Starting in 2002, the Koch brothers, David and Charles, re-directed their foundations’ money away from the libertarian Cato Institute, which they had founded in 1976 and still controlled, and they favored instead the extremist rightwing Heritage Foundation. Heritage had been set up by Joseph Coors and Richard Mellon Scaife also in the mid-1970s, but specifically to turn the Republican Party away from the too-liberal Richard Nixon, and toward the more hard-rightwing political vision, of Barry Goldwater and then Ronald Reagan.
The Kochs’ money-flow to Heritage started moderately in 1998, and then became large each year between 2002 and 2010. In 1998, the Kochs gave $65,000 to Heritage, and this was followed by another $150,000 in 2001, but then, as documented by sourcewatch, their donations exploded to $385,000 in 2002, $405,000 in 2003, and $465,000 in each year from 2004-2007, then $225,000 in 2008, $619,000 in 2009, and $500,000 in 2010, for a grand total, before the crucial 2010 mid-term congressional elections, of $4.2 million, which was second only to the $4.6 million that they gave during the period to their own Americans For Progress, which was also associated with the Kochs’ FreedomWorks. Together, AFP, FreedomWorks, and Heritage jointly headed an operation that drove the U.S. House of Representatives farther to the right than any since the very founding of the republic in 1776. Jane Mayer, on 30 August 2010, headlined in the New Yorker, “Covert Operations” (of the Koch brothers), and wrote: “‘Ideas don’t happen on their own,’ Matt Kibbe, the president of FreedomWorks, a Tea Party advocacy group, told me. ‘Throughout history, ideas need patrons.’… In 1984, David Koch and [his employee] Richard Fink [whom she called ‘the central nervous system of the Kochtopus’] created yet another organization, and Kibbe joined them. The group, Citizens for a Sound Economy, seemed like a grassroots movement, but … was sponsored principally by the Kochs.”
Congressional districts are determined every ten years, based upon the decennial Census; and the key year, for the gerrymandering to come, was 2010, which was to bring the Koch-run tea-party Republicans into Congress, in a very big way. Rupert Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal bannered on 12 April 2010, “New Fangs for the Conservative Beast: The Heritage Foundation’s new advocacy organization will pressure congressmen to do what’s right,” and Edwin Feulner, the president of Heritage Foundation, co-authored with Michael Needham (the head that he had appointed at its new political-pressure subsidiary Heritage Action), a description of their unprecedented new virtual PAC to drive the Republican Party farther to the right. They said: “There are 110 congressional districts in America with over 1,500 Heritage supporters apiece. Two-thirds of congressional districts in this country have over 1,000 Heritage members each. Now they will have an advocacy organization that can press Congress on their behalf. Heritage Action for America will guarantee that when a wavering congressman thinks of voting for higher taxes, increased regulation, or a weaker national defense, television ads in his home district will remind him that a vote for bigger government is a vote for less freedom. When at his district office, well-informed constituents will visit him to press the case, … they’ll remind him of his electoral promises,” and they’ll support an opponent to him in a Republican primary unless he relents. This would be like the Koch’s PACs, though not organized as a PAC – instead, it would be a branch of this “think tank,” Heritage. The operation would replace moderate Republicans in Congress with extremist ones; this was the plan. It was right up the Kochs’ alley. Soon, the Heritage Foundation’s new chief, the former Republican Senator from South Carolina, Jim DeMint, would be running the Republican Party at his perch in Heritage, reshaping the Party into this unwavering fascist, or pure-conservative, image.
The blog of Playboy headlined, and then quickly eliminated, a historic article by Mark Ames and Yasha Levine, on 27 February 2009, “Exposing the Rightwing PR Machine,” which the authors subsequently posted at their own exiledonline.com. It documents the creation, by the Koch brothers, of what soon became known (in the mainstream “news” media) by such bogus phrases as “the Tea Party grassroots movement,” but which was pure astroturf, fake all the way. They reported on “the launch event of a carefully organized and sophisticated PR campaign” on February 19th, “using the CNBC airwaves for publicity, for some of the craziest and sleaziest rightwing oligarch clans this country has ever produced. … All of these roads ultimately lead back to … FreedomWorks, … funded by Koch money.” Soon, this “Tea Party” would be much in the news with its suckers raising hell against Obama’s “death panels” and other oligarch-manufactured “grassroots” complaints. This was a superb exemplar of the George-Orwell-warned “Big Brother” lies, which would soon engulf the major “news” media, as “news.” The Ames/Levine article was perhaps the most important and most skillful piece of investigative journalism in years, but it was so hot that even Playboy would be too mainstream a news-medium to remain associated with it, even as a mere blog item.
