The Tea Potty (pt 6: In the beginning, there was Astro-Turf)


(pt 6: IN THE BEGINNING, THERE WAS ASTRO-TURF (Or was that Astro-Lube?))

Tea Potty groups are organized in various autonomous groups, much like the current KKK. (How’s that for guilt by very loose association? Kinda like the Obama-Ayers connection fantasized by the “wrong-wing Repubs”, ain’t it?)

Some of the groups are national, some are more local in nature. Let’s look at the national groups first.

Americans for Prosperity

The 1st stop in “Kookie Kuntry” is Americans for Prosperity. (I’m doing this alphabetically, in case anyone cares.)

For those of you with long memories, (clear back to the beginning of this post) you’ll probably remember that I stated: “IN THE BEGINNING, THERE WAS ASTRO-TURF (Or was that Astro-Lube?)” Well, this is a prime example of A-T/A-L.

Americans for Prosperity (AFP) is a front for Koch Industries and the Koch Brothers. (You’ll be getting to know them quite well by the end of this series.) It was started by David Koch and Koch Industries board member, Richard Fink.

Among other things, Koch Industries is against labor unions, (You know, the groups that got you the 40 hour week, safer working conditions, sick leave, paid vacations and holidays, along with a lot of other things.) environmental legislation, (clean air, clean water, etc) “Cap & Trade” which would make polluters pay for cleaning up their messes, (K.I. would prefer that you pay for any cleanup out of your taxes, not their profits.) and of course they’re vehemently against doing anything about global warming. (Probably because that would make their oil, gas, coal and chemical interests less profitable.)

In 2010, AFP organized a series of “Defending the American Dream” summits, advertised as populist uprisings against corporate power. (Without, of course, mentioning that they were being funded by one of those corporate powers.)

As David Axelrod (admittedly not a AFP fan) put it: “What they don’t say is that, in part, this is a grassroots citizens’ movement brought to you by a bunch of oil billionaires.”

The summits were used in part as training sessions for TeaPee activists and included the usual “for profit” right wing crazies and political hacks (i.e. Joe the Plumber, Andrew Breitbart, Andrew Napolitano, Sarah Palin, Willard Romney, Rick Perry, Rick Santorum, Bob McDonnell et al.)

Later,  Flint Hills Resources (a Koch Industries division), AFP and California TeaPees joined to fight for passage of Proposition 23. Prop 23 would have suspended AB 32 (aka the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006). The Global Warming Solutions Act established a comprehensive program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in California. This was hurting the wallets of Koch Industries and several other serial polluters.

Koch Industries and their astro-lube group dropped well over $1,000,000 against Prop 23, running ads and organizing. They even set up shop as part of a Republican National Committee (RNC) “Victory Rally” held in Anaheim.

Americans for Prosperity and the CA TeaPees tried to frame it as a jobs issue. (As if they really gave a shit about working stiffs.)

The Tea Party Express and the Tea Party Patriots got themselves involved in the campaign as well, but I’ll deal with them later.

So, the very baggers who say they are opposed to corporate power, ended up doing the grunt work for those same corporations. (And you were wondering why I call these people stupid?)

In the end, despite the vaunted power of the TeaPee and despite the over $12,000,000 spent in support, Prop 23 went down in flames. It lost by a 23% margin.

Freedom Watch

In researching Freedom Watch, I kept coming across Freedom’s Watch (a Republican lobbying group) and Freedom Watch, the ex-Fox program hosted by Andrew “Truther”* Napolitano.

*A truther believes 9/11 was a government plot or cover-up or something nefarious like that They just can’t seem to agree on what.

As much as I dislike “Bush League & the Bozos”, 9/11 was not their doing. (Other than being “asleep at the switch” and ignoring the warnings they were given.) Although, they sure took advantage of it!

Anyway, the research was worth the effort.

Freedom Watch (the wingnut movement?) was founded by Larry Klayman in 2004.

I’m not quite sure if you can really call this a movement.  (In my opinion, it’s really more of a one man TurdPile.) Still, it pretends to play on the national scene, so it get’s included. Plus, Larr is so far out there, I’m not sure if it’s a money scam or if he really is that batshit insane. (I’ll let you decide.) In either case, he’s something else. (Just not sure what.)

Previously (in 1994) Larry had founded Judicial Watch. Judicial Watch is a kick in the nuts all by itself. They’ve sued everybody from the Clinton Administration (18 times), the Senate, the Department of Justice, the Secret Service and the town of Herndon, Virgina. (JW didn’t like the city’s “day laborer” program.)

