The Real Susan Crawford – A Deeply Entrenched, Industry Lobbyist

by Mike Wendy on February 4, 2013

There’s been some blowback from the progressive press corps lately about reviews written on Susan Crawford’s pro-shackle-the-incumbent-Internet-provider tome, “Captive Audience,” focusing in particular on the review writers’ hardly hidden connections to industry-funded groups.

The press corps seem less concerned about the review writers’ ideas and more consternated about their connections.  You see, the press believes that the ostensibly unsavory industry connections have somehow made the ideas within the reviews untrue, societally destabilizing, and seditious.  Therefore, the writers and their ideas should not be taken seriously.

Anyway, this pro-Crawford “reporter” notes:

Discussions of who finances our public policy process often focus on lobbying disclosure statements and campaign finance filings. The attacks on Susan Crawford are indicative of another layer that is all too often ignored: the funding of research and editorial efforts that are often directed by the same K-street firms that lobby lawmakers.

Springboarding off of this, one of Crawford’s faithful tweeted:

Beware hidden agendas behind book reviews of the #SusanCrawford book #CaptiveAudience

Hmmm – ignored funding layers, K-Street lobbyists, hidden agendas.  Oh my!

That got me to thinking.  Has anyone asked about Susan Crawford?  I mean, who funds her; what are those ignored funding layers, K Street lobbyist connections, and hidden agendas? Seems like fair questions to me.  Sadly, I can’t recall any “journalists” who have asked them.

You see, Professor Crawford has gone out of her way to nurture just how “independent” she is, as this “disclosure” (shot last October at a Brookings event) suggests:

Transcript: I’m an academic, and I think all academics should reveal who pays them when they start talking.  So, I’m paid by by [sic] university.  I’m also a columnist for Bloomberg View and Wired.  But I have no consulting relationships.

This seems, well, underinclusive and conveniently selective.   Her associations at the time (and now) are far more connected to the progressive, corporate-foundation-think-tank advocacy scene than she lets on; they appear to go well beyond narrow verbs like “pay” and “consult” from her purposefully anemic “disclosure” statement.

Yes, when she made this statement she was in fact working for Cardozo School of Law.  But, she was also (and still is) working for the Roosevelt Institute, where, according to their website, she is a Fellow who “leads the Institute’s work on making high-speed Internet a universal, affordable resource for all Americans.”   Well entrenched in Washington’s policymaking apparatus, the Roosevelt Institute works to advance FDR’s liberal / progressive policies in politics and society.  Like other similar groups, it is sustained by a variety of funding sources, including those with pro-corporate / capitalist points of view (as this article on “renting” Roosevelt’s reputation describes).

She also failed to mention that she was working as a Fellow at the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT), a left-leaning, heavily corporate-funded technology “think-tank,” which is an active player in the Washington tech policy scene.  Like Crawford, CDT most recently argued against Verizon’s appeal of the FCC’s Open Internet Order (a.k.a. Net Neutrality).

Now, it’s true the position “Fellow” does not automatically mean payment.  But, it would indeed be rare if she were not receiving some compensation for her work (on the employment website, LinkedIn, she lists Roosevelt, Cardozo and CDT as her “current” status).  Where I worked previously, all the Fellows were paid at market rates for their work.  This is standard procedure for both left and right-leaning “think-tanks.”

Regardless, if she does not receive direct payment from the Roosevelt Institute and/or CDT, she certainly receives benefit and support from her association with these entities and the platforms they provide.  To this end, Roosevelt Institute has been particularly helpful with its numerous tweets and other “shout outs” over the past two months, fueling the popularity, and one would think sales, of “Captive Audience” for Crawford.

Also helpful has been Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society, where she is a Director.  This left-leaning, corporate-supported “think-tank” – one which was instrumental in framing the FCC’s Net Neutrality regulations – recently “celebrated the release” of “Captive Audience” with a publicly attended presentation / webcast from the school’s campus.

Finally, another ignored layer of Crawford’s helpful connections – a connection she had during her Brookings disclaimer – is that she was also a Board Member for registered lobbying group, tech company-funded, Public Knowledge.  As many believe, this group’s raison d’etre is to hamstring at every possible legal or regulatory pressure point large network providers of Internet access, as well as to undermine the copyright of content holders in the digital realm.  Among others sitting on that board with Crawford were a telecommunications “analyst,” telecommunications lobbyists, computer industry representatives, and ex-government officials, many of whom have zealously advocated regulation of network providers of Internet access for a variety of rea$on$.