When Democratic congressmen went home for the August recess and held town halls with voters, an unpleasant new national phenomenon became immediately apparent: Republican near-riots against the President’s health-insurance reform plan. MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, on the evening of 3 August 2009, reported as follows, concerning a memo which had been sent out to these rioters, telling them how to riot: “The three-page memo details how protestors should behave at town hall events under the heading ‘Inside the Hall.’ It says, quote, ‘You need to rock-the-boat early in the representative’s presentation. Watch for an opportunity to yell out and challenge the representative’s statements early. If he blames Bush for something or offers other excuses, call him on it. Yell back. And have someone else follow up with a shout-out. The goal is to rattle him.’ Also, quote, ‘When the formal Q&A session begins, get all your hands up and keep them up. The balance of the group should applaud when the question is asked, further putting the representative on the defensive.’ Who’s giving these rent-a-mob instructions like this? Well, that memo was written by a man named Bob MacGuffie. Bob MacGuffie is affiliated with an organization called FreedomWorks. FreedomWorks is a Washington, D.C. lobbying firm run by former Republican Majority Leader Dick Armey.”
The site videocafe.crooksandliars presented the video of this, headlining, “Rachel Maddow on GOP Thuggishness at Town Halls.” It was stunning.
Armey and his FreedomWorks called these disruptors the “Tea Party,” after the Boston Tea Party, which had sparked the American Revolution. Maddow showed videos taken from around the country, with Democratic representatives everywhere being shouted down. In one, Obama’s HHS Secretary tried to explain the health-insurance plan and was similarly shouted down. Almost all of America’s “news” media reported these shout-downs as if they were authentic spontaneous local grass-roots displays of mass opposition to the President’s plan. Many newsmedia probably didn’t even know about the health-insurance industry’s financing of the organizations behind these displays. On August 4th, Politico headlined “Dems’ [Summer] Break Looking Like A Bad Trip,” and reported: “Angry protesters shouted down Democrats at public events from Texas to Pennsylvania.” FreedomWorks — the lobbyists’ front organization which had actually organized these “grass-roots” displays — wasn’t even mentioned by Politico’s “reporters.” The New York Times bannered “Health Plan Opponents Make Their Voices Heard,” and, without mentioning Dick Armey, Bob MacGuffie, or any of the health-industry companies behind these “grass-roots” displays, portrayed overwhelmed Democratic congressmen as purveying what appeared to be sour grapes by those Democrats’ charging that “this goes over the line,” but this Republican newspaper conveyed nothing about what this “line” even might be, except that voters were trying to ask questions about healthcare-reform of their congressmen, a perfectly normal activity in a democracy. Fox’s “Glenn Beck Program,” on that same day, August 4th, commemorated this date’s being President Obama’s birthday, and took this opportunity to discuss the President’s personal background. Beck said of Obama’s parents, “These two love birds met while taking a Russian language class. How many of our parents met … taking Russian back in 1960 at the height of the Cold War?” Beck discussed the young Barack’s “yearning for a father figure. He eventually gravitated towards a family friend named Frank. … Frank happened to be a communist.” Beck said that this background helped explain why in Obama’s health plan, they “make sure that maybe they remind grandma and grandpa that their life is coming to an end, … and then at the end of life, the government can come in and tell you when exactly, you know, maybe you should, you know, lights out.” A David Koch front group, Americans For Prosperity (AFP), promptly headlined “More on Apollo and Phil Angelides with Beck,” and presented video from this Beck show, a segment featuring Beck’s interview of “expert” Phil Kerpen, from AFP. Beck there drew a chart (supplied by AFP), laying out the structure of the supposed communist conspiracy, which Obama was now heading. David Koch’s father had been one of the founders of the fanatically anti-communist John Birch Society, which now had obviously attained control of the Republican Party, of which it formerly only dreamt. However, on this same day, August 4th, Beck, on “Fox & Friends,” expressed disappointment that one of Beck’s fans, Nancy Genovese, had been arrested two days before, on August 2nd, for planning, and arming herself to execute, an armed assault against her local Air National Guard base. Beck said that he didn’t want any of his fans to become like Timothy McVeigh (who had bombed the Federal Building in Oklahoma City), but that he wanted them instead to pray to God for guidance in how to deal with an evil government. Perhaps Rupert Murdoch had become concerned lest his properties be sued if one of his suckers (such as this woman) were to act-out the hatreds he had whipped up. All over the country, potential right-wing terrorists seemed to be popping up. On August 6th, Talking Points Memo bannered “Dem Congressman’s Office: His Life Has Been Threatened Over Health Care Bill,” and Eric Kleefeld reported, regarding Democratic N.C. congressman Brad Miller, that, because of the near-riots in other town halls around the country, and because someone had just phoned him warning he “could lose your life over this,” Rep. Miller decided not to hold any town hall meetings during the congressional break. He would instead meet only one-on-one with constituents, each of whom would first be checked for possible weapons. That same evening’s Rachel Maddow Show on MSNBC interviewed another Democratic congressman, this one from Washington state, who similarly cancelled his town halls, and who complained about having to forego this opportunity to answer questions from constituents about health care legislation. Also that evening, Raw Story bannered “Reports: Glenn Beck Fans Turn Health Forum Into ‘Near Riot’,” and Stephen C. Webster reported that Beck fans and the local Republican Party had overrun a Tampa Democratic congressman’s town hall, where fights broke out, and the local television station reported that “no arrests were made” though the congressman “was escorted out of the building” by police.
