoft Hire Consumer Watchdog to Attack Google?

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Summary: A look beneath the surface reveals that ConsumerWatchdog.org is "the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights", which is affiliated with/derived from Grassroots Enterprise, a Washington/SF-based AstroTurfer for hire

FOR A verifiable fact, Microsoft is the biggest lobbying monster in its area. Someone has just informed us that ConsumerWatchdog.org is apparently a lobby used by Microsoft (mostly to attack Google), so we decided to investigate this. Having already found some Microsoft-backed anti-Google lobbies in the past [1, 2, 3, 4, 5], we took a look at this latest company's background and dug a lot deeper. Let's see what ConsumerWatchdog.org says about Microsoft and what ConsumerWatchdog.org has to say about Google. What a striking difference.



Looking at ConsumerWatchdog.org using enhanced tools (the likes of them sometimes use services like DomainsByProxy.com), we find the following record:




Domain ID:D863261-LROR Domain Name:CONSUMERWATCHDOG.ORG Created On:03-Jun-1997 04:00:00 UTC Last Updated On:07-Jun-2008 00:26:36 UTC Expiration Date:02-Jun-2010 04:00:00 UTC Sponsoring Registrar:GoDaddy.com, Inc. (R91-LROR) Status:CLIENT DELETE PROHIBITED Status:CLIENT RENEW PROHIBITED Status:CLIENT TRANSFER PROHIBITED Status:CLIENT UPDATE PROHIBITED Registrant ID:GODA-044511122 Registrant Name:Doug Heller Registrant Organization:Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rig Registrant Street1:1750 Ocean Park Blvd. Registrant Street2:Ste 200 Registrant Street3: Registrant City:Santa Monica Registrant State/Province:California Registrant Postal Code:90405 Registrant Country:US Registrant Phone:+1.3103920522 Registrant Phone Ext.: Registrant FAX: Registrant FAX Ext.: Registrant Email:webmaster@consumerwatchdog.org Admin ID:GODA-244511122 Admin Name:Doug Heller Admin Organization:Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rig Admin Street1:1750 Ocean Park Blvd. Admin Street2:Ste 200 Admin Street3: Admin City:Santa Monica Admin State/Province:California Admin Postal Code:90405 Admin Country:US Admin Phone:+1.3103920522 Admin Phone Ext.: Admin FAX: Admin FAX Ext.: Admin Email:doug@consumerwatchdog.org Tech ID:GODA-144511122 Tech Name:Domain Direct Tech Organization:TUCOWS.com Inc. Tech Street1:96 Mowat Avenue Tech Street2: Tech Street3: Tech City:Toronto Tech State/Province:Ontario Tech Postal Code:M6K3M1 Tech Country:CA Tech Phone:+1.4165350123 Tech Phone Ext.: Tech FAX:+1.4165315584 Tech FAX Ext.: Tech Email:dnstech@domaindirect.com Name Server:NS1.GRASSROOTS.COM Name Server:NS2.GRASSROOTS.COM



See that last bit? It's important. Consumerwatchdog.org is linked to Grassroots.com, which is Grassroots Enterprise.

Grassroots Enterprise is not about grassroots. It's about AstroTurfing. Sourcewatch wrote:

According to the company's web site, Grassroots Enterprise, Inc., led by its CEO, John Hlinko, "combines online technology and communications strategy to help our clients achieve their public affairs objectives. Our proprietary technology Grassroots Multiplier€® uses the Internet to centralize and simplify the recruitment, management, and mobilization of our clients' supporters - employees, members, customers, vendors and other stakeholders who can grow into a long-term asset to our clients' business."


It's a business. It hires people to do jobs for companies (clients).

According to Wikipedia, "Consumer Watchdog (USA), [is] an organization which advocates for taxpayer and consumer interests in the United States," but it also states that it is "formerly the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights." So they change names; that's what companies and lobbies typically do when they get exposed or absorb a bad reputation. It's a well known and basic strategy in PR.

Oiaohm found out that the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights (aka Consumerwatchdog.org) even has a subsite on Grassroots.com. Why is this not surprising? They probably just try to escape the obvious affiliation which would be damaging to their credibility. Lobbyists tend to have multiple umbrellas, which make them runaway targets. See for example Jonathan Zuck, who seems to have turned ATL into ACT after it had been exposed massively (think about fake letters from dead people).

Going back to Grassroots Enterprise, watch just what they boast about:

Are you ready to get your volunteers and members to mobilize the vote for you in 2008?

With the Grassroots Multiplierâ„  PhoneTheVote application, they can actually be mobile as they mobilize. This innovative alternative to traditional phonebanks gives your activists and volunteers the ability to carry a powerful political application right in their pocket!

Grassroots Multiplierâ„  PhoneTheVote takes the traditional phone bank into the web 2.0 generation by empowering your stakeholders to log on and make phone calls on your behalf -- for get out the vote efforts, fundraising, grassroots mobilization, or just for rapid dissemination of information.

With Grassroots Multiplierâ„  PhoneTheVote your volunteer callers can be directed to make calls wherever they are need -- by geographic location, demographic, political affiliation, or any number of categories. Your volunteers can also be given dynamically generated "just-in-time" customized phone scripts to maximize their impact. And best of all, the information that the volunteers collect is feed into a central database in real time.


They brag about AstroTurfing patents/trademarks, just like the ones from Waggener Edstrom. How deep can this really go?

Microsoft AstroTurf stories:



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