Bell SkunkWorks 101

A look behind the curtain. Connect the dots or be one of the disconnected.

Are any of these names familiar to you: TRAC, APT, Issue Dynamics, USIIA, New Millennium Research Council, BellSouth, Verizon, SBC, Pac Bell, United Church of Christ - Washington is filled with astro-turf, (read fake) groups that keep telling everyone they represent the public interest, but in reality represent the phone companies who pay them well. And Issue Dynamics, run by Sam Simon, has organized multiple group for the Bell phone companies, all in an attempt to make regulators and the press believe that they have your best interests in mind.

Issue Dynamics

Bell Companies (ILECs) and their amazing astroturf machine, Ionary, October 2004

It's called astroturf. Not the stadium rug for which it's named, but the creation of phony "grass roots" organizations as public relations fronts. In the telecom world, the king of astroturf is Sam Simon, whose firm, Issue Dynamics Inc. (IDI), describes its public relations job as "developing a campaign that gets your messages out through paid and earned media". "Earned" media? I wonder if they teach that in J-school. "Issue Dynamics provides a full package of professional stakeholder management services for clients who seek strategic alliances with stakeholders in the following segments: consumer, civil rights, education, disability, senior citizens, Hispanic, African-American, Asian-Pacific American, Native American, small business, rural, state/local government associations, technology, among others." Yep, stakeholders for sale! Want to get support from Left-handed Samoans against pay cable? Sure, that group can probably be created for a fee too. IDI counts the RBOCs among its key clients.

 Leading Bell Skunkworks Architect --

Samuel A. Simon, Founder and President
Samuel A. Simon is a nationally recognized authority on consumer and public affairs, with twenty-six years experience at the highest levels of his profession. Mr. Simon pioneered the practice of bridging gaps between industry and non-traditional consumer groups on public policy, marketing and consumer affairs issues to achieve win-win solutions for clients. IDI is a true pioneer in developing public affairs web sites and grassroots strategies on the Internet.

  • Chairman, Board of Directors, National Consumers League --- NCL is a CAC board member.
  • Commissioner, Fairfax County Consumer Protection Commission --Fairfax is a CAC member.
  • Board Member, Call For Action --- Call for Action is the Chairman of the CAC Committee
  • Chairman of the Board Telecommunications Research and Action Center
  • Recipient, Susan B. Hadden Pioneer Award, Alliance for Public Technology (1999) -- Award Given by APT
  • Client List: Ameritech, TRAC, APT, BellSouth, Verizon, Bell Atlantic, Pac Bell, USTA, GTE, New Millenium Research Council, USIIA, Verizon Wireless, SBC, National Latino Telecommunications Task Force,
Alliance For Public Technology

APT Sponsors

  • BellSouth,
  • Intel,
  • SBC,
  • SBC California,
  • TracFone Wireless,
  • Verizon
This represents 8 out of 9 original Bell groups, including GTE, SNET.

APT Staff SYLVIA ROSENTHAL, Executive Director --- VP IDI.

As Executive Director of the Alliance for Public Technology, Sylvia Rosenthal oversees the management of the organization and all of its projects, including the newsletter and the annual Susan G. Hadden awards program. Ms. Rosenthal is also Assistant Vice President of Issue Dynamics Inc. where she devotes her time exclusively to management of APT.

Snow job, Network World, 1/26/98

"IDI's associates help to organize and manage coalitions with names such as the "Alliance for Public Technology" and "Keep America Connected…The literature for each group lists a different phone number manned by an IDI employee who answers the phone with the name of that coalition. It also lists either IDI's street address or a District of Columbia post office box.

"The group's chairman, Dr. Barbara O'Connor, bristled at the suggestion that the alliance is a front for anything, noting that it has even held a seat on the FCC's prestigious Network Reliability Council….But of the alliance's $190,000-per-year budget, approximately $100,000 is supplied by the regional Bell operating companies, she said. Not surprisingly, last October, the alliance wrote the FCC in support of BellSouth's South Carolina long-distance application and has consistently supported other RBOC policy positions.

New Millennium Research Council (NMRC)

How to Run a Skunk Works Campaign 101--- IDI enlists NMRC for promotional services and scholar support for economic report for client Issue Dynamics worked with the New Millennium Research Council (NMRC to provide support and exposure for release of a seminal economic study by an economic think tank. This included recruitment of academic and industry experts to provide commentary, and generating earned media pick-up in key national trade journals and major newspapers.


"IDI was able to provide the client with immediate support to finalize the report, host an event and generate significant earned media. ...The study was also cited by two Democratic presidential candidates as a way to reenergize the U.S. economy."

 New Millennium Research Council (NMRC)

  • The NMRC is an independent project of Issue Dynamics, Inc.(IDI),

Behind the Numbers:Policy groups wage silent war, BroadbandReports, 9/18/03

The NMRC is a, a consumer and public affairs consulting firm that specializes in developing win-win solutions to complex policy issues. Influencing the Debate The NMRC influences the policy debate by creating a variety of research products. These include "quick response" pieces in reaction to current news as well as longer-term research.

Harm To Competition 101

In order to get rid of competitors, Verizon hired IDI to create a fake rally, got the Gray Panthers to run adds, and even got the Church of Christ involved.

WorldCom Opponents In Sync D.C. Firm Helps Organize Protest, Washington Post, 6/30/03

Verizon spokesman Eric Rabe confirmed that IDI is working for the telephone company. "We are happy to support groups that have similar views as ours, and Sam is bringing us together," Rabe said. "...Rabe would not say how much Verizon is paying IDI. He said Verizon is not the only company contributing to a "funding pool" on the WorldCom issue, but he declined to identify other participants."

According to the Washington Post,

"…last year IDI organized an effort by the National Association of the Deaf, the American Foundation for the Blind and the American Association of People With Disabilities to support a bill pushed by the local telephone companies to relax rules that require them to share their high-speed networks with rivals. In a news release issued by IDI, the groups said they would benefit because the bill would increase access to broadband for everyone, including those with disabilities."


Telecommunications Research & Action Center.

  • TRAC is a nonprofit, tax-exempt, membership organization located...
Board of Advisors
  • Samuel A. Simon, Chairman
  • Rev. Robert Chase, is Minister and Team Leader of the Proclamation, Identity and Communication Ministry of the United Church of Christ.
  • Henry Geller has served on the TRAC Board for nearly ten years
  • Henry Geller of Counsel to the Alliance for Public Technology.
  • Rev. Dr. Everett Parker is the founder and former director of the Office of Comm. of the United Church of Christ (UCC).
  • Dirck A. Hargraves, Secretary and Counsel serves as Secretary and Counsel to TRAC. He served as president of the Alexandria, Virginia Conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). He is currently general counsel and senior consultant with Issue Dynamics, Inc.
TRAC Financials, 2002
In 2002, TRAC made $19,600, had $47,000 or expenses, and owed Issue Dynamics (liabilities),$122000.