All of this was the outcome of what Mark Ames and Yasha Levine had reported at the blog of Playboy, headlining on 27 February 2009, “Exposing the Rightwing PR Machine.” The Koch-funded scheme that they described was now bearing its ugly fruits.
On 9 August 2009, Media Matters headlined “FreedomWorks Board Member Has Vested Interest In Private Health Care Industry,” and reported that board member Richard J. Stephenson had founded and now headed Cancer Treatment Centers of America, a chain of private clinics that had settled with the Clinton FTC in 1996 a false advertising charge concerning the effectiveness of their treatments. In other words: Stephenson didn’t want science to be imposed upon his company’s offerings; he wanted insurance to have to pay for his company’s offerings even if these treatments were ineffective. His motivation for opposing federal regulation of healthcare services was thus obvious. However, Stephenson was actually a fanatic – he believed in his cancer treatments even if scientific studies might show them to be worthless. He didn’t believe in science; he was a fanatical libertarian who despised government.
Fox “News,” like Politico and most other “news” media, reported the townhall semi-riots as reflecting public outrage against the President’s proposed health plan, and especially against the very idea of a public option, or a government-run health insurance option competing against private insurers. (The health insurance companies were dead-set against that.) Perhaps the Republican Party was trying to repeat the success they’d experienced in 2000 with the “Brooks Brothers riot,” of Republican operatives who flew into Miami from around the country, and converged there to stop the Gore-requested vote-recount, by shouting it down.
Greg Sargent at theplumline.whorunsgov.com, headlined on August 4th of 2009, concerning a key behind-the-scenes organizer of these Republican semi-riots, “Anti-Reform Group Takes Credit For Helping Gin Up Town Hall Rallies,” and he reported that, “Conservatives for Patients’ Rights, the operation that’s running a national campaign against a public health care option, is now publicly taking credit for helping gin up the sometimes-rowdy outbursts targeting House Dems at town hall meetings around the country.” CPR was headed by Rick Scott, who had been the CEO of Hospital Corporation of America when HCA was found to be systematically overcharging Medicare and paid a $1.7 billion fine for that. In all civil suits, HCA paid more than $2 billion to settle, which was by far the largest fraud settlement in all of U.S. history. The federal document, “Accomplishments of the U.S. Department of Justice, 2001-2009,” said: “Spanning almost a decade, this group of cases [Columbia/HCA], handled by the Civil Division, … against the hospital chain Columbia/HCA, culminated in June 2003 with the government receiving a total of over $2 billion in criminal fines and civil penalties for systematically defrauding federal health care programs.” Scott was the co-founder of Columbia/HCA, along with the Frist family (including Republican U.S. Senator Bill Frist). Scott actually ran the firm throughout its defrauding of Medicare, and part of the federal settlement was his being fired. The firm paid the fines and penalties; Scott did not; he kept his loot, derived from his running the firm. (Wikipedia said, “Following the raids [on 19 March 1997, by the FBI, IRS, and Department of Health and Human Services], the Columbia/HCA board of directors forced Scott to resign as Chairman and CEO. He was paid $9.88 million in a settlement. He also left owning 10 million shares of stock worth over $350 million.” For him, crime paid enormously, and U.S. taxpayers took billions in losses. This Koch-friend is the type of man Florida’s Republicans elected as their state’s Governor in 2010.) With the fortune he had made defrauding Medicare, he built and operated a chain of store-front clinics, which were expanding rapidly due to an exclusive arrangement with Wal-Mart, with whose owners Scott was personally very close. Then, he purchased the governorship of Florida and signed executive orders requiring his government’s workers to get drug-tested four times yearly, essentially at his own chain of clinics, a nice way to boost his profits as well as to humiliate his employees – those same government workers. His CPR (“Citizens for Patients’ Rights”) employed for PR the same company that had organized the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth campaign against John Kerry in 2004, and they were hoping to achieve a similar success here. “CPR spokesman [Brian] Burgess confirmed that the group had set up a list serv designed to reach out to ‘third party groups’ involved in the health care fight.” (When Mr. Scott was elected Governor of Florida in November 2010, he thus got himself into the same position of power that Jeb Bush had enjoyed during the 2000 U.S. Presidential “election.” However, Barack Obama was a far more effective political campaigner than was Al Gore in 2000.)
