“What’s my motivation?” – For these “Grassroots protesters”, it’s Just Another Acting Job

May 7, 2018


Acting is a tough business. But there’s one growth area.

“They paid us to sit through the meeting and clap every time someone said something against wind and solar power,” Keith Keough told The Lens, saying he was not political and just needed the money.”

“Grass Roots” activists for hire. New story from New Orleans is consistent with other incidents in recent years.

New Orleans Times Picayune:

Local actors were paid to attend New Orleans City Council meetings last year in a show of support for a proposed Entergy power plant, collecting $60 to $200 for performances that at times included prewritten speeches with talking points favoring the plant — in other words, “speaking roles,” The Lens reports.


“I’m an excellent speaker,” an actor told the news site. “I was their best choice. Of course I had a speaking role, are you kidding?”

It’s not clear who fueled the paid lobbying effort but paying people to “create the illusion of grassroots support,” a practice known as “astroturfing,” is apparently legal, according to The Lens report.

Still, attorneys for a coalition of organizations in opposition to the power plant say they want state and local officials to investigate whether this particular instance of astroturfing broke any laws.

The same coalition has filed a lawsuit alleging that the city council broke state open-meetings law by keeping some citizens out of meetings that involved the proposed power plant.

With the paid actors in attendance, an October public hearing was so packed that some citizens had to wait until the crowd shrank before they were allowed inside council chambers.

In a statement emailed Friday night, Entergy New Orleans President and CEO Charles Rice said the company did not pay anyone to attend the council meetings or direct anyone to attend public meetings.

“Instead, we worked tirelessly to encourage our supporters to take time from their busy workday schedules to testify on behalf of this project,” Rice said.

Longer story here and at link.

The Lens – New Orleans:

Last October, about 50 people in bright orange shirts filed into City Hall for a public hearing on Entergy’s request to build a $210 million power plant in eastern New Orleans. Their shirts read, “Clean Energy. Good Jobs. Reliable Power.”

The purpose of the hearing was to gauge community support for the power plant. But for some of those in the crowd, it was just another acting gig.

At least four of the people in orange shirts were professional actors. One actor said he recognized 10 to 15 others who work in the local film industry.


They were paid $60 each time they wore the orange shirts to meetings in October and February. Some got $200 for a “speaking role,” which required them to deliver a prewritten speech, according to interviews with the actors and screenshots of Facebook messages provided to The Lens.

“They paid us to sit through the meeting and clap every time someone said something against wind and solar power,” said Keith Keough, who heard about the opportunity through a friend.

He said he thought he was going to shoot a commercial. “I’m not political,” he said. “I needed the money for a hotel room at that point.”

They were asked to sign non-disclosure agreements and were instructed not to speak to the media or tell anyone they were being paid.

But three of them agreed to talk about their experience and provided evidence that they were paid to endorse the power plant. Two spoke on the condition that they not be identified, saying they didn’t want to jeopardize other work or get in trouble for violating the non-disclosure agreement.

Another attendee, an actor and musician who played a small role on HBO’s “Treme,” told WWL-TV he was paid to wear one of the orange shirts at a meeting of the council’s utility committee.

Paying people to create the illusion of grassroots support is known as astroturfing. Although it’s misleading, it appears to be legal. The Lens couldn’t find any prohibition against such activities, and Louisiana’s lobbying laws only cover money spent directly on public officials.

But Councilwoman Stacy Head called what happened in those meetings “disturbing.” Councilwoman Susan Guidry, the only member of the Utility Committee to vote against the plant, called it “morally reprehensible,” saying, “I think it had a phenomenal impact on public opinion.”

The two men who recruited and organized the actors, Garrett Wilkerson and Daniel Taylor, appear to be from out of town. In our story about the October hearing, Wilkerson offered an apocalyptic prediction about what would happen to New Orleans if the power plant weren’t built.

It remains unclear who was behind the effort, but Guidry has a guess. “How can you not link Entergy to this?” she asked. “Who else would have paid all these people to come there and say they want a gas-fired power plant?”

Entergy New Orleans did not respond to repeated requests for comment. The company told WWL-TV, “Entergy New Orleans did not pay anyone to attend.”

In a Facebook message, Wilkerson indicated he was working with Crowds on Demand, a Los Angeles-based company that does exactly what its name suggests. “If you need speakers to present at a council meeting, we can provide talented and well-spoken individuals to advocate for the cause,” the company says on its website.

The company didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Entergy offered different reasons to build the power plant during an application process that lasted almost two years. First, the company said the city faced a shortfall in generation capacity. When demand projections didn’t bear that out, the company shifted its rationale: The new plant was necessary to mitigate a potentially catastrophic transmission failure.

Opponents countered that the utility could address that problem by upgrading its transmission lines for a fraction of the cost of the power plant. They said the city council and its utility advisors, who recommended building the plant, didn’t consider alternative solutions that would cost less and avoid polluting eastern New Orleans.

In March, the New Orleans City Council approved the power plant by a vote of 6-1.

In later meetings, Faust openly accused Entergy of paying people to be there. Wilkerson took notice and told his people to avoid Faust, according to Facebook messages and two of the actors.

They were directed to the nearby Dave & Busters to get paid. “It was very shady, very secretive, especially when we got paid,” said one of the actors. “They literally paid us under the table.”

