Telling Tea Party Truth

Here’s some partially-true balderdash regarding upcoming Tea Parties found on Craigslist:

What hasn’t been reported until now is evidence linking Santelli’s “tea party” rant with some very familiar names in the Republican rightwing machine, from PR operatives who specialize in imitation-grassroots PR campaigns (called “astroturfing”) to bigwig politicians and notorious billionaire funders. As veteran Russia reporters, both of us spent years watching the Kremlin use fake grassroots movements to influence and control the political landscape. To us, the uncanny speed and direction the movement took and the players involved in promoting it had a strangely forced quality to it. If it seemed scripted, that’s because it was.

What we discovered is that Santelli’s “rant” was not at all spontaneous as his alleged fans claim, but rather it was a carefully-planned trigger for the anti-Obama campaign. In PR terms, his February 19th call for a “Chicago Tea Party” was the launch event of a carefully organized and sophisticated PR campaign, one in which Santelli served as a frontman, using the CNBC airwaves for publicity, for the some of the craziest and sleaziest rightwing oligarch clans this country has ever produced. Namely, the Koch family, the multibilllionaire owners of the largest private corporation in America, and funders of scores of rightwing thinktanks and advocacy groups, from the Cato Institute and Reason Magazine to FreedomWorks. The scion of the Koch family, Fred Koch, was a co-founder of the notorious extremist-rightwing John Birch Society.

As you read this, Big Business is pouring tens of millions of dollars into their media machines in order to destroy just about every economic campaign promise Obama has made, as reported recently in the Wall Street Journal. At stake isn’t the little guy’s fight against big government, as Santelli and his bot-supporters claim, but rather the “upper 2 percent”’s war to protect their wealth from the Obama Adminstration’s economic plans. When this Santelli “grassroots” campaign is peeled open, what’s revealed is a glimpse of what is ahead and what is bound to be a hallmark of his presidency.

With respect to the Chicago event to be held at the Kluczynski Federal Building Plaza, here’s a bit more accurate version of what happened. According the an e-mail I received from Dave Brady, the Chair of the Libertarian Party of Illinois, the Libertarian Party started the Tea Party plans for the federal building in Chicago — not Santelli nor the Koch brothers.

“The ‘tea party’ concept started with the Libertarian Party of Illinois (LPI) who began organizing a 2009 Tax Day ‘Boston Tea Party’ in Chicago back in December of 2008 and created a Facebook group for it on Feb. 10, 2009, according to the LPI,” wrote Brady on an e-mail list for LP state chairs.  “Nine days later, CNBC’s Rick Santelli, broadcasting from the floor of the Chicago stock exchange, popularized the concept.”

Brady also provided the Facebook link, which is viewable for all.  As there are wall posts going back as far as February 11th, I’m going to call bullshit on the nearly ubiquitous statements being made in the mainstream media that Santelli started the whole thing.

It also seems rather unlikely that Brady flew to DC to sit in some cigar-smoke-filled back room with the Karl Roves of the Tea Party movement to assist the “Republican rightwing machine.”

To be sure, there are all sorts of Republicans and Libertarians and libertarians and conservatives involved.  However, the movement in Chicago and many (most?) other places was started at the grassroots.  As the word got out, things went viral and quite a few bigger fish jumped on board — which provided additional feedback to the system and amplified it even more.

A lot of folks are upset about people like Newt Gingrich joining the bandwagon. Jason Pye writes:

Sean Hannity, who will be attending the Atlanta Tea Party on April 15th, says he has criticized Republicans on spending. He has been more vocal of late about Republicans getting back to the supposed small government roots, but even he was only passive while the gross expansion of government was taking place.

Newt Gingrich and his group, American Solutions, recently announced that they were endorsing and supporting the protests. Gingrich has supported and lobbied for a $9 trillion expansion of Medicare and more recently, the Trouble Asset Relief Program (TARP or Wall Street bailout), which has resulted in trillions of taxpayers dollar being put at risk by a completely incompetent government. This is exactly the sort of spending that these protests are against. An argument can also be made, after reading Buck Wild: How Republicans Broke the Bank and Became the Party of Big Government, that Republicans began to lose whatever principles they claimed to have while Gingrich was Speaker of the House, something can be verified by the table above by looking at the growth in spending in the second term of Bill Clinton.

I’ll give Hannity a pass on this one, but not Gingrich.  As Pye explains, Gingrich (even recently) has been supporting exactly what Tea Party people are opposing.  While there are certainly many issues where I disagree with Hannity, he’s been fairly critical of Republican spending and is affiliated (according to media reports and Wikipedia) with the Conservative Party of New York.  As I recall the story, he joined the Conservative Party out of disgust over GOP spending.  As the Tea Parties are all about federal spending and taxation issues, Hannity has earned some street cred on these issues.  Gingrich lost whatever cred he had earned in the early nineties quite some time ago.

If the big boys want to jump on board, that’s fine, so long as the grassroots continue to control the message.  However, I’d be the first one protesting Republican spending if Newt Gingrich or John McCain showed up at my local Tea Party.

If your local Tea Party is one where big-government Republicans are given dominant roles or it’s an astroturfed event, my recommendation is to attend anyway, but ensure that your signs and literature target the particular big-government Republican involved.  This isn’t about political parties, and to some degree, it is aimed at them.  It’s about the grassroots telling folks in Washington (of all political flavors) that we ain’t gonna take it anymore.

UPDATE: On a related note, Eric Odom has told GOP Chairman Michael Steele that he more than welcome at the Chicago Tea Party, but not as a speaker.  His rejection letter follows:

As I mentioned on the phone the other day, I very much appreciate the fact that Chairman Steele is now finally starting to reach out to the true grassroots side of the free-market movement in America. Unfortunately, it appears that he has only just decided to reach out after realizing how big the movement has gotten and how much media is now involved.

That said, we’re still excited to know that Chairman Steele will be in Chicago and we hope, after knowing that he’ll be in the city, that he’ll stop by and mingle with the Americans who will be rallying on April 15th. This will also present a fantastic time for Chairman Steele to LISTEN to what we have to say and perhaps gather some thoughts on what the RNC needs to be doing moving forward.

With regards to stage time, we respectfully must inform Chairman Steel that RNC officials are welcome to participate in the rally itself, but we prefer to limit stage time to those who are not elected officials, both in Government as well as political parties. This is an opportunity for Americans to speak, and elected officials to listen, not the other way around.

I do hope that Chairman Steele will join us as a regular American in protest of Government spending and extreme taxation.

I look forward to hearing from you!

UPDATE II: Via Glenn Reynolds, Libertarian Party cofounder David Nolan will be speaking at the Tuscon Tea Party.  Also, there is additional conversation about astroturfing on the video.

UPDATE III: “Tax Hike” Mike Huckabee is using Twitter to try to astroturf into the Tea Party movement by popping out Fair Tax messages using the #teaparty tag. I know one person who no  longer supports the Fair Tax simply because he doesn’t want people like Mike Huckabee to use it to raise taxes.

UPDATE IV: Welcome Andrew Sullivan and Mark Thompson readers.  I’ll note that I aimed a special blog posting at Sullivan the other day on this same very topic.  I suggested that “Andrew Sullivan gets it right, and wrong, at the very same time.”

UPDATE V: The Other McCain picked this up, and Robert Stacy McCain (doesn’t that sound like the name of a mass murderer?) asks: “And where’s my wenches? They told me if I showed up wearing an eyepatch with a parrot on my shoulder, there’d be free wenches and grog.”

“Apparently, we’re Right Wing Corporate Neocon Pirates who’ve hijacked a grassroots movement,” McCain explains.