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Tea Party Madness: It's All a Sham

And as much as the GOP would like to bury the truth, the truth always rises to the surface, to wit this report published by Playboy Magazine:

... CNBC correspondent Rick Santelli rocketed from being a little-known second-string correspondent to a populist hero of the disenfranchised, a 21st-century Samuel Adams, the leader and symbol of the downtrodden American masses suffering under the onslaught of 21st century socialism and big government. Santelli's "rant" last-week calling for a "Chicago Tea Party" to protest President Obama's plans to help distressed American homeowners rapidly spread across the blogosphere and shot right up into White House spokesman Robert Gibbs' craw, whose smackdown during a press conference was later characterized by Santelli as "a threat" from the White House. A nationwide "tea party" grassroots Internet protest movement has sprung up seemingly spontaneously, all inspired by Santelli, with rallies planned today in cities from coast to coast to protest against Obama's economic policies.

But was Santelli's rant really so spontaneous? How did a minor-league TV figure, whose contract with CNBC is due this summer, get so quickly launched into a nationwide rightwing blog sensation? Why were there so many sites and organizations online and live within minutes or hours after his rant, leading to a nationwide protest just a week after his rant?

What hasn't been reported until now is evidence linking Santelli's "tea party" rant with some very familiar names in the Republican rightwing machine, from PR operatives who specialize in imitation-grassroots PR campaigns (called "astroturfing") to bigwig politicians and notorious billionaire funders. As veteran Russia reporters, both of us spent years watching the Kremlin use fake grassroots movements to influence and control the political landscape. To us, the uncanny speed and direction the movement took and the players involved in promoting it had a strangely forced quality to it. If it seemed scripted, that's because it was.

What we discovered is that Santelli's "rant" was not at all spontaneous as his alleged fans claim, but rather it was a carefully-planned trigger for the anti-Obama campaign. In PR terms, his February 19th call for a "Chicago Tea Party" was the launch event of a carefully organized and sophisticated PR campaign, one in which Santelli served as a frontman, using the CNBC airwaves for publicity, for the some of the craziest and sleaziest rightwing oligarch clans this country has ever produced. Namely, the Koch family, the multibilllionaire owners of the largest private corporation in America, and funders of scores of rightwing thinktanks and advocacy groups, from the Cato Institute and Reason Magazine to FreedomWorks. The scion of the Koch family, Fred Koch, was a co-founder of the notorious extremist-rightwing John Birch Society.

As you read this, Big Business is pouring tens of millions of dollars into their media machines in order to destroy just about every economic campaign promise Obama has made, as reported recently in the Wall Street Journal. At stake isn't the little guy's fight against big government, as Santelli and his bot-supporters claim, but rather the "upper 2 percent"'s war to protect their wealth from the Obama Adminstration's economic plans. When this Santelli "grassroots" campaign is peeled open, what's revealed is a glimpse of what is ahead and what is bound to be a hallmark of his presidency.

Let's go back to February 19th: Rick Santelli, live on CNBC, standing in the middle of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, launches into an attack on the just-announced $300 billion slated to stem rate of home foreclosures: "The government is promoting bad behavior! Do we really want to subsidize the losers' mortgages?! This is America! We're thinking of having a Chicago tea party in July, all you capitalists who want to come down to Lake Michigan, I'm gonna start organizing."

Almost immediately, the clip and the unlikely "Chicago tea party" quote buried in the middle of the segment, zoomed across a well-worn path to headline fame in the Republican echo chamber, including red-alert headlines on Drudge.

The rightwing bogosphere is - as usual - marching in lockstep with the red political machine that continues to lie and deceive the American populace in an attempt regain political power lost in the 2006 and 2008 election. They want you to believe that the "Tea Party" is is a grassroots effort.

It' isn't - it's machine politics at its finest.

And Santelli's now famous rant was all part of the carefully planed scam that was part of the plan. Corporate America, and the rich CEOs that run these corporations, are using the American public as puppets.