Klayman left JW in 2003 to run for Senate in Florida. (He lost in the primary, receiving 1.1% of the total votes and coming in 7th out of the 8 candidates .)

Of course, being a person of habit, he turned around and sued Judicial Watch. He’s also sued Facebook (for one billion dollars) for not removing an anti-Israel Page fast enough. He sued the state of Florida on March 20, 2012 to keep Obama off the November ballot. (Have I mentioned that Larr’s a “birther”? Although, even Orley Taitz seems to question whether he’s just in it for the money) He’s represented a homophobic preacher in a suit against Rachel Maddow. (fifty million dollars) And he’s sued is own mother. (Not sure what, or how much, that was about.)

So what’s this “One Man Tea Party”‘s agenda?

Ol’ Larr wants to nuke Iran. He also wants to invade Mexico. He claims “Obama is a traitor!” and wants him tried for treason. And, he hates the Supreme Court (except when it rarely agrees with him).

He says that “Hillary, in concert with Deputy White House Chief of Staff Harold Ickes, Secretary of Commerce Ron Brown, chairmen of the Democratic National Committee Sen. Chris Dodd and Marvin Rosen, Vice President Al Gore and a host of other co-conspirators, traded away U.S. national security secrets and other “favors” to the Chinese for large campaign contributions to the Clinton-Gore 1996 re-election effort”.

And, being an equal opportunity hater, he also thinks Republicans are “Worthless cowards!” The list goes on and on.

But, that’s enough publicity for this asshole. There’s lots more of them to cover.

Freedom Works

FreedomWorks, started as a campaign entitled Citizens for a Sound Economy. CSE was set up by David Koch. (Remember him?) In 2004 it merged with Empower America to form FreedomWorks.

Dick Armey, who had been Chairman of CSE, became Chairman of FreedomWorks.

FreedomWorks was behind the creation of an Astro-Lube website ( which opposed the “Obama Housing Bailout”.

AngryRenter claimed to represent “millions of renters standing up for our rights”, but according to the Wall Street Journal (a Murdoch rag not known for it’s leftist leanings), the site is fake.

This is what the Journal had to say: “Though it purports to be a spontaneous uprising, is actually a product of an inside-the-Beltway conservative advocacy organization led by Dick Armey, the former House majority leader, and publishing magnate Steve Forbes, a fellow Republican. It’s a fake [Grassroots|grass-roots] effort — what politicos call an AstroTurf campaign — that provides a window into the sleight-of-hand ways of Washington.”

FW also opposes Obama’s attempt to reform the healthcare system. (Dick Armey’s lobbying firm represented Bristal-Myers Spuibb along with several other “big pharma” companies.)

They’re against the American Clean Energy and Security Act which aims to create clean energy jobs, save consumer energy costs, increase energy independence, and cut global warming pollution. (In fact, they’re against the whole EPA “thing”.)

And, they’re against smoke-free workplace laws.

(Probably because Philip Morris is one of their major funders.)

But, they’re not against everything:

  • They are for privatizing Social Security. (Financial groups can make a lot more of your money if it’s privatized.);
  • They are for a flat tax. (Give up your mortgage deduction among several middle class tax breaks so Richie Rich can pay even lower taxes.);
  • They are for expanding school vouchers. (So for-profit schools can be even more for-profit.);
  • Oh, and they’re for-profit for themselves. In 2008, for instance, they took in $4,346,030, out of which Dick Armey pocketed  $550,000. (Not bad for an 18 hours a week job.) The Vice President of External Affairs got $146,243. The Vice President of Interactive Technology got $145,157. (And, his is just a 17 hours a week job.)

Tea Party Express

The TeaPee Express seems as much a tour company as an actual movement. It’s main claim to fame are it’s bus caravans. In that way, it’s much like American Energy Alliance’s “American Energy Express” or AFP’s “Patients First Bus Tour”, or their “Hot Air Balloon Tour”. (I can dig the “hot air” part.)

But, they’re also a money player in campaign politics. They backed Scott Brown in Massachusetts ($285,000), Sharon Angle in Nevada ($400,000), Christine O’Donnell in Delaware ($250,000). They also dropped $600,000 on Joe Miller to unseat Lisa Murkowski in the 2010 Alaska primary. (It worked temporarily, but she came back and beat him in the general election by 11,512 votes as a write-in,) They also targeted Bob Bennett in Utah because he wasn’t “conservative enough”. (He only got an 84 rating from the American Conservative Union making him just the 28th most conservative Senator.)

