The K Street Lynch Mobs
Jane has the deets on Freedomworks, the lobbyist-funded group activating the teabag rallies at health care town halls across the country. Somehow CBS, with its large cadre of producers and researchers, put a Freedom Works spokesman on its air last night without disclosing their ties, but a blogger with virtually no staff can uncover all this useful information about the organization.
Freedomworks isn't some "organic grassroots" outfit. It's run by former Republican House Majority Leader Dick Armey -- corporate lobbyist, global warming denier and ladie's man. The President and CEO of Freedomworks is Matt Kibbee, who was trained by Lee Atwater. Kibbe 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.
Steve Forbes is on the FreedomWorks board. As Paul Krugman noted, their money comes from the Koch, Scaife, Bradley, Olin nexus, as well as other reliable funders of right wing infrastructure including Exxon Mobil.
Freedomworks has a long history of skunk works. 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.
David Koch is also Chairman of the other major outfit heavily involved in these "organic" uprisings, Americans for Prosperity, whose members lynched Democrat Frank Kratovil in effigy. Koch is the 19th richest man in the world. They recently renamed the New York State Theater in Lincoln Center the David H. Koch Theater.
These aren't just some organizations that these guys gave money to. They run them.
Americans for Prosperity, incidentally, are on the record about busing their people to rally against reform in 13 states.
Brian Beutler of TPMDC - again, with resources not nearly as large as CBS - has a lot more. He notes the role of Conservatives for Patients Rights, founded and funded by Rick Scott, a disgraced former head of the Columbia/HCA health-care company who paid the largest fine in US history, $1.7 billion dollars, for overcharging state and federal health plans. This guy has sunk millions of dollars of health industry money into anti-reform ads, and if you read Beutler's piece, they are clearly orchestrating this "organic" uprising among the teabaggers.
The people on the ground may have their own extremist, anti-government beliefs. But they are being activated by corporate lobbyist-backed astroturf groups.
UPDATE: This is a very, very good point from Ezra, and I've noticed this too at most of the meetings I've attended:
I've been attending health-care panels and events on a pretty regular basis for four or five years now. Each event, of course, is its own precious snowflake, with its own set of graphs and bullet points and dweebish jokes. But one thing is perfectly predictable: The Q&A session will be dominated by single-payer activists asking about HR 676.
There's not a mystery as to why this happens: Single-payer activists are very well organized, and they make a point to dispatch their people to these events and get their members to the microphone and ensure that their perspective is heard. But as the bills under consideration suggest, politicians have had no problem ignoring the single-payer grassroots. Max Baucus ruled out their participation on day one. The media hasn't shown the slightest inclination to cover their presence at event after event after event.
To extend this a bit, 15 million people protested the Iraq war and the coverage was virtually nil. Lobbyists bus 100 people into a Congressional town hall and the media hypes the "Tehran-like" atmosphere of them. Groups of people at town hall meetings are not perfect indicators of the overall attitudes of a population, and even among the town halls, traditional media highlights and politicians respond to very selective segments of those groups.