#ncga: Welcome to the era of ‘grass-topping’

moneycountIn DC, there is an expression called ”astro-turfing.”  That is a slang term used to describe the manufacturing of the illusion of  support for, or opposition to, a politician or policy.  

In Raleigh, a similar activity called ”grass-topping” is gaining in popularity among the Jones Street crowd.  This is how my sources in and around the legislative building explain it to us:

Political Consultant A forms a special interest group called ”Citizens For (or Against) X.”   Consultant A then turns to some of his or her clients currently serving in the legislature to introduce bills on both sides of Issue X.  Those bills seem to come out of nowhere — not fitting in real well with the current debate — and have a snowball’s chance in Hades of passing.  

But that doesn’t matter to Consultant A or “Citizens For (Or Against) X.”  They’ve already started beating the bushes — identifying people with deep pockets who have an interest in the bills dealing with Issue X. Consultant A will start collecting money ostensibly to pay for mailings and advertising regarding Issue X.  (Letters for and against Issue X will start magically popping up in local newspapers. You may even see a conveniently-timed, um, ”impromptu” street protest regarding the issue.)  He or she will then go back to all of the contributors asking for MORE money — citing a need to do polling and to run more ads.  angry boy

The suckers get milked for all they can, and the bills that got the whole ruckus started disappear into one of the multitude of black holes populating the legislative building, never to be seen again (at least for THIS session).

A number of political consultants tied to the current political majority are reportedly already bragging around town about what a great method this is for sustaining cash flow in an off-year with no big elections to run.

My sources on Jones Street are all fingering certain bills in the House and Senate right now — dealing with solar energy tax credits and incentives — as strong possibilities for ”grass-topping.”

They’ve apparently been doing something like this in DC for years.  Peter Schweizer detailed it in his great book ‘Extortion,” which also turned into a segment on ”60 Minutes.’