11 Responses to ““What’s my motivation?” – For these “Grassroots protesters”, it’s Just Another Acting Job”

  1. ubrew12 Says:

    This is ‘Putin-level’ corruption. Like the Koch Brothers paying people to go door-to-door to explain the benefits of the recent tax cut (which mostly went to the Koch Brothers). This is why wealth redistribution, unfortunately, matters: because people with money eventually realize that what they really want is power, and so the money leaves the economic realm for the political realm, and does enormous damage there.

  2. Gingerbaker Says:

    from wiki

    “Subversive Activity — Anyone lending aid, comfort, and moral support to individuals, groups, or organizations that advocate the overthrow of incumbent governments by force and violence is subversive and is engaged in subversive activity. All willful acts that are intended to be detrimental to the best interests of the government and that do not fall into the categories of treason, sedition, sabotage, or espionage will be placed in the category of subversive activity.”[12]


    DoD; Joint Education and Doctrine Division (November 2010). “Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms: (As Amended Through 15 May 2011)” (PDF). Joint Publication 1-02. Department of Defense. p. 351. Retrieved 2011-06-21.

    This was bribery for false testimony at an official public governmental meeting. In other words, a willful act detrimental to the best interest of government.

  3. dumboldguy Says:

    There is less hope for the future of the human species with each story like this.

    From the Crowds on Demand website—-go there and look around—-try not to puke (cussing is OK)—-if they weren’t dead serious, you’d almost think they were a spoof.

    A foreign government hired Crowds on Demand to help generate a positive reception for its newly elected leader during the UN General Assembly. The concern was ensuring that the leader was well received by a US audience and confident for his work at the UN. We created demonstrations of support with diverse crowds. We also used the media primarily local and national outlets to bring more attention to these demonstrations which led to a mostly positive portrayal. The crowds that we deployed drew in more supporters creating a strong presence for this leader at the UN and an improved perception of him by the American public.

    Crowds on Demand was hired by multiple large non-union firms to push back against new regulations in a deeply labor-friendly state. We successfully lobbied the legislature and the Labor Commission to push back proposed labor regulations. We created two organizations with associated websites: one conservative site focused on the impact unions have on drastically increasing government spending and one liberal one focused on the racially discriminatory and sexist policies of many unions. We provided phone-bankers and constituent lobby visits associated with the two organizations to lobby conservative and liberal lawmakers and policymakers respectively. Within two months, the proposed regulations were off the table.

    PS What would really make my day is if someone could make a connection between Crowds on Demand and Solar Roadway.

  4. leslie graham Says:

    There were 260,077 solar workers in the United States in 2016.
    There were 65,971 coal workers in the United States in 2016.

    The whole ‘jobs’ argument is total bullshit.

  5. jfon Says:

    ‘There were 260,077 solar workers in the United States in 2016.
    There were 65,971 coal workers in the United States in 2016.’
    So nearly four workers in solar for every one in coal. Yet coal made nearly 23 times as much electricity as solar. So one coal worker made as much power as eighty solar workers.
    What’s more, the only product of solar is electricity, whereas nearly ten percent of the coal burned that year in the US was for industry, not power production. Also, in Germany, which has proportionally far more solar ( and wind ) than the States, coal has a secure position, ramping up for all those times when sun and wind fail to show up. In the US, locally cheaper gas does that. The narrative that solar will become so cheap that everything else is blown out of the market doesn’t match reality.

    • Sir Charles Says:

      That means solar can feed 80 times more families for almost the same price as coal. Another reason to call solar more sustainable.

      Your coal=backup argument is BS. State of the art fossil fuel backup for renewables are fast reacting natural gas plants.

      But we have no more much time left for fossil fuels.

    • Gingerbaker Says:

      That’s a ridiculous argument. Solar is being built de novo. Coal has been around since 1800.

      If you want to compare the “efficiency” of a solar worker to a coal miner, you are going to need a more honest appraisal. You need to include on the coal ledger all the workers who built the mines, who built the coal plants, who built the ovens and boilers, etc.

      Or, you could measure the output of , say, one man-month. A solar worker works a week and completely erects a solar array, which then produces energy for 75-125 years. A coal worker mines enough coal to burn in a coal generator plant for a month.

      You also need to add to the coal ledger the number of people working in medical offices and hospitals to treat the gigantic health costs of burning coal. And you need to add the manpower needed for 10,000 years of CO2 adaptation.

      And, you need to somehow account for the money that’s going be needed to accomplish that adaptation. Which is, by one estimate $1240 trillion dollars up to year 2100. And then , say a hundred or a thousand or a million times more than that for the next 10,000 years.

      So, yeah, your calculations suck.

  6. redskylite Says:

    Fake News, fake crowds, Fake Supporters – Yuck

    It seems to be the way things are increasingly being done in this disingenuous world, in my country, and yours and theirs. It seems to be regarded as “fair game” in the media, political and advertising worlds, even suspect a few universities may be teaching it as an advertising tool to get an competitive edge.

    So much for ethics over a quick buck.

    Maybe councils need to consult more genuine experts on decisions, rather than relying on meeting support groups.

    Paid Actors Were Hired to Pose as Supporters, PC Party Confirms


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