Tea Party Patrons Point New Recruits Toward 2010

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Monday, October 05, 2009 at 12:27 am
Americans for Prosperity Conference 2009 (Photo by: David Weigel)

Americans for Prosperity Conference 2009 (Photo by: David Weigel)

For months, liberal researchers from the Center for American Progress to Firedoglake to the Rachel Maddow Show have pored over the financial records of libertarian tycoon David Koch to see just how deep his influence ran within the Tea Party movement. On Saturday, speaking at the Defending the American Dream Summit sponsored by Americans for Prosperity, Koch did it for them. Walking onstage at a morning rally, holding a Washington Award that he was about to give to Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C), Koch took credit for launching one of the key organizations of the conservative insurrection.

Image by: Matt Mahurin

Image by: Matt Mahurin

“Days like to today bring to reality the vision of our board of directors, when we founded this organization five years ago,” said Koch. “We envisioned a mass movement, a state-based one, but national in scope, of hundreds of thousands of American citizens from all walks of life standing up and fighting for the economic freedoms that made our nation the most prosperous society in history.”

The 2,000-odd activists of Americans for Prosperity–around 300 had signed up for the event in the last week, according to organizers–sat patiently through this. Koch lumbered through his short speech, walking right over applause lines. He had been introduced by Tim Phillips, the cheerful president and public face of Americans for Prosperity as a man who “provides jobs for folks across the country” and whose vision “launched our organization, this organization, that you’re seeing today, that so many of you are actively part of.” Financing from Koch, among other donors, allowed the activists to pay $99 ($79 if they registered early enough) for a two-day conference with three meals, at least two tickets for free beverages at noisy receptions, and a chance to hear from conservative stars like DeMint, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, radio host Hugh Hewitt, and CNBC host Larry Kudlow. It provided signs that they’d brought to a rally on Capitol Hill with slogans such as “Socialism Isn’t Cool” and “Cut Spending.”

But it was the prominence of Koch, who praised the activists for fueling a “strong, principled, freedom movement,” which revealed the degree to which conservatives have dismissed the “astroturf” attacks that greeted the Tea Parties. The Friday and Saturday summit was the latest and largest attempt by one of the Washington-based groups shepherding the Tea Parties to proclaim themselves leaders of a political majority, and to turn the attention of newly discovered conservative activists to the 2010 elections.

The massive attendance of the event, crammed into a Marriott in the towering Crystal City suburb of Washington, taxed the organizers’ schedule and resources. A Friday night “Tribute to Ronald Reagan” dinner was oversold, and more than a hundred grumbling activists, finding no seating in the hotel’s ballroom, had to make do with an overflow room and spotty acoustics. A crowded Saturday agenda was delayed by an hour by the slow movement of activists through the halls–as well as a lengthy speech by Kudlow, who informed the crowd, with a sleepy, congested voice, of the primacy of supply-side economics.

The rewards for activists, however, were great. In speeches and breakout sessions, they were credited with delaying and possibly defeating, health care reform for 2009. “We’re winning this battle because of you,” said DeMint, accepting his award with a short speech. Phillips told activists that they had “won those months” since health care bills were introduced in the House and Senate, and that their new mission was to “win” October and November.

“I went to a motivational speech with Rudy Giuliani and Joe Montana,” said Greg Thrum, an activist from the Buffalo, New York suburbs. “I’m getting much, much more motivated here.”

Thrum and his wife Lisa were representatives of the activists who’d made it to the conference. They’d hounded their own member of Congress and state assemblywoman about the economy and proposed tax hikes, but according to Lisa Thrum, their local Tea Party group was “not a very organized movement.” But they got ideas and ammunition from the summit. In the halls between the ballroom and the small breakout sessions, they exchanged stories of cowardly congressmen who wouldn’t hold town halls, or Tea Parties with numbers that were under-counted by the media. Dick Block, a Wisconsin activist who’d planned a Madison, Wisc. Tea Party, told activists to provide high-resolution photos of their events with numbers on the faces of attendees to force the media into reporting accurate crowd counts.

