A new academic study confirms that front groups with longstanding ties to the tobacco industry and the billionaire Koch brothers planned the formation of the Tea Party movement more than a decade before it exploded onto the U.S. political scene.
Far from a genuine grassroots uprising, this astroturf effort was curated by wealthy industrialists years in advance. Many of the anti-science operatives who defended cigarettes are currently deploying their tobacco-inspired playbook internationally to evade accountability for the fossil fuel industry’s role in driving climate disruption.
The study, funded by the National Cancer Institute of the National Institute of Health, traces the roots of the Tea Party’s anti-tax movement back to the early 1980s when tobacco companies began to invest in third party groups to fight excise taxes on cigarettes, as well as health studies finding a link between cancer and secondhand cigarette smoke.
Published in the peer-reviewed academic journal, Tobacco Control, the study titled, ‘To quarterback behind the scenes, third party efforts’: the tobacco industry and the Tea Party, is not just an historical account of activities in a bygone era. As senior author, Stanton Glantz, a University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) professor of medicine, writes:
“Nonprofit organizations associated with the Tea Party have longstanding ties to tobacco companies, and continue to advocate on behalf of the tobacco industry’s anti-tax, anti-regulation agenda.”
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 right wing astroturfers are calling in their markers.
After defeating Feingold, Johnson himself has turned to K Street for help - hiring homeland security lobbyist Donald H. Kent Jr. as his chief of staff.
Johnson is not alone: Many incoming GOP lawmakers have hired registered lobbyists as senior aides. Several of the candidates won with strong support from the anti-establishment tea party movement.
These cases illustrate the endurance of Washington’s traditional power structure, even in the wake of an election dominated by insurgent rhetoric. In addition to hiring lobbyists, many newly elected House Republicans have begun holding big-dollar fundraisers in Washington to pay off debts and begin preparing for 2012.
In addition to Johnson, Sen.-elect Mike Lee (Utah) has announced that energy lobbyist Spencer Stokes will be his chief of staff. Tea party favorite Rand Paul (Ky.) has hired anti-union lobbyist Douglas Stafford as his top senatorial aide.
In the House, Rep.-elect Charlie Bass (N.H.) has named food industry lobbyist John W. Billings as his chief of staff. Billings was a senior aide to Bass during an earlier stint on Capitol Hill.
Sen.-elect Chip Cravaack (Minn.) has hired former U.S. senator and former lobbyist Rod Grams as his interim chief of staff, though aides have said the posting is probably not permanent. Grams’s lobbying clients from 2002 to 2006 included 3M, Norfolk Southern and the Financial Services Roundtable, records show.
Other incoming GOP lawmakers who have recruited staff from K Street include Robert Dold (Ill.), Steve Pearce (N.M.) and Jeff Denham (Calif.). John Goodwin of the National Rifle Association, one of Washington’s most powerful lobbying groups, has signed on as chief of staff for Rep.-elect Raul Labrador (Idaho).
Voters in Indiana chose a former lobbyist, Dan Coats, to represent them for a second time in the Senate.
If you got some strange results trying to load LGF a few minutes ago, don’t panic. We’re just tweaking some server settings, and we all know how painful that can be.
Meanwhile, here’s an interesting podcast from Shire Network News, featuring Dr. Rusty: Podcast explains Astroturfing For Fun and Profit.
Now someone at Daily Kos is going through the site and deleting diaries that advocate “astroturfing.”
UPDATE: Within an hour of this post going up, YouTube videos implicating Ethan Winner were yanked, sockpuppet accounts deleted, and more importantly, the Wikipedia entry on David Axelrod began to edit out mentions of his well known astroturfing campaigns. Hmmm, it sounds to me like we’re on to something.
We have backups of all the deleted websites, and will update as soon as we can.
In a monumental post, Rusty Shackleford traces one of the sources of the smears against Sarah Palin and finds some not-too-surprising connections: The Jawa Report: Hope, Change, & Lies: Orchestrated ‘Grassroots’ Smear Campaigns & the People that Run Them.
Our research suggests that a subdivision of one of the largest public relations firms in the world most likely started and promulgated rumors about Sarah Palin that were known to be false. These rumors were spread in a surreptitious manner to avoid exposure.
It is also likely that the PR firm was paid by outside sources to run the smear campaign. While not conclusive, evidence suggests a link to the Barack Obama campaign. Namely:
* Evidence suggests that a YouTube video with false claims about Palin was uploaded and promoted by members of a professional PR firm.
* The family that runs the PR firm has extensive ties to the Democratic Party, the netroots, and are staunch Obama supporters.
* Evidence suggests that the firm engaged in a concerted effort to distribute the video in such a way that it would appear to have gone viral on its own. Yet this effort took place on company time.
* Evidence suggests that these distribution efforts included actions by at least one employee of the firm who is unconnected with the family running the company.
* The voice-over artist used in this supposedly amateur video is a professional.
* This same voice-over artist has worked extensively with David Axelrod’s firm, which has a history of engaging in phony grassroots efforts, otherwise known as “astroturfing.”
* David Axelrod is Barack Obama’s chief media strategist.
* The same voice-over artist has worked directly for the Barack Obama campaign.
Psst. Keep your eye on Jawa Report tonight. Rusty’s breaking a story that might be big.
Ace is dropping hints.