THE BLOG
10/08/2013 12:29 pm ET | Updated Jan 23, 2014

More on How the Kochs and Their Friends Engineered the Shutdown

On October 7th, I reported in a two-part story, how the Koch brothers and their friends started in 2002 a plan to get control of the Republican Party so as to become enabled ultimately to shut down the Federal Government and maybe even drive it into default, so as to cause the American public to despise "government," but actually to despise democracy itself; i.e., to despise this country's democratic government, specifically. Today, I report on the crucial role that the tobacco industry played in helping the Kochs to finance this operation, all of which was done with a profound contempt for the public, and with a deep pride for these aristocrats to rule the U.S. instead of the despised public controlling public policy through an honest and transparent Congress and Presidency.

Whereas that previous news report focused upon the Kochs' expansion of their orbit of control to include the Heritage Foundation, from 2002 onwards, which is an operation that has not previously been covered, today's report concerns instead the three major foundations that the Kochs themselves started and operated during this period: Americans For Prosperity, FreedomWorks, and Citizens for a Sound Economy.

The scholars, Amanda Fallin, Rachel Grana, and Stanton A. Glantz, published on 8 February 2013 in the online edition of the journal Tobacco Control, their blockbuster study, "'To quarterback behind the scenes, third-party efforts': the tobacco industry and the Tea Party," and they laid out there the history of the key alliance between the tobacco companies and the Koch brothers. This enormous study, through thousands of pages of archives, was funded by the National Cancer Institute; and it reported that, "Rather than being a purely grassroots movement that spontaneously developed in 2009, the Tea Party has developed over time, in part through decades of work by the tobacco industry and other corporate interests. ... Simultaneously, they funded and worked through third-party groups, such as Citizens for a Sound Economy, the predecessor of AFP [Americans For Prosperity] and FreedomWorks," all of which were/are Koch operations.

These researchers reported that, "In 2002, ... CSE started its US Tea Party (http://www.usteaparty.com) project, the website of which stated 'our US Tea Party is a national event, hosted continuously online and open to all Americans who feel our taxes are too high and the tax code is too complicated.'" (Amazingly, that damning webpage can still be accessed, via the web's archive authority.) Already, "Between 1991 and 2002 the tobacco companies, mainly Philip Morris, provided CSE with at least US$5.3 million," and Philip Morris's V.P. for Government Affairs justified these expenditures in a memo by saying: "They are adding this level of value. They have provided significant grassroots assistance, in the nature of several thousand calls to the Hill," and are "very active on our behalf in the field in key states with key Members" of Congress. So: when the "spontaneous" "Tea Party" organization rose up in February 2009, to protest Obamacare, it was actually neither spontaneous, nor at all new.

America's greatest living investigative journalist is perhaps Pam Martens, who provided a good summary of that study, and she supplemented it with an investigation of her own. In her 20 May 2013 article at her muckraking site "Wall Street on Parade," she headlined "The Criminal Case Against the Tea Party Cabal," and she reported also an additional Philip Morris memo (not mentioned by those three researchers), which described the role of CSE as follows: "We are funding a major (400K) grassroots initiative in the districts of House Energy & Commerce members to educate and mobilize consumers, through town hall meetings, radio and print ads, direct mail, patch-through calls to the Capitol switchboard, editorial board visits, polling data, meetings with Members and staff, and the release of studies and other educational pieces." They had already done this during 1994, with the Clinton Administration's proposed healthcare reform, and they claimed there that it was "to show the Clinton plan as a government-run health care system replete with higher taxes and government spending, massive job losses, less choice, rationing of care and extensive bureaucracies. CSE is taking aim at the heart of the plan - employer mandates, new entitlements, price controls, mandatory health alliances, heavy load of new taxes and global budgets - and, with the program well underway, [it] is by all accounts getting rave reviews in the respective districts."

Another wing of this operation to gut democratic government has been operated by Grover Norquist, who, on 25 May 2001, said on NPR's "Morning Edition": "I don't want to abolish government. I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub." He was referring only to taxes, not really to spending (which many naïves interpreted him to mean). Virtually every Republican congressional candidate thus signed Norquist's "No New Taxes Pledge," in order for them to be able to qualify for Norquist's massive campaign-funding commitments from mega-corporate America. Norquist had been set up by Ronald Reagan to run Americans for Tax Reform, in order to do this, but the idea wasn't actually new with Reagan. The far-right economist Milton Friedman had first introduced this idea, in 1978; candidate Ronald Reagan then adopted and defended it in 1980. Here's how Reagan himself put it, during a Presidential debate, on 21 September 1980: "John tells us that, first, we've got to reduce spending before we can reduce taxes. Well, if you've got a kid that's extravagant, you can lecture him all you want to about his extravagance. Or you can cut his allowance and achieve the same end much quicker."

The idea of the plan is basically to strangle democracy. This is done by privatizing everything, so that the aristocracy, who already own most of the private wealth in this country, will be able to farm the public - farm the serfs with debt, as the public used to be known during the feudal era. Now, however, the aristocracy are no longer based upon their passing on to their heirs vast landed estates with serfs, but passing on to them vast international corporations with employees and consumers; so, instead of acres, they pass on shares of stock. So, instead of feudalism, it's fascism. It is the modernized form of feudalism; it is conservative dictatorship for the world of today.

Their plan is working, brilliantly. They call it "libertarian," but the liberty is to be only for aristocrats. For everyone else, it's serfdom, if not outright slavery. Conservatives love hierarchy; it is morality, in their vision of things.

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Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of They're Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of CHRIST'S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.