Anti-Reform Front Group Wears a Populist Mask

Stop Too Big To FailA corporate front group with the populist-sounding name "Stop Too Big To Fail" (STBTF) is running a $1.6 million TV advertising campaign designed to appeal to liberal/progressives and get them to advocate against financial reform legislation currently under consideration in Congress. The ads target Senate Democrats in three states and ask viewers to tell their senators to "vote against this 'phony financial reform' " and "support real reform, stop 'too big to fail.' " STBTF has also put out a blitz of opinion columns on left-leaning Web sites. TPMMuckraker, which researched STBTF, says it has every indication of being an "astroturf operation funded by corporate interests to give the appearance of grassroots opposition to reform." The group's president is Robert K. Johnson, a serial astroturf group operator who also heads Consumers for Competitive Choice (C4CC), a corporate front. C4CC was formerly "Consumers for Cable Choice," a deceptively-named front group funded by big telecom companies like Verizon and SBC, which fought to deregulate the cable industry. STBTF also has links to the DCI Group, a well-known Washington, D.C. Republican lobbying and astroturfing business. STBTF sought the support of a prominent former chief economist for the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Simon Johnson (no relation to Robert K. Johnson), who advocates breaking up big banks. At first Simon Johnson agreed to work with the group, and STBTF posted a picture of him on their Web site, but when Johnson realized the group was really pushing an anti-reform message, he demanded they stop using his name and likeness, and STBTF was forced to pull all references to S. Johnson from its Web site.