tea party

Tea Party ties to Koch Brothers Ignored by Media in IRS Scandal

10 out of 11 Tea Party spokespeople quoted in major news outlets regarding the IRS scandal have ties to the Koch funded Americans for Prosperity.

The Internal Revenue Service, not the most popular government agency to begin with, has been in the midst of a scatological squall for the past 3 weeks over their treatment of tea party groups. According to an agency spokesperson, organizations garnered additional scrutiny of their applications for non-profit status for having “Tea Party, Patriot, or 9/12” in the application materials. Non-profit status is granted by the IRS for “social welfare organizations” and federal law puts legal limits to the amount of overtly political things you can do if you are applying to be a non-profit, and thus tax-exempt.

In the coverage of this story, now a scandal, there are a couple of important facts that some of the reporting has missed.

First is the fact that the tea party is a creation of enterprising political and public relations professionals, constructed to accomplish a political purpose. A study published in the Tobacco Control Journal actually traced the origins of the tea party to “free-market” groups founded by tobacco corporations and the oil industry billionaires David and Charles Koch.

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="738"]http://tobaccocontrol.bmj.com/content/early/2013/02/20/tobaccocontrol-2012-050815/F1.large.jpg This map, created by researchers at UC San Francisco, shows the historical links between tobacco corporations, moneyed interests like the Koch brothers, and the modern tea party.[/caption]

According to researchers at UC San Francisco:

“Rather than being a grassroots movement that spontaneously developed in 2009, the Tea Party organizations have had connections to the tobacco companies since the 1980s. The cigarette companies funded and worked through Citizens for a Sound Economy (CSE), the predecessor of Tea Party organizations, Americans for Prosperity and FreedomWorks, to accomplish their economic and political agenda.”

Citizens for a Sound Economy (CSE), was founded in 1984 by the Koch brothers.

There is even a tea party website registered to a Koch group in 2005, long before the conservative outcry we now know as the tea party began.

The second thing to keep in mind is that the tea party is still controlled by enterprising political and public relations professionals, funded by the David and Charles Koch. In coverage of the IRS scandal, there were 11 people who were involved in tea party groups quoted about IRS scrutiny. Of those 11, 10 have substantial ties to Americans for Prosperity (AFP). As you can see from the chart above, AFP (also founded and funded by the Kochs), is the direct descendent of CSE - one of the groups who registered a tea party site in 2005. Of those 10 with ties to AFP, 2 actually work for the organization currently. All 10 have received aid from AFP which included help with messaging and communication.

The tea party groups that were scrutinized by the IRS are not just separate grassroots citizen groups unfairly accused of political shenanigans, as the Koch associated spokespeople in the media would have you believe. They are one part of a wider political strategy, funded and managed by a very wealthy few. they have uniform and coordinated messages, such as attacking climate science and opposing environmental regulations.

As this IRS scandal progresses, it is important to keep in mind that many of the tea party groups in question deserve to have their non-profit, tax-exempt status questioned. The New York Times has already found that several tea party groups investigated by the IRS were engaged in activities that are illegal for tax exempt groups.

For the record, Greenpeace and Rainforest Action Network experienced expensive and debilitating audits by the IRS during George W Bush’s presidency. Those audits were most likely at the behest of an Exxon funded front group.

Tea Party Spokespeople with ties to Americans For Prosperity (AFP)

Tom Zawistowski: quoted in the Wall Street Journal and other sources

Margie Dresher: Quoted by ABC news

  • Currently works for AFP

Toby Marie Walker: Quoted by Business Insider

  • earned the "Watchdog of the Month" award in March and the “Tea Party Leader of the Year -2010” from Americans for Prosperity

Jennifer Stefano: Quoted by ABC news

Carol Waddell: Quoted by ABC news

Tim Savaglio: Quoted by the Associated Press

Jaime Radtke: Quoted in ABQ Journal, Newsday

Larry Norvig: Quoted by CNN

  • Norvig's tea party group is part of AFP campaigns
  • Norvig's tea party group in Virginia runs AFP funded campaigns and displays AFP messaging prominently on their website