So who are these people? Well, for starters, it was founded by Sal Russo of Russo Marsh & Rogers, Republican consultants out of Sacramento, CA. (So much for a “grass roots movement”.)

Until July, 2010, their spokesman was was Mark Williams. You may remember him from such comments as “Racists have their own movement. It’s called the NAACP.

Or his comment on the Park51 Islamic Cultural Center: “The monument would consist of a Mosque for the worship of the terrorists’ monkey-god.(Btw, Allah is the same “person” as the Hebrew YHVH and the Christian Jehovah; just a different interpretation.)

Or, maybe you remember him from his hilarious (he thought) NAACP letter to Lincoln.

The “letter”was too much, even for the Tea Party Federation. After TPX refused to fire him over it, the Federation fired TPX.

The TeaPee Express’s sponsors include AFP and the Our Country Deserves Better PAC. (Also a Russo Marsh & Rogers operation.) I’ve discussed AFP (aka the Koch Bros.) a few paragraphs ago. For, OCDB PAC, click on the link. TPX also has a lot of help from the “fair & balanced” propaganda mongers at Faux Noise.

Tea Party Nation Corporation

That’s right! It’s the Tea Party Nation Corporation! At least they’re honest about it. No phony shit about “grass-roots”.

The TPN was created by Judson Phillips in 2009. (More on Judson in a couple of paragraphs.)

On it’s home page, it describes itself thusly: “Tea Party Nation is a user-driven
 group (No! It’s a corporation.) of like-minded (i.e. low I.Q.) people who desire our God-given individual
 freedoms (An odd statement. If you read the bible, “God” usually comes down against individual freedoms.) written out by the Founding Fathers. (For instance, the vote should be limited to white property owning males.) We believe in Limited 
Government, (Things like clean air laws and food inspectors just get in the way.) Free Speech, (Unless we don’t like what you’re saying.) the 2nd Amendment (Guns, guns, guns, we love our guns.), our Military (Even bigger guns.), Secure 
Borders (We hate Mexicans too.) and our Country (At least our fantasy version of it.).”

Ok, obviously the snarks are mine and not on their home page. I just wanted to provide a little “code word” translation so you’d know what they’re really talking about.

What they seem to be is a corporate Glenn “Conspiracies-R-Us” Beck. For instance:

In the midst of the biggest economic downturn since the Great Depression, TPN urged businesses to “not hire a single person” to protest the Obama administration’s supposed “war against business and my country.” They said that business owners should stop hiring new employees in order to stand up to “this new dictator,” the “global Progressive socialist movement,” Hollywood, the media and Occupy Wall Street.

Of course, this is all a reflection of the Judson Philips Version of reality.

At a rally in Thiensville, Wisconsin Juddy said “I will tell you ladies and gentlemen, I detest and despise everything the left stands for. How anybody can endorse and embrace an ideology that has killed a billion people in the last century is beyond me.”

He says “Obama and his regime are not real Americans“.

He claims Obama to sell America to China.”

He calls Democrats “members of the Party of Treason” and says “liberals love dictatorships“.

He suggests Obama Only Killed Bin Laden To Help His Reelection

He blamed the Gabby Giffords shooting on “a leftist lunatic“.

He’s said that he wants to get rid of the Methodist Church. He says that he used to be a member, but left because it’s “the first Church of Karl Marx,” and “little more than the “religious” arm of socialism.” “The Methodist church is pro-illegal immigration. They have been in the bag for socialist health care, going as far as sending out emails to their membership “debunking” the myths of Obamacare. In short, if you hate America, you have a great future in the Methodist church.”

TPN’s main claim to fame (other than their nuttiness) is that they organized the National Tea Party Convention in 2010. (Btw, they did it “for-profit”. The tickets cost $549 a pop.)

The convention was not without it’s controversies (besides the money-grubbing). The Tea Party Patriots advised members not to participate. (a conservative blog) described the convention as “scammy”. One of the co-sponsors (The American Liberty Alliance) withdrew its support. Michelle Bachman even backed out.

Not to worry. Sister Sarah showed up (for $100,000).

They tried a follow-up convention in “Sin City” (aka Las Vegas) in July of 2011. It was first postponed until October and then cancelled. The Venetian Casino ended up suing them for $642,144 in unpaid bills.


