If you can’t grow the grassroots, lay down some astroturf

Campaign for Vermont, now firmly in the post-Lisman era — organizationally, at least; I have a feeling that Bruce is still writing most of the checks — is chugging along, trying to find ways to engage The People in its putatively centrist agenda.

Its latest effort? The Legislator Outreach Tool. It’s a way to take a basic template Letter To Your Lawmaker, make whatever changes you want, click a button, and have it sent by email to the legislator of your choice. Once it’s been vetted by CFV to make sure you haven’t written anything “profain (sic), illegal, threatening or otherwise inappropriate.” A screenshot is below.

The subject of the letter is high property taxes, and the basic letter includes CFV’s talking points on the subject: high per-pupil spending, rising taxes, “a system with little incentive for efficiency.” The letter specifically mentions a Campaign for Vermont report. And I wonder, based on CFV’s past practices, if using the Tool gets you on CFV’s member list. And if the letter arrives in the lawmaker’s inbox with some sort of CFV identifier attached.

Maybe I’m being overly suspicious. But the letter is, at best, a two-edged sword. It facilities contact with your lawmaker (you don’t even have to know your lawmaker’s name to send a letter!) — but on an issue of CFV’s choice, including a reference to CFV and a list of its canned talking points. Look at it one way, it’s an attempt to foster democracy. Look at it another way, it’s an attempt to reinforce CFV’s agenda and strengthen its profile at the State House.

The truth, I think, is somewhere in between.

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