Tim Curtis: Quoted by CNN

Susan McLaughlin: Quoted in Reuters

  • AFP ran tactics and messaging strategy training for Mclaughlin's group in Liberty Township, Ohio.
  • McLaughlin served on the Romney campaign's Conservative Leadership Coalition with representatives from AFP

Jay Devereaux: Quoted by Fox News

  • The only tea party spokesman quoted in the media with no obvious ties to AFP

 

 

Mercenary Admen: 5 ways one PR group has hijacked politics for corporate gain

Most people have never heard of the DC lobbying and public relations firm DCI Group. When DCI Group does it’s job right, most people never do. That’s because DCI is a prime example what a highly effective, professional, and well-funded Public Relations firm can do. Are you a cigarette company that wants grassroots support for cigarette smoking? DCI can do that. Are you an Indonesian timber conglomerate that wants the “freedom” to sell illegal rainforest pulp? DCI can enlist thousands of liberty-lovin Americans to protect that freedom. Do you want people mobilized, in the streets, demanding that the government relax pollution laws and other regulations on your coal or oil corporation? DCI actually did that. It was called the Tea party.

CASE STUDIES

1 DCI Group and Tobacco

Addictive, deadly, and rich, the tobacco industry is the perfect client for a crack PR team like DCI Group.

During the early days of tobacco regulation in the 1980’s, tobacco corporations were spending millions of dollars to convince Americans that tobacco really wasn’t that bad for them, and regulating tobacco was an infringement on the god given rights of every American.

Masterminding that message was DCI Groups founders, Doug Goodyear and Tom Synhorst, who were two of the tobacco PR men involved in the early days of “tobacco control opposition.”

Using a strategy DCI Group would repeat and hone in the coming decades, PR admen like Goodyear and Synhorst pioneered couching a pro-corporate agenda, in this case tobacco’s, in terms of rights, liberties and freedoms. They started “smokers rights groups,” whose anti-regulatory, pro-business bent is right at home in today’s Tea Party messaging. DCI Group has maintained those close ties through the years, and currently lobby for Altria (Philip Morris).

2 DCI Group and the start of the Tea Party

A recently released academic study has traced the origins of the Tea Party back to its roots. The popular creation myth of the Tea Party, in which a news anchor, fed up with the federal governments creeping socialism demands an uprising - a la Network - is only part of the story. In fact, PR agencies working for tobacco, and oil, and coal corporations had been pushing for a Tea Party for decades, and had even registered the websites and domain names under the name Tea Party, 6 years before president Obama’s election.

From the study:

“Rather than being a grassroots movement that spontaneously developed in 2009, the Tea Party organizations have had connections to the tobacco companies since the 1980s. The cigarette companies funded and worked through Citizens for a Sound Economy (CSE), the predecessor of Tea Party organizations, Americans for Prosperity and FreedomWorks, to accomplish their economic and political agenda.”

With the help of the oil billionaire Koch Brothers, DCI Group partner Dan Combs built “Citizens for a Sound Economy,”(CSE) during the 1990’s, right as the tobacco industry was busted for lying about the dangers of smoking. CSE’s self-described mission was "to fight for less government, lower taxes, and less regulation," which included opposing tobacco laws and pollution regulation on the oil industry.

3 DCI Group and Americans For Prosperity/ Freedomworks

In 2004, Citizens for a Sound Economy (CSE) split like a procreative amoebae into Americans for Prosperity and Freedomworks, the two largest and most powerful Tea Party organizations. AfP and Freedomworks employ hundreds of Tea Party organizers all over the country, and pay for rallies, promotional materials, and conventions.

