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Jane Hamsher

Jane Hamsher

Posted April 13, 2009 | 05:27 PM (EST)

The Corporate Lobbyists Behind the Tea Parties


Anyone who has watched Fox News of late has seen them talking about the April 15 "tea party" demonstrations, which they take pains to characterize as a spontaneous grassroots uprising against government spending that they are simply "covering."

Neil Cavuto said:

We are are going to be in the middle of these protests because at Fox, we do not pick and choose these rallies and protests. We were there for the Million Man March, even though, as I pointed out, it turned out to be well shy of a million men.

The Million Man March happened in 1995. Fox News didn't go on the air until 1996.

Why all the effort to distance themselves from the teabaggers? It's obvious they are integrally involved -- Fox has given them millions in free publicity, despite the fact that there's no evidence of "ratings gold" here. Four of their biggest stars will be appearing at the rallies, Fox Nation will be hosting a "virtual tea party," Glenn Beck is holding a $500 a plate fundraiser for them and Fox has been officially promoting the entire affair as the FNC Tax Day Tea Parties:

cavuto-20090409-beck.jpg

Maybe they're afraid that if people knew that those behind the demonstrations were the very same lobbyists and influence peddlers the teabaggers claim to decry, the whole thing would be revealed to be what it is -- a hollow excercise in extremist right-wing hypocrisy.

A report by Lee Fang at Think Progress documents the involvement of corporate lobbyists FreedomWorks in organizing the teabaggers. FreedomWorks is run by ladies' man (and registered lobbyist) Dick Armey, and if they're not "organizing" the Tea parties, it's news to him. From a letter he wrote on March 10:

FreedomWorks has been organizing many of these "tea parties" and we are listing the details on our website IamWithRick.com

If you visit the website, you can rsvp for an event near you, and you can download guidelines to organizing a tea party in your home town if there isn't one being planned already.


On the Freedomworks website, it says: "If you are not able to organize or attend a Taxpayer Tea Party, you can still help the cause by donating or buying a t-shirt.

The "donation" for the Tea Parties page goes to -- you guessed it -- the FreedomWorks Foundation. The "thank you" letter is signed by Matt Kibbe, President & CEO, who cut his teeth working for Lee Atwater. He was behind the attempt to get Ralph Nader put on the ballot in Oregon in 2004, prompting a complaint to the FEC of illegal collusion with the GOP.

FreedomWorks was launched a GOP version of MoveOn. "We believe that hard work beats daddy's money," said Dick Armey at the time. Armey seems to be a bit irony challenged -- Steve Forbes is on the FreedomWorks board. As Krugman notes, their money comes from the Koch, Scaife, Bradley, Olin and other reliable funders of right wing infrastructure including Exxon Mobil.

This fact that none of this would be possible without the open checkbooks of right wing billionaires and the lobbyists who love them is beyond the grasp of Glenn Reynolds:

These aren't the usual semiprofessional protesters who attend antiwar and pro-union marches. These are people with real jobs; most have never attended a protest march before. They represent a kind of energy that our politics hasn't seen lately, and an influx of new activists.
In 2004, a woman who identified herself as a "single mother" in Iowa, Sandra Jacques, appeared at a George Bush town hall and gushed about his plan to privatize Social Security. She left out the part about being an employee of Freedomworks, who were lobbying on the issue at the time.

Before any media covering these events accept the idea that this is just a grass roots outpouring of populist sentiment, they ought to take a look behind the curtain -- where Dick Armey is laughing and counting his cash.

Jane Hamsher blogs at firedoglake.com