And there's proof:

Within hours of Santelli's rant, a website called ChicagoTeaParty.com sprang to life. Essentially inactive until that day, it now featured a YouTube video of Santelli's "tea party" rant and billed itself as the official home of the Chicago Tea Party. The domain was registered in August, 2008 by Zack Christenson, a dweeby Twitter Republican and producer for a popular Chicago rightwing radio host Milt Rosenberg--a familiar name to Obama campaign people. Last August, Rosenberg, who looks like Martin Short's Irving Cohen character, caused an outcry when he interviewed Stanley Kurtz, the conservative writer who first "exposed" a personal link between Obama and former Weather Undergound leader Bill Ayers. As a result of Rosenberg's radio interview, the Ayers story was given a major push through the Republican media echo chamber, culminating in Sarah Palin's accusation that Obama was "palling around with terrorists." That Rosenberg's producer owns the "chicagoteaparty.com" site is already weird--but what's even stranger is that he first bought the domain last August, right around the time of Rosenburg's launch of the "Obama is a terrorist" campaign. It's as if they held this "Chicago tea party" campaign in reserve, like a sleeper-site. Which is exactly what it was.

ChicagoTeaParty.com was just one part of a larger network of Republican sleeper-cell-blogs set up over the course of the past few months, all of them tied to a shady rightwing advocacy group coincidentally named the "Sam Adams Alliance," whose backers have until now been kept hidden from public. Cached google records that we discovered show that the Sam Adams Alliance took pains to scrub its deep links to the Koch family money as well as the fake-grassroots "tea party" protests going on today. All of these roads ultimately lead back to a more notorious rightwing advocacy group, FreedomWorks, a powerful PR organization headed by former Republican House Majority leader Dick Armey and funded by Koch money.

On the same day as Santelli's rant, February 19, another site called Officialchicagoteaparty.com went live. This site was registered to Eric Odom, who turned out to be a veteran Republican new media operative specializing in imitation-grassroots PR campaigns. Last summer, Odom organized a twitter-led campaign centered around DontGo.com to pressure Congress and Nancy Pelosi to pass the offshore oil drilling bill, something that would greatly benefit Koch Industries, a major player in oil and gas. Now, six months later, Odom's DontGo movement was resurrected to play a central role in promoting the "tea party" movement.

Up until last month, Odom was officially listed as the "new media coordinator" for the Sam Adams Alliance, a well-funded libertarian activist organization based in Chicago that was set up only recently. Samuel Adams the historical figure was famous for inspiring and leading the Boston Tea Party--so when the PR people from the Chicago-based Sam Adams Alliance abruptly leave in order to run Santelli's "Chicago Tea Party," you know it wasn't spontaneous. Odom certainly doesn't want people to know about the link: his name was scrubbed from the Sam Adams Alliance website recently, strongly suggesting that they wanted to cover their tracks. Thanks to google caching, you can see the SAA's before-after scrubbing.

Even the Sam Adams' January 31 announcement that Odom's fake-grassroots group was "no longer sponsored by the Alliance" was shortly afterwards scrubbed.

But it's the Alliance's scrubbing of their link to Koch that is most telling. A cached page, erased on February 16, just three days before Santelli's rant, shows that the Alliance also wanted to cover up its ties to the Koch family. The missing link was an announcement that students interested in applying for internships to the Sam Adams Alliance could also apply through the "Charles G. Koch Summer Fellow Program" through the Institute for Humane Studies, a Koch-funded rightwing institute designed to scout and nurture future leaders of corporate libertarian ideology. The top two board directors at the Sam Adams Alliance include two figures with deep ties to Koch-funded programs: Eric O'Keefe, who previously served in Koch's Institute for Humane Studies and the Club For Growth; and Joseph Lehman, a former communications VP at Koch's Cato Institute.

All of these are ultimately linked up to Koch's Freedom Works mega-beast. Freedomworks.org has drawn fire in the past for using fake grassroots internet campaigns, called "astroturfing," to push for pet Koch projects such as privatizing social security. A New York Times investigation in 2005 revealed that a "regular single mom" paraded by Bush's White House to advocate for privatizing social security was in fact FreedomWorks' Iowa state director. The woman, Sandra Jacques, also fronted another Iowa fake-grassroots group called "For Our Grandchildren," even though privatizing social security was really "For Koch And Wall Street Fat Cats."

If you log into FreedomWorks.org today, its home page features a large photo of Rick Santelli pointing at the viewer like Uncle Sam, with the words: "Are you with Rick? We Are. Click here to learn more."

FreedomWorks, along with scores of shady front organizations which don't have to disclose their sponsors thanks to their 501 (c)(3) status, has been at the heart of today's supposed grassroots, nonpartisan "tea party" protests across the country, supposedly fueled by scores of websites which masquerade as amateur/spontaneous projects, but are suspiciously well-crafted and surprisingly well-written. One slick site pushing the tea parties, Right.org claims, "Right.org is a grassroots online community created by a few friends who were outraged by the bailouts. So we gathered some talent and money and built this site. Please tell your friends, and if you have suggestions for improving it, please let us know. Respectfully, Evan and Duncan." But funny enough, these regular guys are offering a $27,000 prize for an "anti-bailout video competition." Who are Evan and Duncan? Do they even really exist?

