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. And what is the mindset that this industry money is giving rise to?
From Burt Prelutsky's August 3 Townhall.com column:
When it comes to our national security, keeping the likes of Barbara Boxer, Barney Frank and John Kerry in the loop would be the height of insanity. The only loop appropriate for most of the ninnies in Congress is one hanging from the branch of a very tall tree.
So far as I can tell, the only real difference between members of Congress and cockroaches is that one of the two species has a few more legs than the other.
Every Republican officeholder should be asked the question: are you with civil discourse, or with those advocating the lynching of Democratic politicians?
Health care reform will not be advanced by putting out bullet-pointed debunks. It will be advanced by forcing politicians to line up for or against lobbyist-supported and -funded lynch mobs.
UPDATE: Rush is getting nervous.
UPDATE II: 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.
UPDATE III: Good ideas for counteracting the teabagging, from an event organizer.
UPDATE IV: We have Robert Gibbs openly calling this the Brooks Brothers Brigade. That's a start.
Q: Are you concerned at what appears to be well-orchestrated protesting of health care reform at town halls as derailing your message?
GIBBS: NO, I get asked every day about the myriad of things that could be derailing our message. I would point out that I don't know what all those guys were doing, what were they called, the Brooks Brothers Brigade in Florida in 2000, appear to have rented a similar bus and are appearing together at town hall meetings throughout the country
Q: They seem to be pretty widespread.
GIBBS: I seem to see some commonality in who pops up in some of these things.
Q: Like individuals?
Q: Can you discuss names or ....
GIBBS: I don't have names but I think you can see quite a bit of similarity between who shows up where.
He's clearly trying to lead the horses of the press corps to water, not that they'll drink.