Yesterday, Think Progress reported on Republican lawmakers planning to speak at anti-Obama "tea party" protests taking place nationwide on April 15. Last night, Eric Odom of the DontGo website — one of the organizers of the protests — wrote a blog post stressing that these protests are displays of "regular American[s] in protest of government spending and extreme taxation," rather than something affiliated with a political party or special interest agenda.
Today on Fox News — which has actively been promoting the protests — Glenn Beck pushed the tea party talking points, similarly claiming that the protests aren't "coordinated" and are fully organized by "regular" people. Watch it:
Despite these attempts to make the "movement" appear organic, the principle organizers of the local events are actually the lobbyist-run think tanks Americans for Prosperity and Freedom Works. The two groups are heavily staffed and well funded, and are providing all the logistical and public relations work necessary for planning coast-to-coast protests:
- Freedom Works staffers coordinate conference calls among protesters, contacting conservative activists to give them "sign ideas, sample press releases, and a map of events around the country."
- Freedom Works staffers apparently moved to "take over" the planning of local events in Florida.
- Freedom Works provides how-to guides for delivering a "clear message" to the public and media.
- Freedom Works has several domain addresses — some of them made to look like they were set up by amateurs — to promote the protests.
- Americans for Prosperity is writing press releases and planning the events in New Jersey, Arizona, New Hampshire, Missouri, Kansas, and several other states.
This type of corporate 'astroturfing' is nothing new to either organization. While working to promote Social Security privatization, Freedom Works was caught planting one of its operatives as a "single mom" to ask questions to President Bush in a town hall on the subject. Last year, the Wall Street Journal exposed Freedom Works for similarly building "amateur-looking" websites to promote the lobbying interests of Dick Armey, the former Republican Majority Leader who now leads Freedom Works and is a lobbyist for the firm DLA Piper.
Americans for Prosperity is run by Tim Phillips, who was Ralph Reed's former partner in the lobbying firm Century Strategies. The group is funded by Koch family foundations — a family whose wealth is derived from the oil industry. Indeed Americans for Prosperity has coordinated pro-drilling 'grassroots' events around the country.
UpdateThis afternoon, former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich, leader of the corporate-funded American Solutions for Winning the Futures (ASWF), blasted an e-mail to his supporters with a reminder to attend the protests, along with a "Toolkit" of talking points. Gingrich's ASWF is funded by polluters and helped orchestrate the "Drill Here, Drill Now" campaign last summer. ASWF has been an official "partner" in the tea party effort since at least March.