For the Koch brothers, channeling corporate interests into street activism is a major achievement

2022-04-25 0 By

Introduction In the summer of 2008, as Barack Obama moved closer to the presidency, Eric Odom of the Sam Adams Union began experimenting with online communication methods that would later help organize the Tea Party movement.He tested twitter, using it to trigger a right-wing flash mob in the House of Representatives in Washington.His friend Rob Bluey, a 28-year-old blogger who describes himself as a “card-carrying member of the grand right-wing conspiracy”, and he created what they call the “Don’t Go” movement.They took to Twitter to demand that the House Democratic leadership schedule a vote to legalize offshore oil and gas drilling or republicans refuse to go home for the summer recess.The Twitter experiment worked beautifully.In August of that year, Conservative lawmakers, oil lobbyists and other supporters of offshore drilling flooded the House of Representatives, creating what appeared to be a spontaneous frenzy of protest.”Don’t go!” they shouted.”Drill here!Drill now!”They failed to lift restrictions on offshore drilling, but one of the leaders of the rebellion, Arizona Congressman John Shadger, a conservative Republican, hailed the protest as “the Boston Tea Party of 2008”.Six months later, after Santari’s rant, Eric Odom quickly reactivated the “don’t go” list.He issued a call to action to the same hard core of 10, 000 conservatives whose contact information he and Bluey had gathered earlier.Odom also formed what he called a “national Tea Party coalition,” along with other activists, including staffers from Dick Amey’s Freedom Works and the Koch brothers’ Americans for Prosperity.TaxPayerTeaParty.com, uses his network of more than 50 employees to plan rallies around the country.When the operatives connected online, they set the first nationwide tea Party protest for Feb. 27.That day, more than a dozen protests were held in cities across the country.Organizers claimed 30,000 participants, but crowds remained sparse in many places.Yet on April 15th, the second in a series of “tax Day” tea party rallies across the country, the number increased tenfold, to 300,000.Heritage, the Cato Institute and Americans for Prosperity provided speakers, talking points, press releases, transportation and other logistical support.Li Fang, a blogger on progressive website Progressive Thinking, was the first to question whether the movement was spontaneous or a synthetic “artificial turf”.He noted that Americans for Prosperity suddenly planned protests “from coast to coast,” while Freedom Works appeared to have taken over a local rally in Florida.But not everyone likes the top-down control of protests.”Americans for Prosperity pissed off some of the Tea Partiers,” recalled Ralph Benko, a libertarian blogger. “These guys drove up, opened the door, put on a T-shirt, took a picture and sent it to Charles [Koch] and said, ‘See?We are doing great things with your money ‘.”What’s wrong with Kansas?Its author, Thomas Frank, stopped by to watch an early Tea Party rally in February 2009 in Lafn Square, across from the White House.”It was largely a hoax,” he concluded.”All the usual suspects were there, like Freedom Works, Joe the Plumber, and The American Spectator magazine.There were also people wearing revolutionary War costumes and carrying ‘Don’t Tread on Me’ flags, who were actually political activists, and then there were ordinary people.”He said.”But the conservative groups are very well organized.At the time, obviously, it was staged, and then they would set it up.But then it caught on.”As some have said, Mr Frank believes “the Tea Party has not been disrupted”.”It was born to be subverted.”Still, he said, “The Koch brothers’ incorporation of corporate self-interest into a street movement is a major achievement for sponsors like them.”While the Kochs continued to claim no involvement, Peggy Venable, an energetic veteran of the Reagan administration, became head of the Texas chapter of Americans for Prosperity.She has been on the Koch brothers’ payroll as a political worker since 1994.She gushed about her role in the movement. “I was a tea Party member before it was cool!””She said during a talk in Austin at a koch-sponsored political event called Defending the American Dream.As the Tea Party movement took off, she described how Americans for Prosperity helped “educate” activists on the details of policy.She said they offered supporters what she called “next step training” after the rally to channel their political energy “more effectively.”The group also provided angry protesters with lists of elected officials to target.Mr. Venable, who