Please take a moment to read ••this article•• about the “aristocracy” at the top of the so-called Tea Party movement. It’s excellent.
Take National Tea Party Convention organizers Judson Phillips and Mark Skoda.
Phillips has described himself as a “small-town lawyer” and former prosecutor, and appears to have specialized in personal injury and DUI cases. According to the watchdog Web site SourceWatch.org, “during the past decade he has had three federal tax liens against him, totaling more than $22,000.” No wonder why he might be part of an anti-tax movement.
Skoda, according to his bio on the National Tea Party Convention Web site, has “held executive positions with United Parcel Service, Federal Express and Penske Logistics (where he served as Chief Executive). He currently serves as a Vice President for One Network Enterprises, a Dallas-based technology company.” Not exactly the image of the small businessman being railroaded by “Big Government” that the Tea Party movement wants to portray itself as representing.
Skoda gave a glimpse into his personal mentality at the Nashville convention, when he told the crowd: “Have we grown so much into socialist culture that people criticize a for-profit event? We put thousands of our dollars into the Gaylord Hotel and the Nashville economy. We didn’t ask for a tax benefit, or tax break, or subsidy. Just because this is grassroots doesn’t mean I have to dress in cloth and beg for alms…I shouldn’t be punished just because I choose to be successful.”
There you have it. Success is a “choice.” It just so happens that this “choice” seems to come more easily to the wealthy elite who pull the strings in the Tea Party movement.
Phillips and Skoda in particular have taken heat, even from some Tea Partiers, for their announcement earlier this month of the formation of the “Ensuring Liberty Corporation” and the “Ensuring Liberty PAC.” The organizations will be used to further the Tea Party cause, but, they announced, will accept corporate money…and perhaps money from Washington lobbyists as well–something that is supposedly verboten to the Tea Party movement.
While the Ensuring Liberty PAC will be subject to laws requiring financial disclosure, the Ensuring Liberty Corporation won’t be legally required to disclose its donors. The goal for 2010, say Phillips and Skoda, will be to raise and spend $10 million on this year’s midterm elections–but where all that money comes from will remain a mystery.
FreedomWorks was one of the main forces behind last year’s April 15 Tea Party anti-tax and anti-Obama rallies that took place in several cities across the U.S. At those rallies, virulent racism was often on display–encouraged by organizers–as well as nasty slurs against Obama for supposedly being a Muslim, and even occasional threats of violence.
Since then, FreedomWorks has taken credit for organizing “hundreds of Taxpayer Tea Parties across the country, from Santa Barbara, California to Amarillo, Texas, and all the way to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.”
FreedomWorks is far from a struggling grassroots organization. According to SourceWatch, in 2008 alone, the group reported $4,346,782 in total revenue. Armey’s FreedomWorks salary in 2008 was reported as $250,000–for 18 hours of work per week–plus $300,000 from related organizations.
In addition to Armey, Steve Forbes–the son of wealthy publisher Malcolm Forbes–also sits on the FreedomWorks Foundation Board. Then again, Forbes has sat on the boards of plenty of other right-wing foundations in the U.S., including the American Enterprise Institute and the National Taxpayers Union, and his name has been associated with the pro-imperialist Project for the New American Century.
Living a sheltered life as part of one of America’s richest families, Forbes has displayed a stunning ability to stick his foot in his mouth. While running for president, he complained, “My father once spent $5 million on a birthday party for himself in Tangiers. Why can’t I spend a few more running for president?”
As ThinkProgress.org noted, Americans for Prosperity is well-practiced in creating fake populist “front groups” around a variety of issues. In addition to its involvement in Tea Party groups, it also created “Patients United” to oppose health care reform:
Patients United follows a familiar pattern AFP has used for their other front groups: create a new stand-alone Web site, fill it with lines like “We are people just like you” to give the site a grassroots feel, and then use the new group to recruit supporters and run deceptive advertisements attacking reform. This “astroturfing” model has been used by AFP to launch groups pushing distortions against other progressive priorities:
— The “Hot Air Tour” promoting global warming skepticism and attacking environmental regulations.
— “Free Our Energy,” a group promoting increased domestic drilling.
— The “Save My Ballot Tour,” a group that pays Joe the Plumber to travel around the country smearing the Employee Free Choice Act.
— “No Climate Tax,” a group dedicated to the defeat of Clean Energy Economy legislation.
— “No Stimulus,” a group launched to try to stop the passage of the Recovery Act.