How to Tell-a-Phone-y

Tips on how to tell when a caller who claims to represent a grassroots movement is really throwing you a corporate-contrived astroturf pitch:

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You ask: “Who do you work for?”
The caller says: A group beginning with “Citizens for…,” “Consumers Against…,” or “Americans who…”

You ask: “Where are you located?”
The caller says: “I can’t reveal that information.”

You say: “I’m in the middle of dinner. Can I call you back?”
The caller says: “Sure” and gives you a toll-free number.

You call the toll-free number.
An operater says: “Legislative hotline!” and offers to route you to the appropriate staffer.

You ask for more information.
They send papers labeled “grassroots effort.”

You ask: “How does this issue affect me?”
The caller says: “This will hurt all consumers in your state!”

You ask: “When I call my senator, what do I say?”
The caller says: “Say that this will hurt all consumers in your state!”

You ask: “What else can I do?”
The caller says: “Write your senator a letter saying that this will hurt all consumers in your state!”

Not every grassroots call is necessarily fake. Just demand details. And remember: The Princeton Dental Resource Center was once sponsored by M&M/Mars to convince the public that candy is good for your teeth. For more information on identifying phony campaigns, consult Mask of Deception: Corporate Front Groups in America, which is available for $15 through Essential Information (a Ralph Nader front group); call (202) 387-8030 or go to www.essential.org

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TIME IS RUNNING OUT!

We have an ambitious $350,000 online fundraising goal this month and it's truly crunch time: About 15 percent of our yearly online giving usually comes in during the final week of the year, and in "No Cute Headlines or Manipulative BS," we explain why we simply can't afford to come up short right now.

The bottom line: Corporations and powerful people with deep pockets will never sustain the type of journalism Mother Jones exists to do. And advertising or profit-driven ownership groups will never make time-intensive, in-depth reporting viable.

That's why donations big and small make up 74 percent of our budget this year. There is no backup to keep us going, no alternate revenue source, no secret benefactor. If readers don’t donate, we won’t be here. It's that simple.

And if you can help us out with a donation right now, all online gifts will be matched thanks to an incredibly generous matching gift pledge.

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