did not exchange words with the Kochs ‘public relations representatives first, said cheerfully of the brothers: “Of course they are our people.David is the chairman of our board.Of course I’ve met them, and I really appreciate what they’re doing.”She added: “We love what the Tea Party is doing because that’s how we’re going to take America back!”Venable praised several tea Party “civic leaders” at the conference.The state branch of Americans for Prosperity gave its blogger of the Year award to a young woman named Sybil West.Her website states that the West calls Obama “pothead in chief” and speculates that the president is exhibiting symptoms of “demonic possession”.Lunch time in the meeting, wiener Boolean introduced ted cruz, deputy chief procurators and the future of the former Texas senator, he had told people that Mr Obama is “the United States in the oval office of the most radical President”, but also to the voters to hide secret agenda – “government” take over our economy and our lives.Cruz officially declared the fight against Obama “the epic war of our generation!”As the crowd stood and cheered, he invoked the Alamo’s fearless words: “Victory or death!”No organization played a more early role than Freedom Works, a far arm of American prosperity financed by donations from companies like Philip Morris and billionaires like Richard Mellon Scaife.”I think when the Tea Party takes off, freedom works as much as anybody, and there’s a lot of work to be done to make it an effective movement.”Amy said.Looking back, Amey singled out a young aide, Brendan Steinhauser, who is the group’s director of state and federal activities.In the wake of Mr Santari’s rant, he quickly created a website offering practical advice to supporters on how to plan rallies and what to protest against, with Mr Obama’s stimulus spending high on the list.He also suggested slogans, placards and held daily conference calls with more than 50 tea Party activists across the country to coordinate their efforts.Soon Freedom Works provided a nine-person professional support team for the operation.In the early days, Mr. Steinhauser “spent hours on the phone with people who would support FreedomWorks, and the other freedomWorks guys laughed at him,” Mr. Amey recalled.But Mr. Ami describes how Mr. Steinhauser channeled incipient anger into a broader political movement.”He tells them what to do.He gave them training.If it weren’t for ‘freedom works,’ the Tea Party wouldn’t be here.”Amie said later.Amey, himself a Washington insider, disproves the notion that the Tea Party movement is anti-elitist.Amey, who spent 18 years in Congress, reportedly earns $750,000 a year as a lobbyist for DLA Piper, a law firm that represents corporate clients including pharmaceutical giant Bristol-Myers Squibb.And billionaire backers can help.They gave the nascent tea Party movement organizational and political direction, without which it might have gone to waste like the Occupy movement.The protesters, in turn, have given billionaire donors something they cannot buy — the numbers they need to lend legitimacy to their agenda.As Amie says, “We’ve been doing lonely work for years.In our eyes, it’s like cavalry coming.Liberty Works, it turned out, also had some hired hands.The tax-exempt group quietly cut deals with Glenn Beck, the firebrand right-wing Fox News television host who was then a tea Party superstar.To eventually get paid $1 million a year, Baker reads “embedded content” written by freely-useful employees.They tell him what to say on the show, and he seamlessly blends the monologue into his promotional materials to make it sound like his own opinion.In “free and useful” tax disclosures, this arrangement is described as an “advertising service”.”We thought it would be a useful tool if done in moderation, but then they started doing it at a gallop.”Amie recalls the arrangement.”They keep it secret from activists and supporters.”He said.”They are creating the illusion that they are so important, boasting about the heroes, the ICONS of their sport.They’re not winning the press, they’re paying for it.”Baker’s views are influenced by Corleone Shkosen.Mr Shkosen was a fringe theorist whose political bigotry inspired John Birch.With an audience of about 2m a day, Baker spreads the ideas of early ultraconservatives like Fred Koch on a whole new scale.Conclusion Frank Lentz describes the impact as historic.”Santari’s bluster woke up the upper middle class and the investment class, and then Glenn Beck woke up the rest.Glenn Beck’s show created the Tea Party movement.”He added, “Tax Day 2009 started and broke out at city council meetings in July.You can create a mass movement in three months.”