Astroturf Org in Longmont Accuses City of Distributing Propaganda

Just one day after getting busted for lying about its supporters, a group funded by self-interested groups outside the community is accusing the City of distributing propaganda regarding an upcoming referendum over whether the City should have the authority to use an existing fiber-loop to spur economic development.

We developed a comic that explored the ways cable and phone companies use dirty tricks to fool people into voting against more competition in broadband (such as this "Look Before We Leap" Vote no group).

As if to prove our point for us, that group was busted for outrageously claiming the Mayor wanted people to vote no when the Mayor has been explicit in not just supporting the referendum but in condemning outsider groups like theirs from coming into the community to do the dirty work of anti-competitive incumbents.

Bryan Baum has appeared at several forums in support of 2A, including a Longmont Area Chamber of Commerce forum in which he urged out-of-town opponents of the ballot question to "get out of town" and let Longmont settle its own issues.

The group said "This is obviously a mistake," Merritt said. "We'll get that fixed." Yeah sure. Whoops. We accidentally claimed a prominent figure as a supporter. Their response? They took his name off that list but left his wife's name on their site!

Comcast's front group has zero credibility

This is a group with absolutely zero credibility. But they have tons of funding -- likely from Comcast and incumbent trade groups that fight these initiatives everywhere to preserve what is essentially a monopoly for the cable and telephone companies. We just republished an op-ed outlining some these tactics from 2009.

Now the "Look Before We Leap" group is accusing the City of distributing propaganda.

Longmont's pamphlet, on the cover, states that the contents are "intended to provide a factual summary, including arguments both for and against the proposal, of issues of official concern to Longmont voters. It is not intended to urge a vote in favor of or against Ballot Question 2A." Inside, it gives the text of the ballot question, a brief history of Longmont's fiber optic network and the restrictions on it, election dates, and sections titled "What is being asked of voters?", "Those in favor believe" and "Those opposed believe."

"The city used taxpayer dollars to campaign with a glossy mailer, complete with high-quality pictures, an inaccurate history, a lengthy advocacy section and a clearly token statement that does not show how most other cities fail when they enter this unpredictable business," said George Merritt, a senior strategist for Onsight Public Affairs of Denver and spokesman for Look Before We Leap.

Of course, as we discuss on a daily basis, the vast majority of communities have succeeded in this space. Even if one narrows the field to communities that have attempted the most difficult challenge of building citywide networks (which is not what Longmont presently plans), there are very few failures. In the case of Longmont, where the city already has built the asset, the only risk lies in not using it to its full potential.

This is simply another case of a few massive companies using their power to prevent new competition that would greatly benefit the community and create new jobs. The question is whether the majority of voters will be able to see through the blizzard of propaganda pushed by Comcast's "Look Before We Leap" proxies.