This article is part of the Center for Media & Democracy's spotlight on front groups and corporate spin.
The Grassfire.org Alliance, a non-profit 501c4, was launched Fall 2000 by the organization's president Steve Elliott. Grassfire describes itself as "an online conservative issues advocacy organization." According to its web site, Grassfire states that GrassfirePAC is "Coming Soon--[to] take your impact directly to the key elections in 2004." 
Elliott describes the group as "one of the nation's fastest growing grassroots organizations" and "one of the most innovative and impactful online, conservative organizations in the country" .
Grassfire clearly aligned itself with President George W. Bush and the Bush administration agenda. Grassfire promotes its agenda via TV and radio ads and news releases, which are also available on its web site. The organization's web site promotes its anti-John Kerry (a.k.a. Edward M. Kennedy) stance, depicting them as "Massachusetts liberals" and asks internet guests to "Support President Bush against MoveOn.org's Outrageous attacks." 
Public relations for grassfire.org
Despite its purported "grassroots" nature, public relations work for the organization is being done by Shirley & Banister Public Affairs (SBPA), a highly connected and long-established public relations firm . The president of SBPA, Craig Shirley, was involved in the production of the infamous Willie Horton advertisement in 1988 .
An 'Army' of Fear Campaign Aimed at Obama
On November 19, 2008, analyst Meg White examined the "blitzkrieg of fear mongering and misinformation" being whipped up against President-elect Barack Obama. "One phalanx in the fight belongs to Grassfire.org. ... Grassfire sent out an e-mail designed to scare people into joining its 'army that is ready to take on Obama's agenda.'" 
Attacking Al Gore on Climate Change in 2008
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review columnist Dimitri Vassilaros received a news release about a grassroots "petition to stop climate alarmism" and attacking Al Gore's work. He checked it out and found that "for an organization that claims 'we are grassroots to the core,' Grassfire.org acts as if it is hiding a lot of Astroturf. The politically conservative nonprofit is happy to talk about its worthy online petition campaigns," but "very tight-lipped about talking about itself. ... The Maxwell, Iowa, address for donations to the grassroots organization is clearly displayed on its Web site. But its 2006 IRS 990 form states its address is Bethesda, Md., near Washington, D.C." ... When asked a few times about the organization's finances, (Grassfire's) Mr. De Jong first said he didn't know the size of the organization that he speaks for. He also said he 'could ask around' about that 990 form. When I offered to ask the bookkeeper for him, De Jong said, 'She will call, dude. Relax. I'll take care of it for you. I am a man of my word.' As of Thursday noon, no one had called this dude." 
History of grassfire.org
According to Public Citizen's Stealth PACs website, "Grassfire began a campaign of pro-Bush and anti-Kerry ads in late 2003. Grassfire's first ad, in December 2003, chronicled torture of Iraqi people at the hands of Saddam Hussein, and asked viewers to tell Congress and the media that they support President Bush. The second criticized the pro-Democratic organization MoveOn.org, and urged viewers to show groups like MoveOn.org that "right-minded Americans" support the president. The third ad castigated John Kerry for voting against military spending, supporting gay rights, and opposing both tax cuts and the balanced budget amendment." 
ABCNews.com noted the launch of a new ad from the organization in December 2003 as follows: "Those nice folks over at (Craig) Shirley & (Diana) Banister Public Affairs have let us know of a new ad from an organization called Grassfire.org, touted as a "conservative online political activist group" aimed to counter the power of the "radical Left" and Moveon.org. You can see the ad supporting the president's actions in Iraq here. We are told we should expect to hear more from Grassfire.org and its president, Steve Elliott, later this cycle." 
Grassfire is also engaged in online petition campaigns to "Support the President," "Save Marriage" (Federal Marriage Amendment), "Stop Internet Porn," "Stand for the Unborn," "Support the Ten Commandments," "Support the Pledge" (of Allegiance), as well as a "LetterFire letter campaign that gives citizens an opportunity to personally lobby for an amendment in the ruling to FCC commissioners and their elected officials" regarding the use of the "F-word" on network television. Additionally, Grassfire has another online petition regarding "the President's controversial 'temporary worker' plan" which is "a national 6-point petition to rally 100,000 citizens in 30 days--urging our leaders to put the 'illegal' back into illegal immigration and Secure Our Borders!" 
Those who participate in Grassfire's petition drives are offered continuing personal interaction for each signer: "Grassfire.org's breakthrough technology allows you to actually track your personal impact - expanding your 'voice' from one to possibly thousands! This exclusive Grassfire feature allows our team members watch their impact grow! Here's how it works: After signing one of our petitions, you will receive a link to a custom 'Impact' reporting page prepared exclusively for you. This page will show you the most pertinent stats on the petition (including how many people have signed recently) as well as your personal Grassfire impact. At your personal reporting site, you will see how many of your friends followed your lead, your 'total impact', how many states you have reached and how many 'e-generations' your message has traveled on the world wide web. In essence, you can track your own 'Grassfire' as it grows!" 
P.O. Box 206
Maxwell, IA 50161
- Craig Shirley
- internet activism
- Shirley & Banister Public Affairs
- U.S. presidential election, 2004
- U.S. presidential election, 2004: Active Advocacy Groups
- U.S. presidential election, 2004: Campaign Ads
- Official website for grassfire.org
- Profile of Grassfire.org at Public Citizen's Stealth PACs website.
- The Note, ABCNEWS.com, December 11, 2003.