perils of astroturf

Earlier this week I (and, as it turns out, many other North Carolinians) received a postcard from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina:

bcbs1(The rest of the mailing is after the break.)

I, like many others, was infuriated that a nonprofit–which, apparently BCBSNC is–was using either my premium dollars or my tax dollars, or a combination thereof, to lobby against legislation that might threaten its business.

A minor grassroots rebellion has begun, with people altering the business-reply-mail card pre-addressed to Sen. Hagan and then mailing it in. Note to astroturf leaders: make sure you have your followers’ hearts and minds before you rely on them!

The press has emphasized the “bad timing” whereby many subscribers (BCBSNC has more than 50% of the market in NC) received the card the same week they received notice of an 11% increase in premiums. I don’t think that’s the problem; I think the problem is that they shouldn’t be lobbying or, certainly, calling upon their subscribers to lobby for them!

Here’s the rest of the mailing:

bcbs2bcbs3bcbs4…And here’s my (doctored) response card:


Author: andrewperrin

University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

4 thoughts on “perils of astroturf”

  1. Are you sure the mailing was meant to convince you to *oppose* the legislation? Maybe it’s political judo. I mean, I was worried that it’ll end up too wishy-washy and ultimately block meaningful reform on the grounds that “we tried that already” when in fact the point will be that we didn’t. But it turns out that if can get anything at all, it’s a slippery slope and we’ll just skate right downhill all the way to Sweden (skating towards gomorrah?). Good to know. Good to know!

    In somewhat more seriousness, this is apparently a common problem in NC — you presumably saw the one linked below (from a week or so ago), where your [yes, not fair to call him your] senate leader dropped off surveys of conservative voters to the governor showing all the opposition to “death panels”…, and the surveys in fact included responses like this note to the Republican party “I am embarrassed to be associated with this organization. Your tactics are disgusting and you’re going to lose a generation of voters.”


  2. Interesting! Amazing how unregulated this is.

    There’s been lots of additional backlash against these campaigns in the current health reform debate. There’s evidence of certain insurance firms trying to get their employees to write letters on company time, and of course there’s been a big political backlash by the White House and Medicare against efforts to get Medicare Advantage enrollees mobilized.

    Perhaps even more interesting, it seems that the Republicans have been somewhat effective in pushing back against restrictions on these top-down campaigns.


  3. Andrew, I’m sure that you are just as infuriated by the fact that UNC uses taxpayer dollars to lobby for more money too. While you’re at it, you can be infuriated at the union which I am not a member of who still takes money out of my paycheck to lobby for laws I stand against.


    1. Touche on the UNC comparison. However, with certain very few exceptions, unions are prohibited from using representation fees for lobbying efforts, so if you’re not a member you’re not paying for the union’s lobbying efforts.


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