Another front group behind the Republican protests against reforming U.S. healthcare was Americans For Prosperity, David Koch’s astroturf front, which formed Patients First, which, in turn, advertised on television their fake consumer protest against “government-run health care.”
There was plenty of rigging that stood behind the “grass-roots movement” to block a public option on health insurance. Gradually, other mainstream news media began to report these riots in an honest way. For example, on August 6th, Politico bannered “Groups Coordinate Obama Opposition,” and Mike Allen opened: “Conservative and business groups, some funded in part by insurers, are mobilizing members and supporters to participate in health care forums that lawmakers are holding in their states and districts this month.” However, the overtly conservative “news” media, such as Fox “News,” continued to report these riots as being authentic grassroots expressions; and, of course, their faithful believed it. The chief honest reporting came from MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow. For example, on August 7th, Olbermann’s “Countdown” program reported on how “fake” the anti-public-option Republican “grassroot groups” actually were, and how anti-democratic their methods were. Olbermann noted that, “The Tampa town hall featuring [Democratic] Congresswoman Kathy Castor yesterday” was shouted down, including “a cry of Heil Hitler.’ In Detroit, the president [was] mocked by some as Hitler. … In St. Louis, six people [were] arrested last night outside the town hall held by [Democratic] Congressman Russ Carnahan — two for assault, one for resisting arrest, three for disturbing the peace.” This is how the Republican Party tried to make its points.
America’s best news-reporting organization, McClatchy Newspapers, likewise reported honestly, headlining on August 14th, “Who’s Behind the Attacks on a Health Care Overhaul?” Margaret Talev reported there the financial interests behind Conservatives for Patients’ Rights, FreedomWorks, Patients First, Patients United, Club for Growth, and 60 Plus Association; all of those financial interests had a huge stake in defeating the public option.
Those core groups were also assisted by other Republican astroturf organizations. For example on August 15th, the neoconservative americanpowerblog bannered “Our Country Deserves Better [OCD]: ‘Oppose ObamaCare’,” and presented OCD’s TV commercial, which condemned “Obama’s socialistic health care plan” and charged that it would pull the plug on grandma.
Sarah Palin had resigned her Governorship of Alaska, in order to become rich quickly via speaking tours and book deals; and on August 7th at her Facebook page she issued her “Statement on the Current Health Care Debate,” and said that if Obama’s health plan were to pass, people “will have to stand in front of Obama’s ‘death panel’ so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their ‘level of productivity in society,’ whether they are worthy of health care. Such a system is downright evil.” (The phrases ‘death panel’ and ‘level of productivity in society,’ weren’t in any proposed legislation, but came from Palin’s own imagination.) The extremely conservative audience at aol.com was online-polled about this, “Do you agree with Palin’s characterization of Obama’s health plan as ‘evil’?” and within a few days 200,000 respondents entered their opinions, 59% saying “Yes,” and 41% “No.” When asked “In general, what’s your impression of Palin?” 50% said “Mostly positive,” and 42% said “Mostly negative.” Newt Gingrich on ABC TV’s “This Week,” on August 9th, was asked his opinion of Palin’s Facebook statement, and Gingrich said he agreed with it, because Obama and the Democrats were planning “euthanasia” for old people. Despite ABC’s strong Republican tilt, their George Stephanopoulos pointed out that there was nothing of that kind in any proposed legislation, but Gingrich went right on charging that this was the Democrats’ intent. The thrust of Republicans and of the healthcare lobbyists and their “grass-roots” fronts was unmistakable: Obama’s plan was to euthanize old people, and it was evil. Sometimes, major media were even compelled to correct misrepresentations of their own news reporting that was spread by Koch-allies.
