CfA Releases New Report Showing Connected Commerce Council is Big Tech’s Latest Astroturf Campaign
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: July 16, 2019
Contact: Bryan Dewan, firstname.lastname@example.org, 202.780.5750
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Campaign for Accountability (CfA), a nonprofit watchdog group that runs the Google Transparency Project, released a new report, Plumbers, Pub-Keepers and Notaries: Big Tech’s New Disguise, revealing that the Connected Commerce Council (3C), a small, newly-founded Washington-based nonprofit that bills itself as the “voice of small business,” appears to be an Astroturf-style front group for the nation’s largest technology companies.
CfA Executive Director Daniel E. Stevens said, “Anticipating a renewed push for antitrust investigations in Washington, Big Tech has apparently manufactured David to vouch for Goliath. While claiming to be a genuine advocate for small business in Washington, 3C has very close ties to tech giants like Google and Amazon and advocates for their interests at every turn. Journalists and policymakers need to be aware that 3C’s real goal is to undermine the push for greater tech regulation by arguing Big Tech is good for small business.”
Founded just a year ago, 3C already has met with more than 50 members of Congress, filed at least seven official comments at regulatory agencies, and sent at least two representatives to testify before Congress. The new group has published a raft of materials painting a rosy picture of the tech giants, complete with quotes from small business owners heaping praise on them.
CfA’s review of 3C’s origins, structure, and activities, however, strongly suggests that 3C is little more than a front for the technology platforms themselves. For example, Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Square are members of 3C’s “Partner Council,” which, the group states, provide “general support” for its programs for small business owners, suggesting they’re the driving financial force behind the group’s lobbying efforts.
Furthermore, 3C isn’t run by small business owners. Rather, a number of its executives and consultants have significant past experience working with the big technology companies to secure favorable government policies. This includes 3C’s President, Jake Ward, who previously led a Google-funded trade group called the Application Developers Alliance.
Creating pro-small business front groups is a tactic Google, in particular, has used before. In May 2018, the Google Transparency Project reported that Engine, a San Francisco-based nonprofit that claims to be the “voice of startups in government,” was little more than a creation of Google and its corporate parent, Alphabet Inc. Google has spent years touting its purported benefits for small businesses in a campaign it calls Grow with Google.
Mr. Stevens continued, “It’s not a coincidence that 3C opened its doors just as the Department of Justice, Federal Trade Commission, and the House Judiciary Committee began launching investigations into the anti-competitive practices of the nation’s largest tech companies. Politicians and regulators intent on taking a serious, fact-based look at the impact of Big Tech on small business would be wise not to rely on 3C’s arguments.”
Campaign for Accountability is a nonpartisan, nonprofit watchdog organization that uses research, litigation, and aggressive communications to expose misconduct and malfeasance in public life and hold those who act at the expense of the public good accountable for their actions.