In the summit’s main hall, activists from the same states sat together next in a setting that resembled a national political convention. They watched a hard-rocking tribute to the Tea Party Movement, soundtracked to “See How Far We’ve Come” by Matchbox 20, and they cheered whenever a rally from one of their states was shown onscreen. They booed loudly when MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow appeared onscreen in a clip where she promised Phillips to be “as fair as I can be.”

As the activists moved out of that room, they could pick up red-meat bumper stickers from Accuracy in Media (“Ted Kennedy’s car has killed more people than my gun”), copies of new and old books by Glenn Beck from The Leadership Institute, and DVDs of “Not Evil Just Wrong,” a climate change skepticism documentary that was also previewed for a late-night audience. Townhall.com handed out free books by Michelle Malkin in exchange for magazine subscriptions; The Claire Booth Luce Policy Institute handed out copies of its “Great American Conservative Women” calendar, some of them freshly signed by Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.).

Inside the ballroom, the pro-Republican slant of this was even more clear. Koch’s speech was one of several that clearly branded the crowd as part of a movement that would elect more Republicans to Congress. Gingrich–who was introduced by AFP’s Phillips as “the best mind in our movement”– made a half-hearted attempt at bipartisanship, encouraging activists to run as Democrats if they were in heavily Democratic districts. The point of his address, however, was a five-part Republican agenda that had hardly changed since Gingrich was toying with the idea of a 2008 presidential bid. Conservatives, said Gingrich, should campaign on a 50 percent, two-year cut in FICA taxes that would help every American “suddenly learn how much in taxes they had been paying.” They should promise to “match the Chinese capital gains tax, which is zero,” end the estate tax, and “match the Irish corporate tax rate of 12.5 percent.” And they should promote an “American energy policy using American sources of energy,” an applause line that split the crowd in two. Some activists chanted “drill here, drill now,” the slogan that Gingrich’s group, American Solutions, had branded with a 2008 ad campaign and quickie book. And some chanted “drill, baby, drill,” the variant that now-RNC Chairman Michael Steele promoted at the 2008 Republican National Convention.

Libertarian purists in the crowd found some reasons to be cynical. Three of the headlining speakers, including Gingrich, had supported the Troubled Asset Relief Program–a major motivating force for the Tea Parties. Gingrich’s version of recent political history was kind to the GOP congressional majority in a manner that stretched some facts. “We can balance the federal budget,” he said, “because for four years, when I was speaker, we balanced the federal budget.”

But hard partisan politics won the weekend, and gave some form to the movement Koch finally took some credit for organizing. Activists learned that they were on the cusp of saving the long-planned, one-year elimination of the estate tax. If Democrats fail to pass a bill extending the estate tax in 2010, one of the key Republican victories of George W. Bush’s presidency would be realized. And the more the Tea Party movement could slow down the works in Congress, the better the chance of Democrats forgoing that bill.

“If we run out the clock,” said Phil Kerpen, AFP’s policy director, “the estate tax is gone in 2010, and it would be tricky for Democrats to try and bring it back.”

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nhtpc
Comment posted October 5, 2009 @ 4:57 pm

Koch is an idiot that no one ever heard of who is trying to get fame for himself by doing this…

It is NOT TRUE.

No one 'funded' us to stand in the streets with signs! Why would we need money for that?

If this is true, why didn't we get any money in NH?

We are a grassroots coalition and we neither raise nor spend money.
We make our own signs, pay for our own website, and meet in one of our coalition group offices.

Koch must want to fuel the fire for Democrats to accuse it of being astroturf.
What a shame…

Shame on you too, Tim Phillips.

I did not get an organizers check from you either.

Some people will latch on to anything to claim fame.


theGhostPony
Comment posted October 5, 2009 @ 5:03 pm

David Koch. That says it all. A pasty white ultra wealthy con who wants a free ride instead of pitching in and paying his fair share.

I say it's time we return to the tax rates of the 50s… when it was over 90% for @ssholes like him. Then this whiny sissy would have something to complain about.


Irish_Wake
Comment posted October 5, 2009 @ 6:55 pm

I replied to your Colorado post, and thought I'd include it here as well.