ABC News headlined on September 13th of 2009, “ABC News Was Misquoted on Crowd Size,” and reported: “Conservative activists, who organized a march on the U.S. Capitol in protest of the Obama administration’s health care agenda and government spending, erroneously attributed reports on the size of the crowd to ABC News. Matt Kibbe, president of FreedomWorks, the group that organized the event, said on stage at the rally Saturday [September 12th] that ABC News was reporting that 1 million to 1.5 million people were in attendance. At no time did ABC News, or its affiliates, report a number anywhere near as large.” Further evidence of the aristocratic manipulation of those conservative suckers (the Republican base) was published on September 18th by Media Matters, headlining “Candid Camera: Behind the Scenes Video at 9/12 Protest Shows Fox News Producer Coaching Crowd,” and reported — and presented videos of — a Fox “News” producer off-camera giving the crowd a sign to applaud, at the same moment when a Fox “News” “reporter,” on-camera, was “reporting” to its millions of suckers throughout America, as the crowd behind him applauded a politician who was urging the on-camera crowd of suckers to “renew that pledge” made “so long ago” by America’s Founders, who would actually have been rolling over in their graves to know that a modern version of mass-manipulation, feudalism or fascism, was now being marketed in their names. Two days later, Michael Calderone at Politico headlined “Fox News Producer Rallied Tea Party Protesters,” and reported: “Now Fox confirms that it was, indeed, a staffer,” who had been giving the off-camera cues at this staged event, which Fox “News” had telecast as being an authentic grassroots protest against the President.
At this time, when the Tea Party movement and others on the extreme Right were succeeding at moving in the most conservative direction the legislation which Congress was drafting on health care, Alex Brant-Zawadzki and Dawn Teo of Huffington Post headlined on 11 December 2009, “Anatomy of the Tea Party Movement: Americans for Prosperity,” and they reported that, “At a conference in October hosted by Americans for Prosperity, [David] Koch [the group’s founder and Chairman] claimed to have orchestrated the Tea Party movement: ‘Days like … today bring to reality the vision of our board of directors, when we founded this organization five years ago. … We envisioned a mass movement … of hundreds of thousands of American citizens from all walks of life.'” Sometimes, conservative news media (other than Fox) even reported on this suckering of the conservative public. Daily Caller headlined, on 12 March 2010, “Tea Partiers Distribute Signs Paid for by RNC,” and Alex Pappas reported that the Tea Party movement, which proclaimed itself to be bipartisan and independent of the Republican National Committee, was using signs that had been paid for by the RNC.
Little did the Tea Party suckers know that they were just Republican stooges. Forbes, which was another overtly conservative “news” medium, headlined, on 19 March 2010, “The Misinformed Tea Party Movement,” and Bruce Bartlett analyzed there the results from a poll of Tea Party activists. It showed that they “thought that federal taxes were almost three times as high as they actually are,” and that taxes had soared since Obama came into office, when in fact “No taxpayer anywhere in the country had his or her taxes increased as a consequence of Obama’s policies,” and, in fact, “For those making between $40,000 and $50,000 [which the questionnaire had especially focused upon], the average tax cut was $472.” Bartlett didn’t blame these delusional beliefs upon the aristocracy which had nurtured and promulgated them; no: he concluded: “The tea parties are simply the latest manifestation of populism.”
Bartlett, as a libertarian, viewed the world through the lenses that had been supplied by the aristocracy–the creators of “libertarianism” — the view which was obsessed with “freedom” for the rich (especially for the born-rich) to do with their money whatever they wished, including bribing whatever officials had to be bribed in order for favors of the economic system to be directed toward themselves.
Bartlett despised the serfs, and thought that their lack of freedom was deserved by them. His article referred to “my friend David Frum,” as the pollster. Frum had been George W. Bush’s speechwriter, and he too despised the serfs. Frum polled a crowd of several hundred Tea Party protesters at an event in Washington D.C., to which these protesters had been bussed and flown from around the country. He got 57 of them to fill out his questionnaire, which had 7 questions on it. This was a poll of the actual people who showed up at Tea Party rallies, not just of people who were phoned by some pollster and who said that they supported the Tea Party movement. This poll showed in the most reliable way of all that those crowds were composed of suckers.