House GOP Leader John Boehner promised Democrats a "long, hot August." And the corporate special interests that bankroll the conservative movement have not disappointed. They appear willing to go to any length to stop President Obama's agenda -- even if that means outright fraud in some cases.
Each day brings new reports and shocking videos of angry and increasingly violent mobs disrupting Democratic Members of Congress attempting to discuss health care reform. Here's one from just last night in the Tampa area. Rep. Kathy Castor eventually had to be escorted out by the police (another video from the event showed hundreds of angry, screaming protesters outside the meeting). Watch it:
As Paul Krugman noted today, there appears to be substantial overlap between these mobs and the so-called "birther movement" (not to be confused with the equally bizarre "deathers"). Even more disturbingly, Nazi-related signs and t-shirts have become something of a leitmotif amongst the protesters in recent days.
While much of the effort is clearly designed to kill health care reform, there's also considerable evidence that these same astroturf corporate lobbying operations are also trying to derail clean energy jobs legislation -- and the entire progressive agenda with it. And who is funding much of this -- our friends in the oil and coal industries. Media Matters Action Fund has pulled together some of the lowlights on dirty energy's ties to the astroturf army.
One prime example is Americans for Prosperity, which is trying to kill health reform, clean energy, and the Employee Free Choice Act. And who, pray tell, is this Americans for Prosperity you ask?
AFP is just one giant, multi-headed hydra of a front group for Koch Industries -- a huge oil and gas conglomerate and one of the largest privately held corporations in the world. And since being funded by one giant oil company is not enough, AFP has also taken cash from ExxonMobil. In fact, just last night Rachel Maddow caught AFP president Tim Phillips in a lie about the Exxon cash. She also ran through a laundry list of AFP-related astroturfing and dirty tricks. Watch it:
Intrepid googlers might say, "Hey, I can't find anything about Americans for Prosperity taking Exxon money." That's because AFP used to be called the Citizens for a Sound Economy Foundation when it took the Exxon money. And in a sign of just how nebulous the right-wing attack machine is, be sure not to confuse that with Citizens for a Sound Economy. The latter broke with the former in a schism in 2003 and went on to become...wait for it...FreedomWorks. FreedomWorks, run by former Republican House Majority Leader turned Washington powerlobbyist Dick Armey, is the main group behind the Tea Party Patriots, the 9/12 Protest, and, of course, the town hall mobs.
And it doesn't stop there. Newt Gingrich's American Solutions for Winning the Future (of "Drill here, drill now, pay less" fame) is also lobbying heavily against the Obama agenda generally, and for dirty energy interests in particular. The GOP minority on the House Energy & Commerce Committee even trotted out Gingrich as its star witness as the committee was considering comprehensive clean energy and climate legislation. His buffoonish performance -- a retread of the failed Bush-Cheney energy policy with some jacuzzi jokes thrown in -- did not disappoint.
It came as no surprise, then, that we came to find out last week that ASWF has taken nearly half a million dollars from Big Oil during just the first half of 2009. That comes on top of the hundreds of thousands of dollars it has also taken from Peabody Coal. Newt King Coal?
Wait, there's more! The massive coal industry front group, the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, which has already spent tens of millions of dollars to kill clean energy jobs, announced this week that it is spending $1 million on ads in August and will be deploying an astroturf "America's Power Army" to town hall meetings and events in 39 states.
Wondering where you've heard ACCCE's name recently? You might recognize them as the group at the center of a massive and growing fraud scandal in which one of their contractors sent forged anti-climate bill letters to Congress. They are being investigated by Congress and the Sierra Club and others are also calling on the Department of Justice to initiate a formal criminal probe in the matter.
And just who is creating this astroturf army you ask? The Hawthorn Group -- the same firm also at the center of the Congressional letter fraud. ACCCE's chief spokesman -- who famously once said he didn't know if burning coal had anything to do with global warming or not -- said he "didn't want to throw the baby out with the bathwater." Why let a little fraud stop you?
So next time you see one of those angry mobs on TV, don't just blame the drug companies and the "insurance rackets" (as Harry Reid called them today), blame our besties at Big Oil and Dirty Coal.
UPDATE: We learned late today that Lincoln Strategies, the firm ACCCE hired to build its "purest form of grassroots" "America's Power Army," is one of the most notorious GOP voter fraud operations in the country. Here's what a former Republican Member of Congress, Chris Cannon from Utah, had to say about Nathan Sproul, the head of the firm:
The Difference Between ACORN And Sproul Is That ACORN Doesn't Throw Away Or Change Registration Documents After They Have Been Filled Out.