This is not news, as news suggests something recently brought to the attention of the public. This is established public information. Let's follow the money.

History shows Koch founded Citizens for a Sound Economy Foundation, which became Americans for Prosperity (AFP). Koch also founded Citizens for a Sound Economy, which became FreedomWorks. A majority (84%) of funding for Citizens for a Sound Economy Foundation came from the Koch Family Foundations ($12,906,712) and the Scaife Family Foundations ($2,510,000). (Scaife funded Swift Boaters also.)

AFP received approximately 84% of its donations ($1,000,000) from the Koch Family Foundation, through the subsidiary Claude R. Lambe Charitable Foundation.

You do not specify any names for your 'coalition of grassroots groups', making it impossible to verify if they are in fact grassroots or unfunded. I note that the AFP website has a New Hampshire section, including a headline 'AFP-NH to Host Taxpayer Tea Party At State Capitol'. While you personal group(s) may not be funded, big-money Washington K Street groups are paying for the party.

I find Mr. Gingrich's history of hypocrisy and adultery unpalatable, and I wish to refrain from further discussion unless you would prefer otherwise.

I am sorry that you didn't get your share of the funds sloshing around this movement, but these people and their money have been there longer than you.


Anonymous
Comment posted October 5, 2009 @ 7:18 pm

So the two things they want to see eliminated the most – the estate tax and the capital gains tax – essentially only hit the rich. So WTF is wrong with the average lower-middle-class teabagger that he thinks that that's a position he should support? He might as well be holding up a sign that says, “I want Newt Gingrich's cock in my ass” – it would make as much sense.

Also, if we bring over the Chinese capital gains tax, can we bring their method of dealing with corrupt legislators and business leaders as well? I'd love nothing more than to see most of the Congressional Republicans in front of a firing squad for taking bribes – we could even reuse their organs like the Chinese do!


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Comment posted October 5, 2009 @ 8:04 pm

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Comment posted October 5, 2009 @ 8:06 pm

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Comment posted October 5, 2009 @ 9:47 pm

I'll tell you what is a shame: This hard-right agenda quashing ANY hope of a truly mainstream/populist movement countering out-of-control influence peddling, the demise of the middle class other no-brainer common denominators. As long as racist/birther clowns and religious nuts shout down the normal people, you and your 'movement' should be thankful for the astro-turfing—-it's a merciful distraction from your loudmouthed tinfoil hat brigades!


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Comment posted October 5, 2009 @ 10:58 pm

They also had the right wing radio talk show hosts who abound working 24/7 ramping up the volume..


Name
Comment posted October 6, 2009 @ 12:11 am

Is it the same David Koch with the diva socialite wife Julia who bought Jackie Onassis's 5th Avenue apartment for $9.5 million and then sold it for something grander and more expensive? http://www.nytimes.com/1998/01/11/magazine/woma… That's rich.


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Comment posted October 8, 2009 @ 4:10 pm

David Koch's father, Fred Koch, was a founding member of the John Birch Society and served on its National Council. The FBI file on the John Birch Society includes a memo which refers to incoming correspondence from alarmed citizens who attended a speech by Fred Koch in which he claimed our government was complicit in a conspiracy involving U-2 spy plane pilot Francis Gary Powers.

Koch claimed that Powers was NOT shot down over the Soviet Union and, in fact, he was in collusion with the Soviet government. Koch claimed that Powers landed safely and was paid by the Soviet government and our government knew about this because it was part of the conspiracy.

It was this type of lunatic fringe commentary by JBS official Fred Koch which caused senior FBI officials to produce memos containing comments like this:

“The Bureau has, of course, been cognizant over a period of time of the many fanatical right-wing anti-Communist organizations which are presently spreading widely throughout the country and of their utterly absurd viewpoints. For your information, I am attaching copies of letters dated March 6 and 8, 1961 from(names deleted for privacy) which typify the absolute confusion and lack of confidence in American institutions and one's fellow man being caused by representatives of such organizations.” [HQ 62-104401-789, March 15, 1961, D.C. Morrell to C.D. DeLoach].