Has Ms. Crawford has ever donated to a PAC?

Susan Gives

FEC documents show a Susan Crawford  (one who shares the same name, affiliations and CV as Prof. Susan Crawford) as a PAC contributor to the Obama campaign (pictured at left).  In 2007, Susan Crawford, then employed by Cardozo Law School, gave $1,000 to Barack Obama’s PAC.  And in this last election, the same Susan Crawford, then employed by the Harvard Kennedy School, gave $500 to the President’s PAC again.  While no one should conclude that this giving was designed for personal benefit (it is still one’s Right to give), it can’t go unmentioned that in 2009 Crawford was chosen as a “special assistant” to the President to help his transition team; and presently, there are efforts afoot to have the President choose Crawford for Chair of the FCC when Julius Genachowski steps down.

Could Prof. Crawford be a lobbyist?

You wouldn’t know it from Senate disclosures because there appear to be none.  But, just the other day on NPR’s Diane Rehm show, Crawford let this nugget slip:


What about Capitol Hill?


Well, next week I’ll be doing a briefing for senate staff on Verizon’s argument that it’s a first amendment speaker just like the New York Times, even if it’s just carrying information from point A to point B. They are making the claim in the D.C. circuit that they are — they get speech rights. They get our speech rights. It’s such a cynical and destructive argument because what it would do — it’s like Citizens United. What it would do is make any regulation of their broadband operations unconstitutional. There goes consumer protection. There goes anti-trust all out the window.


So what kind of reception do you think you’ll get on Capitol Hill?


I think people are eager for knowledge about this area. The asymmetry of information here is stunning. They hear a lot from lobbyists coming in who can blanket the Hill. I’m outmanned, outwomaned, in every possible way. But I’ve got a lot of facts on my side that can’t be changed. And I’m hopeful — I’m more than hopeful that we’ll have a positive reception.

She has since tweeted about this, exclaiming:

Susan Lobbies

Now to be fair, Crawford may not meet Congress’ technical lobbying thresholds.  That said, most any lay person would construe her efforts at correcting the “asymmetry of information” on Capitol Hill as lobbying.  Moreover, this activity – its appearance – seems especially ironic considering that she has made quite a career out of bashing the lobbying crowd, her book being larded with contemptible references for the (still, thankfully) First Amendment-protected trade.

But here she is, “briefing Senate staff,” and apparently any others in Congress who want to listen.

And finally, what about the book, “Captive Audience”?  How did that come about?

As I guesstimate, the book probably cost anywhere from $125,000 – $300,000 to research, write, produce and promote, among other costly activities.   Perhaps it’s a straight business relationship between Crawford and Yale University Press, with both risking something.  But an alternative scenario – one just as likely – is that she could also have received support from foundations to help defray her costs.  Of course, once foundations get involved in underwriting support, not only does one have to take into account the agendas of the supporting foundations, but one must also recognize the real possibility that a corporation or other hidden / funneled interest has “primed the pump” for the foundation to support the project in the first place.


Susan Crawford is an entrenched industry insider advocating a point of view for (hidden) others.  “Journalists” could start being real journalists by asking, and writing about, Crawford’s paid-for agenda – one, it appears, she has gone out of her way not to trumpet.

Robert Mendez March 3, 2013 at 4:22 pm

Dear Mike:
The problems Ms Crawford addresses in her book, “Captive Audience,” are problems I have seen, and our tech audience has experienced at many different levels. Many of us feel like we’ve been screwed waiting for those who control the bandwidth, to actually distribute access to the public airways. You make some accusations and question the motives of Ms Crawford’s book and we wondered if we could get some response to questions we have that might illuminate specific areas of concern.
I will list a few questions we’d like to ask, and possibly have Ms Crawford and others respond:
1. What is your assessment of bandwidth access, and how might you change it?
2. What is your assessment of Genachowski’s tenure?
3. Has business and government made the right decision on fiber optics? Should fiber be the goal?

We have a few follow-up questions to these, naturally, and we hope to see if by communicating with each of you and those of us in business, who have a dog in this fight, we might get our questions asked.

Let me know if you would like to discuss directly.

Sincerely, Robert Mendez, CEO

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