The Tea Bag Lobby

by digby

I was going to mention this little discussion between Neil Cavuto and Glenn Beck on Fox News yesterday, but I figured there was only so much crazy you could handle before you started to throw up on your keyboards. Think Progress has more video, if you think you can take it, but here's the upshot of the conversation: these protests, which are allegedly making "the Left" angry, are a spontaneous uprising of regular folks who are mad as hell and aren't gonna take it anymore. And FoxNews is repeating it dozens of times a day as it promotes these gatherings.

Here's the thing. The right lost it's ability to be spontaneous sometime back when Phyllis Schlaffley was pounding the ERA. They require structure and leadership in order to function, which is one reason why their movement and their party are so stuck. (They proudly call themselves dittoheads, after all.)

So, it's no surprise to learn this:

Despite these attempts to make the “movement” appear organic, the principle organizers of the local events are actually the lobbyist-run think tanks Americans for Prosperity and Freedom Works. The two groups are heavily staffed and well funded, and are providing all the logistical and public relations work necessary for planning coast-to-coast protests:

Freedom Works staffers coordinate conference calls among protesters, contacting conservative activists to give them “sign ideas, sample press releases, and a map of events around the country.”

Freedom Works staffers apparently moved to “take over” the planning of local events in Florida.

Freedom Works provides how-to guides for delivering a “clear message” to the public and media.

Freedom Works has several domain addresses — some of them made to look like they were set up by amateurs — to promote the protests.

Americans for Prosperity is writing press releases and planning the events in New Jersey, Arizona, New Hampshire, Missouri, Kansas, and several other states.

This type of corporate ‘astroturfing‘ is nothing new to either organization. While working to promote Social Security privatization, Freedom Works was caught planting one of its operatives as a “single mom” to ask questions to President Bush in a town hall on the subject. Last year, the Wall Street Journal exposed Freedom Works for similarly building “amateur-looking” websites to promote the lobbying interests of Dick Armey, the former Republican Majority Leader who now leads Freedom Works and is a lobbyist for the firm DLA Piper.

Americans for Prosperity is run by Tim Phillips, who was Ralph Reed’s former partner in the lobbying firm Century Strategies. The group is funded by Koch family foundations — a family whose wealth is derived from the oil industry. Indeed Americans for Prosperity has coordinated pro-drilling ‘grassroots‘ events around the country.

If any members of the press are reading this, I hope they can see that this is the story, not the sad little dupes who are voluntarily calling themselves tea-baggers.