Monday, November 22, 2010
In case anyone has been confused about the agenda of the billionaires backing the Tea party, this should put it to rest once for all. It's a shakedown:
Jesse Jackson isn't the only activist that can use corporate boycotts for political purposes. Starting next year, the huge Tea Party organizer FreedomWorks will urge supporters to punish huge corporations like General Electric and Johnson and Johnson for backing President Obama's progressive agenda.
In an exclusive review for Whispers of their plan, FreedomWorks president Matt Kibbe says: "Tea Party activists are willing to tackle progressive CEOs just as they tackled progressive politicians. Judging by the results of the midterm elections, progressive CEOs should buckle up, because Tea Party activists are going to give them a very bumpy ride."
His project partner, Tom Borelli, director of the National Center for Public Policy Research's Free Enterprise Project, added: "Big businesses are now on notice that there is a measurable business risk for actively supporting the Obama, Reid, and Pelosi progressive public policy agenda."
Their initial focus will be on consumer firms that lobbied for passage of Obama's agenda items that helped their firms. "We are going after the rent-seeking corporations feeding at the public trough," said FreedomWorks' spokesman Adam Brandon.
The groups released a new Wilson Research Strategies poll to Whispers which shows how companies could suffer when conservatives are told of their support for Obama's agenda. The poll found that when customers are told of a consumer product firm's support for healthcare reform, bailouts, cap-and-trade energy policies or other issues pushed by the administration, their favorability among conservatives plummets.
The clever part of this is that they will frame this as a "clean government" initiative, to root out corrupt alliances between the Democrats and their corporate masters. And Democrats, who are concerned about such things as well will be unlikely to defend these corporations. Indeed, we will be helping to punish them, for all the right reasons.
However, the billionaires who are funding this effort are seeking to strong arm all of corporate America into backing its partisan agenda (even against its own self-interest) and therefore they will not go after such "rent-seekers" as defense contractors or other K-Street allies. And if they win a majority, they will institutionalize their own relationships with Big Business as a partisan enterprise in a way that makes the K-Street Project look like amateur hour.
In the age of the Roberts Court and Citizens United I think this is their big play.
While the Koch brothers — each worth over $21.5 billion — have certainly underwritten much of the right, their hidden coordination with other big business money has gone largely unnoticed. ThinkProgress has obtained a memo outlining the details of the last Koch gathering held in June of this year. The memo, along with an attendee list of about 210 people, shows the titans of industry — from health insurance companies, oil executives, Wall Street investors, and real estate tycoons — working together with conservative journalists and Republican operatives to plan the 2010 election, as well as ongoing conservative efforts through 2012. According to the memo, David Chavern, the number two at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Fox News hate-talker Glenn Beck also met with these representatives of the corporate elite. In an election season with the most undisclosed secret corporate giving since the Watergate-era, the memo sheds light on the symbiotic relationship between extremely profitable, multi-billion dollar corporations and much of the conservative infrastructure. The memo describes the prospective corporate donors as “investors,” and it makes clear that many of the Republican operatives managing shadowy, undisclosed fronts running attack ads against Democrats were involved in the Koch’s election-planning event:
– Corporate “investors” at the Koch meeting included businesses with a strong profit motive in rolling back President Obama’s enacted reforms. Several companies impacted by health reform, including Allan Hubbard of A & E Industries, a manufacturer of medical devices and Judson Green, a board member of health insurance conglomerate Aon, were present at the meeting. Other businessmen at the meeting, like Omaha Burger King franchiser Mike Simmonds, are owners of fast food stores which have fought efforts to provide health insurance to their employees. Many corporate attendees of the meeting represent the financial industry impacted by Wall Street reform. For instance, attendee Bill Cooper is the CEO of TCF Financial, a corporation involved in the mortgage banking industry. Cooper recently filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Wall Street reform. Other financial industry players in the meeting hail from firms ranging from Bank of America, JLM Investment, Allied Capital Corp, AMG National Trust, the Blackstone Group and Citadel Investment. Annie Dickerson, a representative of Paul Singer, a powerful hedge fund manager who also gives tens of millions to Republican causes, was present. In addition, Koch Industries itself has a hedge fund and other financial derivative products in its portfolio of interests, which include oil pipelines, coal shipping, asphalt, refineries, consumer goods, timber, ranching, and chemicals.
– Corporate “investors” at the Koch meeting included businesses with a strong profit motive in preventing progressive reforms promised by President Obama. Several executives at the meeting have an incentive to stop Democrats and President Obama from addressing climate change and enacting clean energy reform. The meeting included oil executives from Aspect Energy, Murfin Drilling, Anschutz Company, GeoPark Holdings, Smoky Oil, and several members of Koch’s various subsidiaries. The meeting documents explicitly state that funding efforts to curb “climate change alarmism” were discussed.
– Fred Malek, Karl Rove’s top fundraiser for his $56 million attack ad campaign against Democrats, attended the meeting, along with leaders of other secret attack groups. Heather Higgins, who leads the Independent Women’s Forum, a shadowy group that has spent millions of dollars in attack ads on health reform, attended the meeting. So did Gretchen Hamel, a former Bush flak who now runs an attack ad group called “Public Notice,” which denounces spending programs.
– Participants collaborated with infamous consultants who specialize in generating fake grassroots movements, as well as experts on how corporations should take advantage of Citizens United. One session, about how to “mobilize citizens for November,” involved a discussion with Republican strategists Tim Phillips and Sean Noble, anti-union leader Mark Mix, and longtime Koch operative Karl Crow. Phillips — a veteran astroturf lobbyist who previously managed a deceptive grassroots lobbying campaign to help the Hong Kong-based Tan family maintain their forced abortion sweatshops in the Mariana Islands — now leads the day-to-day operations of Americans for Prosperity, the group ThinkProgress first reported to have helped organize many of the initial Tea Party rallies against Obama. Americans for Prosperity, founded and financed by David Koch, has a field team of over 80 campaign staffers spread out around the country, and additionally plans to spend $45 million dollars worth of attack ads against Democrats. Shortly before the planning meeting, Crow authored a campaign finance memo explaining that because of the Citizens United Supreme Court ruling, he advised specifically that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s 501(c)(6) and Americans for Prosperity’s 501(c)(4) can “now use general treasury funds to produce communications materials opposing or supporting specific candidates” and corporations can aggressively pressure their employees to vote a certain way.
The memo notes that participants in the 2010 election planning meeting “committed to an unprecedented level of support.”
It isn't just business folk invited to this exclusive little confab. The right wing media are well represented as well, for obvious reasons.
This is the invitation to the next event, to be held in Rancho Mirage in January.
I think Dick's army might be overestimating the clout of the Tea Party when it comes to boycotting major businesses (although it could have an impact on advertisers.) But these businesses aren't really committed to politics, they're committed to profits, and I would expect that we'll see some interesting interplay on this.
They have to move fast. The Tea Party will not be motivated to do this unless it is in the name of "stopping the Obama agenda." The money guys are probably counting on Obama pulling it out in 2012, thus giving them six full years to make this happen, but just in case he doesn't they need to get as much of this done as they can before he leaves office. The Tea Party is very likely to lose its identity if the Republicans take over the White House. (They are, after all, nothing more than reconstituted 28 percenters and they'll be back to this kind of thing in no time.) So it's best to put the screws to the few stray progressive capitalists out there, if only to demonstrate what will happen if any of the rest of them stray from the reservation.
digby 11/22/2010 08:00:00 PM