It's astroturfing and fearmongering at its finest—and most extreme.
Image: American Commitment
A mysterious conservative group with strong ties to the Koch brothers has been bombarding inboxes with emails filled with disinformation and fearmongering in an attempt to start a "grassroots" campaign to kill net neutrality—at one point suggesting that "Marxists" think that preserving net neutrality is a good idea.
The emails, which come with subject lines like "Stop Obama's federal Internet takeover," come from American Commitment, an organization that is nonprofit in name only and has been called out time and time again by journalists and transparency organizations for obscuring where it gets its funding.
In an email I received, American Commitment president Phil Kerpen suggests that reclassifying the internet as a public utility is the "first step in the fight to destroy American capitalism altogether" and says that the FCC is plotting a "federal Internet takeover," a move that "sounds more like a story coming out of China or Russia."
The email, sent as an ad to people who have registered to read the Washington Times, asks readers to sign a petition asking FCC chairman Tom Wheeler to acknowledge that reclassifying the internet as a Title II utility is a "lawless Obama administration power grab."
Kerpen suggests that reclassifying the internet as a public utility is the 'first step in the fight to destroy American capitalism altogether'
"Americans have been getting faster and faster Internet speeds because of competition in the free economy, not because of anything the government has done," the petition reads. "The people calling for government control over the Internet are a tiny minority of far-left political activists, and the FCC knows it."
The email suggests that more than 160,000 people have signed the petition, but official numbers don't seem available to the public anywhere.
In fact, not much of anything is available to the public: Kerpen's organization has time and time been called out for its shady dealings, with Open Secrets writing that the organization's "history and funding are especially murky."
One thing we do know: Kerpen used to work at Americans for Prosperity, which was founded by the Koch brothers. The Koch brothers' close ties with the organization have been noted for some time now. Perhaps unsurprisingly, American Commitment has also funded campaigns in support of Koch favorites, such as the Keystone XL pipeline, the coal industry, and against Obamacare.
The group also vehemently defends ALEC, a legislative group that has thoroughly destroyed telecom competition in the states that have passed its legislation.
Kerpen would not tell the Washington Post whether the brothers specifically donate to American Commitment. Beyond the above, it's difficult to say where this campaign is coming from, or if it is telecom-backed.
Open Secrets notes that American Commitment has deep pockets and has traditionally funded far right candidates. (An affiliated organization says it hopes to "take over the GOP by 2016" with even more hardline conservative candidates.) More than $11 million in donations to American Commitment is completely unaccounted for, according to an Open Secrets investigation.
Meanwhile, telecom- and Koch-backed groups have been writing op-eds and funding information campaigns fighting against net neutrality. This campaign appears no different, though it's a bit more extreme in its wording in an attempt to get the tinfoil hat crowd onboard with killing net neutrality.
Not much of the email, which you can find below, makes much of any sense. Check it out for yourself.