DCI Group, and it’s alias FLS Connect, are currently the highest paid consultants for AFP and Freedomworks. DCI carefully crafts messaging for the Tea Party behemoths, and does extensive polling to make sure their pro-corporate, free-market PR is hitting the mark. Just as they directed anti-tax advocates to do big-tobacco and big-oil’s work through Citizens for a Sound Economy, DCI Group is using the Tea Party in the service of corporate America.

4 DCI Group and Climate Change Denial

DCI Group was a pioneer of brazen denial of scientific evidence while working for tobacco giants. They applied the same technique of creating fake science, misrepresenting impacts, and attacking legitimate scientists to their campaign denying the existence of climate change.

At the behest of major oil corporation and DCI Group client ExxonMobil, DCI became a hotbed of climate change science attacks, training and funding outspoken climate change deniers. DCI Group created and ran Tech Central Station, a platform for climate science denial. Tech Central Station was so egregiously disingenuous about climate science that a Senatorial committee asked ExxonMobil to stop funding it, which Exxon did in 2006.

DCI Group's Andrea Saul

However, a slap from the Senate did not stop DCI Group from continuing to specialize in anti-climate science messaging. DCI Group continues to hire and train professional climate change deniers. One such DCI Group alumnus, Andrea Saul, became candidate Mitt Romney’s press secretary during the 2012 presidential election, and helped push Romney’s anti-climate science positions. While at DCI, she wrote and distributed pres releases attacking legitimate climate science. Another DCI Group alumnus, Bob Paduchik, is now a Vice President of the coal front group called Americans for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE).

5 DCI Group and Foreign Criminal Entities

DCI specializes in manipulating America’s white, conservative class, using loaded buzzwords like “freedom,” and “liberty,” and couching a corporate agenda of reduced regulation as “small government.” As it turns out, this type of manipulation is an old shtick, predating the Tea Party.

And DCI Group does this for many clients, including an Indonesian timber company responsible for illegal deforestation of rainforests in southeast Asia. DCI helped create a front group for Asia Pulp and Paper, which has destroyed millions of miles of endangered rainforest in Indonesia. They found a self described “tea party patriot” to lead the effort, who made tea party themed speeches that advocated for the Indonesian paper corporation, APP.

Chart Source: New York Times

Study: Koch and Tobacco behind Birth of Tea Party

Americans for Prosperity is the Koch-controlled half of what formerly was known as Citizens for a Sound Economy.

A new report in the peer-reviewed academic journal Tobacco Control offers a deeper look at the history of the Tea Party. Commonly thought to be a grassroots uprising spurred by a TV rant in 2009, the report documents how tobacco companies and a front group established by Charles and David Koch were attempting to begin the revolt years earlier.

The study, titled "‘To quarterback behind the scenes, third-party efforts’: the tobacco industry and the Tea Party," shows that the Koch front, Citizens for a Sound Economy, set up a website in 2002 for the "U.S. Tea Party." Here is an archived image from that website, which is now owned by FreedomWorks.

As previously reported by DeSmogBlog's Brendan DeMelle on Huffington Post:

The two main organizations identified in the UCSF Quarterback study are Americans for Prosperity and Freedomworks. Both groups are now "supporting the tobacco companies' political agenda by mobilizing local Tea Party opposition to tobacco taxes and smoke-free laws." Freedomworks and Americans for Prosperity were once a single organization called Citizens for a Sound Economy (CSE). CSE was founded in 1984 by the infamous Koch Brothers, David and Charles Koch, and received over $5.3 million from tobacco companies, mainly Philip Morris, between 1991 and 2004.