Tea Party Patriots Inc.

And then we come to the Tea Potty Patriots, which seems to exist mainly as a website.

They claim to “provide logistical, educational, networking and other support” to local Tea Potty groups. They were the guiding force behind the 2009 “spontaneous” anti-health care protests at Democratic town halls. Of course, they had a lot of help from “interested parties“.

On the Pats’ “about” page it states that: “Tea Party Patriots is 100% grassroots, 100% of the time.(Except that it isn’t!) They lie, but that’s nothing unusual. TeaPee groups do it all the time and there are several lies on this page alone.

“The Tea Party Patriots’ mission is to restore America’s founding principles of Fiscal Responsibility, Constitutionally Limited Government and Free Markets.” (As well as a few other goals better left unstated.) I‘ll be taking a closer look at those other goals next episode when I examine some of their member units. (i.e. local Tea Potties)

The TeaPeePee was supposedly founded by Jenny Beth Martin, Mark Meckler, and Amy Kremer in March 2009.

Jenny Beth, (a former Republican consultant) claims she got the idea of forming the Pats after watching Rick Santelli’s tirade (see Tea Potty pt 5) on CNBC.

Jenny Beth accuses the government of being fiscally irresponsible. I have to admit she knows something about fiscal irresponsibility. Jenny and hubby declared bankruptcy owing $680,000 including $510,000 to the IRS.

Mark is a former punk rock DJ turned lawyer turned coffeehouse owner turned ski operations equipment manufacturer turned Herbalife “Distributor” turned internet huckster.

Sadly (for him, I guess) Mark is no longer with the Tea Potty Pat’s. The excuse for his leaving was a disagreement over buddying up with the GOP. At first I thought the real reason was that he was busted on a felony gun rap. But after reflecting a bit, I realized that couldn’t be it because baggers don’t really cotton to gun laws anyway.

Amy is now gone as well. After she also joined the Tea Potty Express, the Pats kicked her out.

This is where it gets a bit confusing. The TeaPeePee said they caned her because the TeaPeeEx is too closely tied to the GOP. Mark says he left because the TeaPeePee was getting too close to the GOP. And of course, Jenny Beth used(?) to be a Republican consultant.

So which is it? (a) Was Amy too Repub for Jenny Beth, or (b) was Jenny Beth too Repub for Mark? Or (c) is all this a bunch of bullshit anyway? (Inquiring minds want to know.)

The correct answer for the above question is (c)

You don’t believe me? Name any Tea Potty candidate that’s running as a Democrat. Go ahead. Name one! Google “2012 Democratic tea party candidates”. See if you can find any. I sure as hell couldn’t! Now google “2012 Republican tea party candidates”.

I rest my case.

Oh btw, the Pats are suing Amy and Amy is suing the Pats. (Aren’t family fights fun and informative to watch?)

The sharp-eyed among you may have noticed that I said these three supposedly founded the TeaPeePee.

There’s more than a little conjecture that the temporary trio were basically fronts for Freedom Works. (David Koch, Dick Armey and the gang)  I’ve snooped around and although I haven’t found any smoking guns, I’ve found some that had been fired recently.

For instance, there was a leaked June, 2009 discussion about changing the TeaPeePee logo in which Amy said:

“Hey All, Not to be a pain, but this is not Tea Party Patriots logo to change. This is FreedomWorks’ logo and they have said they are keeping the original design. I do not know why this discussion is continuing.

If anyone feels that the logo needs to be changed, then you need to contact FreedomWorks directly. TPP (Jenny Beth) has already contacted them and shared their response with everyone.

TPP is not going to contact them again about the issue.”

Oh, and guess who controls the TeaPeePee’s mailing list -Tom Gaitens, (a FreedomWorks staffer).

I may be wrong, but it seems to that if you can dictate that a group can’t change a logo design and you control their membership listserv (mailing list), you probably pretty much control the group.

Ok, that’s it for this episode. There’s a lot more shit to expose and I really wanted to get to the local Potties this time around.  But even after splitting this post, I’m still up to 3300 words. So, stay tuned boys and girls, I’ll try to wrap up this saga next time when I’ll look at the local yokels, the movers & takers and the clowns & commodians of the movement.

I’d also like to take a look at where all the money comes from (and goes to), but damn are these groups secretive about who’s financing all this bullshit. (Although the name “Koch” keeps coming up.)


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