Gigi Sohn Comes Clean – Yes, She Works for…Gulp…Billion $ Corporations

by Mike Wendy on June 22, 2011

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about the role public interest groups like Public Knowledge play in stirring the activist troops up against such deals as the proposed AT&T / T-Mobile merger.  Then, I noted:

In the tech space, there are a handful of activist, progressive (or further Left-leaning) groups that habitually “just show up” when companies need to address various matters before government legislators, agencies and the courts (we’re seeing one such instance now with the proposed AT&T acquisition of T-Mobile here in Washington)…

…Many of the “consumer groups” also take funding from corporations, though they are generally loath to admit it.  The corporate underwriters in this instance use the cover of the “consumer groups” to achieve things they could not otherwise do in the marketplace; hamstring / “knee cap” opponents; or work to leverage the given situation to extract benefits from the matter at hand.

They are hardly just “concerned citizens.”  The “consumer groups” are professional, well-organized special interest lobbying shops, doing the bidding of anti free-market patriarchs and corporate underwriters instead of your “Average Joe.”

They are loath to admit their corporate suckling because it puts them at odds with their anti-corporate base and its “fair trade” ethos, making them look hypocritical as they comfortably sup with the “devil.”

The other reason – one that they routinely trot out against many free market thinkers on our side of the aisle – is that it makes their opinion look bought; that they’re no better than corporate prostitutes.

The other day, a Daily Caller story further outed the activist groups I allude to in my post, noting that in the present AT&T / T-Mobile acquisition:

…a supposed grassroots coalition is fighting the idea on every front. But upon closer inspection, the coalition appears to be anything but grassroots. Almost immediately after the merger was announced, media reform groups sprang up, websites were created and advocates came out of the woodwork. But it is all part of a playbook we’ve seen before: an alliance between professional activists and media reform organizations, funded and supported by corporate interests.

This story seemingly infuriated one member of the “supposed grassroots coalition” so much that it caused a startling admission against interest.  In responding to the Daily Caller article, “supposed grassroots coalition” member, Gigi Sohn (of activist group Public Knowledge), is reported by Politico to have expressed:

…nobody has ever claimed that efforts to derail the deal were grassroots and said it was “ridiculous” to suggest that partnering with corporations and professional operatives was nefarious.

The article continues:

“In this space, if you’re not aligned with an industry sector you’re gonna get rolled. This is not 1970s Ralph Nader who’s going to roll in on a white horse and change policy. If you’re not working with the companies who have billions of dollars at stake and a pecuniary interest you’re toast,” she said. “This is not Astroturf. This is real companies and real interest groups that do this for a living.”

In other words, it’s just a living, working for the Corporate Man.  For competitors.

But, Gigi – did you forget someone here?  The “consumer” (as in your marketing spiel: “Our first priority is promote innovation and the rights of consumers”)?

Whatever.  You’re cool.  It doesn’t really matter to me, your story.  That’s because I have never been a big fan of the classic gotcha’ – “Where does your money come from?”  It implies one’s point of view is fake, bought, or other than true.

I do not doubt the sincerity of Gigi when she lobbies, even when she’s doing it directly for competitors (which it seems she does more of than she has let on in the past…but I digress).  While I may not agree with a lot of what she has to peddle, the truths she asserts (if factually supportable) are truths regardless of where she gets her funding.

What I do have problem with is this: Why is it OK for Gigi to reveal who is really behind her campaigns, but for others on our side of the aisle, we’re demonized for making a similar connection?  That the truths which we assert are somehow lies?

Bulldookey (pardon the expression)!

The Politico should have been all over the dissonance between Gigi’s public, “consumer advocate” persona (which helps get Gigi invited to Congressional hearings, and liberally quoted as the digital “white knight” in the media), and her real world, corporate connected-at-the-hip existence.

But they didn’t because hypocrisy rarely exhibits rationality.  Instead, it sells newspapers, and, in Gigi’s case, keeps her non-profit lobbying shop very profitable indeed.

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