Even Facebook pages dedicated to a specific city "tea party" events, supposedly written by people connected only by a common emotion, obviously conformed to the same style. It was as if they were part of a multi-pronged advertising campaign planned out by a professional PR company. Yet, on the surface, they pretended to have no connection. The various sites set up their own Twitter feeds and Facebook pages dedicated to the Chicago Tea Party movement. And all of them linked to one another, using it as evidence that a decentralized, viral movement was already afoot. It wasn't about partisanship; it was about real emotions coming straight from real people.

While it's clear what is at stake for the Koch oligarch clan and their corporate and political allies--fighting to keep the hundreds of billions in surplus profits they've earned thanks to pro-rich economic policies over the past 30 years--what's a little less obvious is Santelli's link to all this. Why would he (and CNBC) risk their credibility, such as it is, as journalists dispensing financial information in order to act as PR fronts for a partisan campaign?

As noted above, Santelli's contract with CNBC runs out in a few months. His 10 years with the network haven't been remarkable, and he'll enter a brutal downsizing media job market. Thanks to the "tea party" campaign, as the article notes, Santelli's value has suddenly soared. If you look at the scores of blogs and fake-commenters on blogs (for example, Daily Blog, a slick new blog launched in January which is also based in Chicago) all puff up Santelli like he's the greatest journalist in America, and the greatest hero known to mankind. Daily Bail, like so much of this "tea party" machine, is "headquartered nearby" to Santelli, that is, in Chicago. With Odom, the Sam Adams Alliance, and the whole "tea party" nexus: "Rick, this message is to you. You are a true American hero and there are no words to describe what you did today except your own. Headquartered nearby, we will be helping the organization in whatever way possible."

It's not difficult to imagine how Santelli hooked up with this crowd. A self-described "Ayn Rand-er," one of Santelli's colleagues at CNBC, Lawrence Kudlow, played a major role in both FreedomWorks and the Club for Growth.

So today's protests show that the corporate war is on, and this is how they'll fight it: hiding behind "objective" journalists and "grassroots" new media movements. Because in these times, if you want to push for policies that help the super-wealthy, you better do everything you can to make it seem like it's "the people" who are "spontaneously" fighting your fight. As a 19th century slave management manual wrote, "The master should make it his business to show his slaves, that the advancement of his individual interest, is at the same time an advancement of theirs. Once they feel this, it will require little compulsion to make them act as becomes them." (Southern Agriculturalist IX, 1836.) The question now is, will they get away with it, and will the rest of America advance the interests of Koch, Santelli, and the rest of the masters?

Of course they'll try. Big money is once again behind the Republican party, and the GOP will try to regain power back in order to serve their masters - Corporate America.

Note: Wizbang Blue is now closed and our authors have moved on. Paul Hooson can now be found at Wizbang Pop!. Please come see him there!

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Comments (20)


is this the same Playboy article that was "disappeared" because of inaccuracies and factual errors?

and i continuously find it funny how you accuse the right of being in lock step with Rush, yet it's the left who has the daily calls and the coordinated attacks. who's really in step with who, lee?

and you're attacking where you think that the tea party organization is coming from. yet you aren't talking about their message: taxes are too high, government is too big, we shouldn't be bailing out companies with tax payer money. do you care to actually comment on these issues rather than the strawman of who may or may not be backing them?


Good grief, another piece with lots of whining and no substance by Lee Ward. You must be getting scared that Americans are on to Obama's very poor ideas and direction he is taking the country. The tea party ideas have taken off like wildfire because PEOPLE ARE ANGRY!! Whine, moan, spin your corporate hate, but the fact remains that average Americans are not impressed and are doing something to voice their opinions. Sorry, far left extremists, you can't muzzle us. Thankfully free speech is still around- let's hope Obama doesn't change that!!


Another great post from wizbangblue.moveon.org.

Paul Hooson:

Like all working class reactionary movements such as the legendary "know nothings" this movement has a body of support, but with no brains. Like the "know nothings" this is only the latest example of Republican Protestantism gone wild.

Lee Ward:

I heard it disappeared because of threat of lawsuit - corporate America can't let the truth out - but go ahead and link to your source that that says the article was pulled because of inaccuracies and factual errors - you weren't lying about that - were you?

