News Flash! Five months after Yasha Levine and I broke the story linking the rightwing billionaire-PR nexus between FreedomWorks, the Koch family, CNBC, Eric Odom and the Tea Party movement, the Washington Post finally caught up with us. In an article in today’s Sunday edition, the WaPo repeats our allegation that billionaires are posing as “grassroots” groups to oppose anything that isn’t in the billionaires’ interests, including health care reform and mortgage relief for homeowners:
Several of the biggest efforts are led by established veterans in the conservative movement, whose organizations receive heavy funding from industry groups and sympathetic billionaires.
First, there’s our old pals FreedomWorks, whose role in setting up the Tea Party protests we broke in late February. Here is the WaPo’s account of FreedomWorks’ role in the anti-healthcare reform attacks:
One of the most prominent organizers is FreedomWorks, a Washington-based advocacy group headed by former House majority leader Richard Armey (R-Tex.) that is also pushing to defeat Democratic climate-change legislation. FreedomWorks’s major financial backers have included MetLife, Philip Morris and foundations controlled by the archconservative Scaife family, according to tax filings and other records.
Then, there’s Eric Odom, the rightwing TwitterTurf organizer of fake grassroots protests via Twitter and other social networks. We exposed Odom’s ties to FreedomWorks and his dubious role setting up fake-grassroots Tea Party web sites on behalf of billionaires who didn’t want to extend the banking bailout to American homeowners. Here’s the WaPo report:
“I think what we’ve been able to do is reach out to an audience that no one has spoken with before, people who have never been involved,” said Eric Odom, 29, a Chicago Web developer who heads a fledgling protest group called the American Liberty Alliance. “They’ve been pushed to the edge and feel they can no longer stay at home.”
Odom’s fight began last summer with protests in favor of offshore oil drilling. Then came the “tea parties” earlier this year, featuring boisterous rallies against Obama’s stimulus package and automaker bailouts.
Now, drawing on more than 40,000 members via e-mail, Odom tracks hundreds of planned health-care protests by Zip code and uses Facebook and Twitter to link up activists. Earlier this month, he hosted a conference call with more than 200 participants.
And now our good billionaire friends, the Koch family, once again funding it all:
One of the most visible groups is Americans for Prosperity, an anti-tax and anti-regulation group known for opposing smoking restrictions and for trying to cast doubt on global warming. The group launched a project called “Patients First” in June and has been conducting bus tours around the country to drum up opposition to the health-care legislation.
Public records show that the group is heavily funded by the Koch Family Foundations, a major contributor to conservative causes headed by two brothers who control Koch Industries, a Kansas-based oil-and-gas conglomerate. David H. Koch serves as board chairman of the Americans for Prosperity foundation.
What the crack WaPo team failed to do in this article was make the explicit link between FreedomWorks, Eric Odom, and the billionaire sponsors like the Kochs, Scaifes and the rest. Instead, the WaPo article merely hinted at the links using lawyer-approved language to indemnify themselves, calling them a “loose network of activists” in the headline, although if you look at the other WaPo headline to this article at the top of the internet browser bar, it makes the link more direct: “Conservative Mainstays And Fledgling Advocacy Groups Drive Health-Reform Opposition”. The fact is that these groups are all tightly linked but they hide their links using loopholes in advocacy group tax and reporting laws. Nonetheless, these direct links will be exposed again.
On a related note, CNBC was busted by the good folks at Talking Points Memo coordinating the town-hall mob attacks with a Tea Party organizer–confirming again what we reported 5 months ago about the links between CNBC and the Tea Party movement. Here is TPM’s Zachary Taylor’s account:
Leaked Email: CNBC Went To Tea Partiers Looking for Angry Protests
By Zachary Roth – August 12, 2009, 12:21PM
CNBC approached Tea Party activists, looking for angry protest events that would make good television, according to a leaked email from a Tea Party discussion group. And one Tea Bagger responded by flagging an upcoming event that, he said, “should be a riot … literally.”
Yesterday, Tea Party Patriots national coordinator Jenny Beth Martin sent an email, obtained by TPMmuckraker, to a Tea Party google group. Martin told the group: “We have a media request for an event this week that will have lots of energy and lots of anger. This is for CNBC.”
She then asked: “So, where are the big events this week and where can TPP best be represented on the news?”
Later that day, a Tea Bagger named Pat Wayman responded with a suggestion, also obtained by TPMmuckraker: “This one should be a riot! literally….” he wrote.
You can see both the Martin and Wayman emails here.
So, at least in Martin’s telling, the pro-business CNBC was specifically looking for an event with “lots of energy and lots of anger.” (Earlier this year, they just relied on their own correspondents for that.)
It’s taking several months for everyone to come around to our scoop. Which is fine–better late than never. It would be nice, however, if one of these journalists–going back to Paul Krugman and Think Progress‘ reports linking FreedomWorks to the Tea Parties, up to today’s report in the Post– had the decency to cite our scoop.
Mark Ames is the author of Going Postal: Rage, Murder and Rebellion from Reagan’s Workplaces to Clinton’s Columbine.
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