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[...] Conservative Tycoon is Behind the Tea Party Movement – For months, liberal researchers from the Center for American Progress to Firedoglake to the Rachel Maddow Show have pored over the financial records of libertarian tycoon David Koch to see just how deep his influence ran within the Tea Party movement. On Saturday, speaking at the Defending the American Dream Summit sponsored by Americans for Prosperity, Koch did it for them. Walking onstage at a morning rally, holding a Washington Award that he was about to give to Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C), Koch took credit for launching one of the key organizations of the conservative insurrection. “Days like to today bring to reality the vision of our board of directors, when we founded this organization five years ago,” said Koch. [...]


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Comment posted October 17, 2009 @ 9:40 pm

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Comment posted November 10, 2009 @ 6:34 am

And just look who's doing the recruiting for a brand new political party — the fellows at Stormfront have been hard at work,


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Comment posted January 20, 2010 @ 6:56 pm

Do you think David Koch might have a personal interest in the elimination of the estate tax?


JD_Rockefeller
Comment posted January 20, 2010 @ 11:56 pm

Do you think David Koch might have a personal interest in the elimination of the estate tax?


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NewHampshire
Comment posted March 20, 2010 @ 7:35 pm

April 15, 2010 in Manchester… New Hampshire Tea Party Coalition, all pre-existing groups in NH. And not one of them being 'paid' to attend.. unlike the leftwing Soros-funded astroturfed groups from the Coffee Party right on up to the White House! You wanna know what communism is coming down the pike next? Just check out this nazi website http://www.soros.org


Irish_Wake
Comment posted March 23, 2010 @ 11:16 pm

You do not take issue with the itemized financing details I quoted; we agree on these points.

You accuse a different group of the financial dealings found behind teabaggers, yet supply no specifics. Writing what you wish to be true is called fiction.

I have never hinted, insinuated, or suggested any teabagger was receiving payment for attending a tea party function. I apologize if I was unclear on this point. Financial data proves these groups benefit from the funding provided by their right-wing lobbying underwriters.


BedfordCitizen
Comment posted April 16, 2010 @ 3:31 am

But I think what NH was saying was, they do not have any money, therefore they cannot be taken advantage of in this way. Sure — there are always groups taking advantage of people's movements to make money. I get 20 emails per day from Progressive groups asking for money every time someone sneezes. LOL Soros has the most money of all!


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Comment posted June 11, 2010 @ 10:31 pm

…And YET AGAIN the Left is proven right (not Reich). It's like we have these unnaturally developed brain lobes, just for detecting Reich Wing chicanery, despite the smoke-screens… OR, it's that the Reich are just so bloody obvious.

Does it strike anyone as ironic, that the so called Tea Partiers, who perennially cry for an end to chicanery in governance, are in fact beholden to the very parties who engineer, execute, pay for, and ultimately profit from, the very chicanery the Partiers decry?

IF the Partiers are indeed grass-roots, we can now expect them to turn on their originators…(yeah, right)


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Koch claimed that Powers was NOT shot down over the Soviet Union and, in fact, he was in collusion with the Soviet government. Koch claimed that Powers landed safely and was paid by the Soviet government and our government knew about this because it was part of the conspiracy.


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Pingback posted July 20, 2010 @ 3:50 pm

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[...] As ThinkProgress has documented, the lobbyist-run Americans for Prosperity (AFP) has been instrumental in orchestrating the Tea Party movement. The group coordinated “grassroots” protests around the country and provided organizations and communications support to the Tea Parties. AFP staffers are also regular presence at Tea Party rallies. The man behind AFP is David Koch, who is one of the richest men in the world thanks to his oil, chemicals, and manufacturing conglomerate Koch Industries. In 2009, AFP President Tim Phillips said he “launched our organization.” [...]


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But I think what NH was saying was, they do not have any money, therefore they cannot be taken advantage of in this way. Sure — there are always groups taking advantage of people's movements to make money. I get 20 emails per day from Progressive groups asking for money every time someone sneezes. LOL Soros has the most money of all!


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