So where your link?

"who's really in step with who, lee?"


This is a time of war, Conservatives, and you are running around encouraging rebellion, talking like Obama has you in stocks. Now, you don't have your way anymore because Americans got a good honest taste of it and it wasn't good - and here you Conservatives are going berserk, freaking out, foaming at the mouth, and jumping up and down. It seems they only oppose socialism for certain areas that do not benefit them and them alone. It is called unmitigated greed.

. Smaller government did not happen on the republican watch. In fact, the last 8 years government grew 40% and became very incompetent. The incompetence was intentional so Bush, Cheney, and their friends could give lucrative contracts to their contributors or companies where they hold considerable shares. Bush and Cheney had 7 years to get this right and chose to thumb there noses at our troops with using sick talking points like support the troops.


Heard that report was debunked and has been deleted.

Lee Ward:

The report has not been debunked - that's just more right wing propaganda from the corporate media machine that is bought and paid for by the GOP-- but Ke_future has promised to back up his trolling with a link to a reputable source that discredits it.


i asked a question, lee, because i had only heard about this article up to this point. i wasn't trolling.

and tho i promised no such thing, here is an article that disputes parts of the playboy article


here's another one that adds a few more bits specifically on the chicagoteaparty bit


so i guess it's not factual inaccuracies so much as Playboy asserted "facts" without sourcing them or providing proof. and those assertions were potential libelous if playboy could not prove their accusations. since they took down the article, my assumption is that they couldn't back up what they were saying.


Like all working class reactionary movements such as the legendary "know nothings" this movement has a body of support, but with no brains. Like the "know nothings" this is only the latest example of Republican Protestantism gone wild.

Another "Legendary" movement known as the Sons of Liberty, the originators of the Tea Party, grew into a movement which gave rise to the greatest country in the world. Your right in saying populist movements have come and gone, I think the difference here is that Generation X, the kids of the Baby Boomers, are starting to realize that the Flower Power Generation is going to kill us and our kids. The debt they are saddling us with, their selfishness and total disregard for future generations is abhorrent.

I myself am a teacher and lean middle-left on some issues but I will be participating in a Tea Party, simply because I can't afford to let the idiots in congress both Democrat and Republican, and the Socialist running the show destroy the future for my children. If one was wise they would wake up, stop demanding bread and circus and stand up and try their best to save our furture.


So NOW Gingrinch is opposed to the Bush Administration. Where was his strident voice of opposition during the eight years of the Bush gang? When I think of the ailing GOP, it makes me think of the frequent accusation that Obama is leading the country to socialism. Weren't just a few years ago GOP bigwigs like Tom Delay and Abramoff were working toward the goal of a permanent majority? That always sounded to me like Soviet style socialism, the domination of one party of a government. Now that the Republican Party has so many structural and message problems it faces the possibility of staying in the "wilderness" longer than Moses.

When Bush cut taxes for the wealthy, the sell was that it would do wonders for the economy. We are now in a deep recession. Just when will the advertised benefits of $2.4 trillion in tax cuts kick in?

So yours is the party of great ideas, huh? Tell me, when will that great economy be delivered from the $2.4 trillion in tax cuts mostly benefiting the wealthy? You know, that false slogan "trickle down" that doesn't/hasn't worked? But your "trickle up" to the rich, your socialism that is corporate welfare, has hurt our economy.


Gotta wonder why Lee is dragging out a story that is more than a month old, and has been pretty thoroughly fisked by Megan McArdle. There is enough legitimate stuff to write about without going after old, discredited, conspiratorial trash-- from Playboy, no less, that bastion of investigative journalism.


To be fair Allen, only those that PAY taxes get or deserve a tax CUT. The math facts are there and are not up for argument, the top income brackets pay the VAST majority of taxes and if you include the top 40% it's almost the whole income tax base for the U.S., so that old, tired "Tax break for the wealthy" class warfare crap is so lame it's funny.

Now before you start spouting how that's a typical Right Wing blogosphere, "insert rude comment here" response, I'll let ya know I'm a registered independent who would probably agree with you on some issues. On the issue of taxes is where we part company as wide as the Atlantic Ocean.

