This weekend Governor Bob McDonnell and Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli will be addressing the Tea Party convention in Richmond. Known for their far right wing stances, the Tea Party has drawn a line in the sand with mainstream America. By addressing the Tea Party convention, the Governor and Attorney General are further showing that they are out of touch with the majority of Virginians and are reckless in pursuing the Tea Party’s agenda over common sense policy solutions for the Commonwealth.
With the media attention surrounding the Governor’s weekend plans, you would think that there would be more attention paid to how the Tea Party is actually funded.
So who is behind the Tea Party?
It may seem that the Tea Party movement is a spontaneous eruption of popular anger at “big government”. Without doubt, many of the everyday participants in this organization are angry. But recent journalism has revealed the financial and strategic underpinnings of the Tea Party, and they trace directly back to two oil barons who use their enormous wealth to carry out their father’s anti-communist obsession: David and Charles Koch.
Together, the two brothers constitute one of the richest families in America, and their oil companies have racked up an extensive record of environmental penalties for accidents and neglect across America.
Not only that, between 1998 and 2008 they have donated at least $250 million to right-wing organizations ranging from think tanks to academic centers to activist non-profits.
Lee Fang’s research at the The Wonk Room revealed the following:
· 1984, the Kochs found Citizens for a Sound Economy to fight government regulation.
· 1990, CSE spins off Concerned Citizens for the Environment to fight regulations meant to prevent acid rain.
· 1994, The American Energy Alliance founded to fight a tax on BTUs produced from fossil fuel.
· 1994, Phillip Morris rents Citizens for a Sound Economy for a campaign against tobacco regulation.
· 1994, CSE puts together The Cooler Heads Coalition to fight the Kyoto climate accords.
· 1997, brother David founds the Cato Institute.
· 2000, the Kochs donate $800,000 to the Bush election effort and over $20 million in soft money to think tanks and right-wing groups.
· 2003, House Republican Majority Leader Dick Armey resigns and becomes head of Koch’s Citizens for a Sound Economy.
· 2004, Citizens for a Sound Economy splinters into FreedomWorks—headed by Dick Armey—and Americans for Prosperity—headed by David Koch.
· 2009, operatives from the two groups organize “tea party” protests that catch on in part due to non-stop promotion by Fox News.
· 2010, a report shows that the Kochs have donated over $25 million to groups fighting climate change science and regulation, more than any other group, including ExxonMobil.
The Koch brothers oppose any policy that might cut their business profits or raise their taxes, including welfare, environmental regulation, labor laws, Social Security, Medicare, and public education. But their efforts did not happen overnight and the timeline of their activities spans 25 years and includes hundreds of millions spent on right wing think tanks, advertising and corporate lobbyists.
Their money and influence connects directly to dozens of the most prominent faces of the far right: Newt Gingrich, Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, Tim Phillips, Richard Fink, Grover Norquist, and hundreds of others.
Ultimately, the Koch brothers’ millions go toward dismantling government in favor of big business profits. If they succeed, big corporations will rule our society even more than they do today. The recent Supreme Court decision in the Citizens United case already gives billionaires like the Koch brothers more anonymity and thus more power over our political system than ever before.
The final question comes to this: can American democracy be bought by a few billionaires and re-shaped to their benefit? Unless we fight back against the powerful Koch Brothers, the answer may be, “Yes.”
Please fight back by taking action locally where it matters most:
1.) LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Tell your local community members that Governor McDonnell’s Tea Party cohorts have some friends in high places. And remind them that these “friends” want their money to count more than your vote! Click here for a list of letter to the editor contacts or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information about writing a letter to the editor.
2.) VOTE: November 2, 2010! Click here or call (800) 552-9745 to register to vote by October 12 and to find your polling place. Make sure everyone in your family and all your friends are registered to vote.