The ties between the Koch brothers' Citizens for a Sound Economy and tobacco are extensive, with Charles Koch's right hand man, Richard Fink, getting direct praise from the Tobacco Institute for his leadership in urging the U.S. Surgeon General to avoid foreign trade restrictions on tobacco products. The Checks and Balances Project has a report on Koch Industries executive Richard Fink and tobacco:

In 1988, Fink wrote to the Surgeon General to express concern about the Interagency Committee on Smoking and Health’s inquiries into the subject of tobacco and U.S. trade policy. He warned that it would be unwise to suggest any foreign trade barriers, ending, “we hope that you will keep these thoughts in mind as your department discusses U.S. trade policy toward tobacco.” This letter was tracked down by the Checks & Balances Project in the Tobacco Archives, with an addendum from Samuel Chilcote – President of The Tobacco Institute – urging others to follow Fink’s lead and support.

For Fink’s efforts, Chilcote thanked Fink in a hand-signed letter on behalf of the tobacco industry, writing, “When an advisory body such as the Interagency Committee on Smoking and Health ventures into the field of U.S. trade policy, it is vitally important that the public record be balanced by the sound economic views and sensible business judgments that you provided.”

In summarizing the significance of the Koch-Tobacco-Tea Party insight from the report, DeSmogBlog's DeMelle hits the nail on the head:

Finally, this report might serve as a wake-up call to some people in the Tea Party itself, who would find it a little disturbing that the "grassroots" movement they are so emotionally attached to, is in fact a pawn created by billionaires and large corporations with little interest in fighting for the rights of the common person, but instead using the common person to fight for their own unfettered profits.

Americans for Prosperity and FreedomWorks have been successful in co-opting the Tea Party, directing millions in corporate and wealthy donor funding to steer the "grassroots" agenda of Tea Party activists.

Grassroots? Try astroturf.

Jim DeMint and Heritage Foundation Awash in Koch Brother Money

Senator Jim DeMint will lead the Heritage Foundation. Photo: Washington Post

Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC) has announced his departure from the U.S. Senate in order to become head of the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank with notable support from fossil fuel interests like the Koch brothers ($2.73 million, 2005-2010) and ExxonMobil ($250,000, 2005-2010).

Both Exxon and the Kochs are known for their heavy financial support to organizations that promote doubt over climate science, peddle fossil fuel use and attack clean energy on precedent. The Heritage Foundation has played a consistent role in promoting the oil ideology--see DeSmog, Greenpeace, ExxonSecrets and SourceWatch for documentation.

Senator DeMint, commonly associated with the tea party, has been a particular favorite of the Charles Koch and David Koch. In the 2010 election, David, Charles and Elizabeth Koch (married to Charles) funneled a collective $12,000 to Senator DeMint's election campaign committee, on top of a $10,000 contribution from Koch Industries. Only a handful of politicians were handpicked by the Kochs in the 2010 election for direct contributions--see p.22 of Koch Industries: Still Fueling Climate Denial).

Here is a breakdown of total donations from the Koch family members and Koch Industries to Sen. DeMint and his associated leadership PACs (the Senate Conservatives Fund and MINT PAC) during DeMint's Senate career. Each donation was the maximum legal contribution limit.

Total Koch money to Senator Jim DeMint, 2004-2012: $86,000

 

2011-2012: Sen. DeMint departs from the U.S. Senate after 2012

  • $15,000 from Koch PAC to DeMint's Senate Conservatives Fund (OpenSecrets)

2009-2010: Jim DeMint was re-elected to the U.S. Senate in 2010

  • $10,000 from Koch PAC to DeMint's campaign (OpenSecrets)
  • $10,000 from Koch PAC to DeMint's MINT PAC
  • $5,000 from Koch PAC to DeMint's Senate Conservatives Fund

2007-2008: Sen. DeMint was not up for election

2005-2006: Sen. DeMint first term began in January, 2005

2003-2004: Jim DeMint was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2004

  • $10,000 from Koch PAC to DeMint's campaign (OpenSecrets)
  • $2,000 from David Koch to DeMint's campaign
  • $2,000 from Julia Koch to DeMint's campaign

Foreign Interests Hijack Tea Party with Help from a Professional Corporate Shill

Andrew Langer

Andrew Langer is a man who knows how to brew a Tea Party, or so he would have you believe.  He is the president of the Institute for Liberty, a right-wing think tank which published a guide on the subject.  Yet Langer’s real expertise isn’t in the brewing of the tea; it’s in the selling of the movement.  A recent New York Times article has revealed that Mr. Langer is far from a folksy tea party organizer who sticks up for the average American consumer.  In fact he is a professional bloviator with a history of work with corporate funded anti-regulatory front groups

One of his most recent projects, and the one that earned him attention from the Times, is called the Consumers Alliance for Global Prosperity.

