Astroturfing in our time

Paul Boutin breaks an interesting story: Someone’s astroturfing local newspaper editorial pages on behalf of the President’s economic growth package. Dozens of newspapers “from Boston to Honolulu,” different names (the list of papers is here). The astroturfing was turned up by Google. Same text every time:

When it comes to the economy, President Bush is demonstrating genuine leadership. The economic growth package he recently proposed takes us in the right direction by accelerating the successful tax cuts of 2001, providing marriage penalty relief, and providing incentives for individuals and small businesses to save and invest. Contrary to the class warfare rhetoric attacking the President’s plan, the proposal helps everyone who pays taxes, and especially the middle class. This year alone, 92 million taxpayers will receive an immediate tax cut averaging $1,083 – and 46 million married couples will get back an average of $1,714. That’s not pocket change for a family struggling through uncertain economic times. Combined with the President’s new initiatives to help the unemployed, this plan gets people back to work and helps every sector of our economy.

What were they thinking? There are no secrets in the blogosphere. How are the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Chicago Tribune, and Boston Globe going to feel about being astroturfed? How seriously are they going to take statements from any official source who’s behind the Bush economic plan as a result?

Here’s a big clue: stop lying to us.