04/28/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Tim Karr's Shill Watch: Correcting the Record

I'm happy to respond to Tim Karr's attempt at character assassination. I am glad Tim has continued in the fine Free Press tradition of never letting the facts get in the way of good hyperbole. So let me address this ridiculous screed one piece at a time.

First, Tim states that Huffington Post has "opened its platform for public debate on issues", but in the very same breath says that anyone who disagrees with his position has "invaded" the site and is "attacking the open Internet and disparaging reform efforts by groups like ours."

So which is it, Tim? Do you want to engage in a debate, sponsored as you note by this platform, or do you want to have a vehicle for your organization to spew its talking points unchallenged?

Since Digital Society has challenged Tim's organization to a debate on these issues, and offered an opportunity to support their positions in the public arena, and they have so far declined, I can only assume it's the latter.

Second, Tim is regurgitating the "they're paid industry shills" line, as he did recently with Larry Downes, but with evidence that is equally faulty. He has even gone so far as to suggest that I was involved in Comcast's operations.

Contrary to his claims, I have never been employed by Comcast. Further, I fully disclose my past association with NCTA when I post here. I fully disclose my association with NCTA on my company's website as well.

That position, by the way, consisted of helping the industry organize its employees on policy issues. Some may tell me that employees speaking out only count if union officials are doing the organizing, but I disagree.

The fact is, you don't have to look hard to find evidence of my past position at the cable industry.

You know what you do have to look really hard to find? Any evidence at all of who funds Free Press. As near as I can reconcile, they have about 40 people on staff. That must put their bill for staff alone at about 2 million dollars or more per year. Yet the only time I have seen a public effort to raise funds, it dragged on for months and they were unable to reach a matching goal of less than one hundred thousand dollars.

So where is their money coming from?

As I have told Tim before when he challenged my posts at Digital Society, my work for that organization is unpaid. I serve on the board of directors, but receive no compensation for doing so. They have provided me with a platform to engage in debate of telecom issues (as has Huffington Post) and I have accepted. I am not paid by anyone for the positions I take and receive no compensation for my writing.

Digital Society, for its part, has disclosed that it is funded by contributions from Jon Henke and Arts & Labs. Arts & Labs has been fully transparent about being a coalition of business groups. So any misconception Tim has about the source of funding should be cleared up by simply reading the "About Us" page of both sites.

As a result of his unwillingness to do this basic research, he makes these allegations of "shills" who are hiding their affiliations. They make him look ridiculous.

Tim is someone who claims passing familiarity with the Internet. Let me suggest that he try something called a "search engine." They are wonderful devices that let you find a great deal of information. Unless, that is, you are looking for the source of funding for Free Press.

On another note, I'd like to reiterate the challenge to engage Tim in a debate. I'd be happy to facilitate an in-person debate, or perhaps we could set up a four way ooVoo discussion with his policy people and engineers and Digital Society's engineering and policy people.

I'd also like to offer Tim a vocabulary lesson. Astroturf, despite its wide misuse by his group and others, is not the act of simply being paid by a corporation for doing PR work. Astroturf is the practice of suggesting a large grassroots effort absent real numbers - thus "fake grass."

I, and many others who speak out on policy matters, but do not claim to speak for anyone but ourselves, would appreciate it if Tim and his group would use the proper vernacular when they attempt to smear our character.

(Michael Turk is a Partner in Craft | Media/Digital, a political consulting firm in Washington DC. He writes on telecom and technology policy issues for Digital Society, and via his own blog at