For example if you take a Teacher and Nurse who have a combined income of $110,000/year, according to you and those who think like you that is probably pretty wealthy and part of the evil rich! Bush's tax cut, basically additional relief for children and the elimination of the marriage penalty, made it where that family could almost live, instead of paycheck to paycheck they are now able to get a pizza on occasion. A family like that still pays a large amount of taxes, on the average $6,000 or more to the Federal Government, but when you include local, sales and other assorted fees along with medicare and Social Security, which they have no hope of seeing btw, then they are soon paying near 40% of their income in taxes and fees not a lot left over for their family, Obama wants to eliminate even those minor tax breaks on the "MIDDLE CLASS" so the government can grow even bigger!!!

The bottom line is the Government of the U.S. is too big and bloated and needs to be trimmed back, the ones riding in the cart demand more effort from those who are pushing it. When you or someone like you on the right, support a politician, who lets be honest don't have your best interests at heart, blindly then it only hurts us all. Be a free thinker and not a robot following what you think is the right or left way of doing things. Or will you not be happy till were all living in 2 room cinderblock apartments waiting an hour for toilet paper just to be told they are out, while the true power brokers are sitting in their luxury dacha's on the beach or lake?


Deke, which people don't pay taxes? Everyone pays taxes, ie: gas tax, sales tax, property tax, sin taxes, etc. SO PLEASE SAY WHO DOESN'T PAY. Unless of course you mean those with the means to have hidden off-shore accounts.

Otherwise, Deke, you are mistaken. And you should follow your own advice, and personally, $110,000 per year per couple is not wealthy IMO. But to someone making $25,000 per year, I can see their point that it is wealthy. Can you see that from some person's eyes? Doesn't sound like it.


All those types of taxes Allen are local and or state taxes where an individual can have a MUCH greater influence on the rates, even those with a federal component ie., gas and sin taxes, are more controllable, quit smoking and or move closer to work and taking public transportation are examples.

However; a person has much LESS control over federal income tax than any other type. Those rates are set in Washington and cover the whole U.S. a family in Montana has no control over what Barney Frank and the Democrats or John Boehner and the Republicans do to raise or lower our taxes.

People hiding money from the government? Allen that is the Uber rich and those guys have and will ALWAYS protect themselves. An example is appropriate here, Nancy Pelosi, who I'm sure your a fan of, presses for raising the minimum wage, she works a back deal to exclude one U.S. possession, Guam, where her and her husband just happen to be the number one employer, thus she and hubby continue to make MILLIONS, while controlling their personal costs and hiding money from the U.S. because of the location they are immune from much of the income and other taxes paid by other U.S. based business. I'm sure there are examples from when the Republicans controlled congress also, so it goes both ways they ALWAYS protects themselves Allen! In the Soviet Union, the great shining example of Socialism, the powerful party members never went without, while the common Soviet citzen did with nothing.

When you ask can I see how someone only making 25K per year can consider a family making $110 rich? I really can't. First that person making 25K pays absolutly NO FEDERAL INCOME TAX! My attitude has always been not whether or not the more moderatly succesful family should suffer and do with less, but what can I do to get myself enter up there! Do I need to educate myself more? Do I need to make myself more of a valuable employee? That's the problem, true leftists come from 2 backgrounds, the social elite, who have never struggled for anything or those who are "victims" and refuse to believe that anything is their responsibility. Unfort., that is the groups the democratic party pander too atm, didn't use to be that way but it is. The best thing the government can do is get the hell out of the way, quit trying to make everything "fair" there's always gonna be haves and have nots, this isn't some utopian Star Trek universe or novel, some push and some ride, the problem comes in when those riding grow greater than those pushing.

Wake up Allen, quit being a sheep and rethink your positions, be a free thinker and reflect on what is good for the long term health of the majority!


allen, it's pretty obvious that at the beginning, deke is talking about income taxes. and low income people do not pay those.

Uncle Bob:

Wow! What a conspiracy nut! Next you going to say you were kidnapped by men in black helicoptors!


Robin K:

Are you serious? Do you honestly want to fight this fight? These are average American people that want to hold our representatives accountable for the choices they make in representing US! It's not just about taxes, it's about taking back control of the government...you know, the one that's supposed to be run "by the people, for the people". You need to recheck your "facts", because what you have stated here is slanderous and prosecutable.

Lee Ward:

These are Americans agitated and provoked into this demonstration by a laying, manipulating right wing media machine fueled by corporate greed and the rich.

Puppets. A few well-meaning folks, but mostly puppets made to believe lies and acting out on those lies.


I participated in two Tea Parties on April 15th and the taxpayers in attendance were there because they rightly believe their government is too big, too wasteful and all too incompetent.


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Editors: Lee Ward, Larkin, Paul S Hooson, and Steve Crickmore

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