Begun in August of 2010, the Consumers Alliance for Global Prosperity is an attempt to use the tea party movement to derail sustainable forestry in one of the world’s most endangered rainforest - for the benefit of an Asian paper corporation.  Here is an example of the destructive practices the Consumers Alliance supports:

 

Langer's  pro-deforestation campaign, called “Pulp Wars,”  attacks environmental groups, labor unions, and American businesses, accusing them of conspiring to keep Indonesians poor and American retail prices high.  The mission of Pulp Wars, according to a facebook page for the group, is to fight the “Empires of Collusion,” defined as “greedy corporations, scheming union bosses and radical environmentalists -- that are working hard to restrict free trade in an effort to make countless everyday products more expensive for consumers.”  According to CAGP, the empire includes such unlikely colluders as Greenpeace, WWF, and Staples. 

In spite of the absurdity of the claims, Pulp Wars is not the only place they are made.  Asia Pulp & Paper, a massive corporation responsible for clear cutting the Paradise Rainforest, made the exact same claims about in a report called “Green Protectionism.”  Tellingly, APP’s report came out three days before Langer released the Pulp Wars version.  The Times writes: 

“Three days later, Mr. Langer came out with his own detailed report that hewed to these same themes, and put up a Web site, pulpwars.com, to promote it. Titled “Empires of Collusion,” it reads like a brief for Asia Pulp & Paper and has been followed by reports on subjects like palm oil and American paper industry subsidies that are important to Asia Pulp & Paper and its parent company, Sinar Mas. He has worked these issues into podcasts, Facebook postings and opinion columns, often with a folksy Tea Party-friendly twist...  Although some of his material cites Asia Pulp & Paper, Mr. Langer insists that he had not even heard of the company.”

In addition to suspiciously similar reports, Langer is linked to other people and groups who have run public relations campaigns for Asia Pulp and Paper, as this graphic by the New York Times shows.

Langer and his institute are a perfect example of how professional apologists masquerade as tea party populists, couching pro-corporate propaganda in democratic language.  But he is not the biggest or the baddest in the corporate shill industry.  Groups like the Koch funded American’s for Prosperity and Dick Armey’s Freedomworks (both of whom Langer has worked closely with), are much better funded, yet their funding and motives are equally obscure. As Greenpeace’s Scott Paul says: “If you can spend as much money as you want and remain anonymous, then it doesn’t matter if you’re an overseas company or the Koch brothers, you pay the same network of anti-regulatory front groups.”

Rachel Maddow: “Oil companies bus in workers for pathetic PR stunt in Ohio.”

Rachel Maddow recently revisited two of her favorite targets: Charles and David Koch.  Maddow discusses David Koch's attempt to run for office (and the gold coins he minted featuring his own face), the funding of Proposition 23 by Koch subsidiary Flint Hills Resources, and the efforts to organize "Rally for Jobs" events by groups receiving Koch money. 

The 2010 Rally for Jobs is this years version of the American Petroleum Institute "Energy Citizens" rallies held last summer, which a leaked letter written by CEO Jack Gerard revealed to be covered in oil money.  Like last summer, oil companies actually bussed employees to attend the rallies, as Maddow reports.

Rachel Maddow has done several previous spotlights on the Koch brothers, including this look at how the Kochs fund the climate denial machine, and a close investigation of Koch Industries' ties to the tea party.

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