$tand For Children: The Astroturfing of Advocacy
Astroturf lobbying refers to political organizations or campaigns that appear to be made up of grassroots activists but are actually organized and run by corporate interests seeking to further their own agendas. Such groups are often typified by innocent-sounding names that have been chosen specifically to disguise the group's true backers
Stand For Children's pedigree is impeccable. It's twenty year history begins with a huge June rally in DC, where 250,000 people did, indeed, stand up for children. Geoffrey Canada and Rosa Freaking Parks spoke. Time Magazine did a follow-up interview with child advocate and activist Marion Wright Edelman. Edelman was the first black woman admitted to the Mississippi bar, and in 1973 she founded the Children's Defense Fund.
Edelman's son Josh (his father worked for Robert Kennedy) teamed up with Eliza Leighton to work on that rally, and immediately after, they launched Stand For Children. This was Edelman's first big project; he had received his B.A. in History with a concentration on African-American studies from Yale University in 1992, then landed a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford University, earning his Master of Philosophy and Doctor of Philosophy degrees in Politics in 1994 and 1995.
The organization kicked off with rallies all over the country, and launched as a chain of local, grass roots chapters.In a press release for the 1999 Stand For Children Day, we can see the organization spread over "1,500 volunteer-led events" calling for things like greater funding for pre-school. Thepriorities of SFC in those days were pretty simple:
- Health coverage for uninsured children
- Monitoring the impact of welfare reform
- More money for affordable, high-quality child care
- Safe and productive after-school activities
- Schools that have small classes, well-trained teachers, high standards, and involved parents.
One thing that was happening was huge truckloads of money from the Gates andWalton foundations. Stand For Children was making a whole lot of interesting new friends, and their old friends, includingparents like Susan Barrett, were noticing:
I think about the visits from the Policy Director of the New Teacher Project, and the former aide to New York City charter operator, Eva Moskowitz, who said she was moving to Portland and trying to set up a chapter of Democrats for Education Reform, the pro-charter, hedge-fund driven organization. I think about their push for Oregon to submit a Race to CURMUDGUCATION: $tand For Children: The Astroturfing of Advocacy: