How is a poor soul in Congress to know which of these “grassroots ambassadors” have been coached by advocacy groups, and which are honest-to-goodness representatives of the public? How are reporters to know before they interview them for their stories? A member of Congress may throw up his or her hands and listen to the group that gave the most money. Reporters can’t do that. Their work requires some hard digging before they pass along quotes from fake agents of the grassroots.

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Trudy Lieberman is a fellow at the Center for Advancing Health and a longtime contributing editor to the Columbia Journalism Review. She is the lead writer for The Second Opinion, CJR’s healthcare desk, which is part of our United States Project on the coverage of politics and policy. Follow her on Twitter @Trudy_Lieberman.