TEAGAGGED! BORN IN OFFSHORE DRILLING, TEA PARTY PROTEST SILENCED OVER ORGANIZERS’ LINKS TO 2008 “DRILL HERE! DRILL NOW!” CAMPAIGN
Courtesy of Mark Ames and Yasha Levine, The eXiled
This article was first published in Alternet.
Why are the hoppin’-mad Teabaggers so oddly quiet these days, ever since the BP oil disaster? That’s what Thomas Frank, author of What’s The Matter With Kansas? asked last week in his column, “Laissez-faire Meets The Oil Spill.” Ideologically, it’s painfully obvious why the Teabaggers are now the Teagaggers: their free-market gospel got mugged by oil-drenched reality — a reality so horrific that even pollster Frank Luntz couldn’t spin the BP disaster as the government’s fault. Best to just shut up when you’re that wrong.
But there’s another, more concrete reason why the Tea Party revolutionaries melted back into their suburbs as soon as the enormity of the Gulf spill disaster hit: The Tea Party evolved out of the pro-offshore drilling astroturf movement in 2008. They even share some of the same organizers and front groups, from PR operative like Eric Odom, to advocacy groups like FreedomWorks, whose combined efforts on the “Drill Here! Drill now!” astroturf campaign succeeded in opening up all of America’s coastlines and waters to offshore drilling, overturning a 27-year ban thanks to threats of “a Boston-style Tea Party,” as one Republican put it in the summer of 2008.
We have been following this movement from the beginning. Back in February 2009, on the eve of the first Tea Party protest, we published the first investigative article exposing the hidden relationship between the fake-”spontaneous” Tea Party protests that month, and the Republican machine that backed and promoted the campaign. Our research led again and again to the right-wing Koch brothers, who are worth a combined $32 billion as owners of the largest private oil company in America, Koch Industries. Koch-linked front groups like FreedomWorks and the Sam Adams Alliance (named after the leader of the original Boston Tea Party) played key roles in both the 2008 campaign to deregulate offshore drilling, and in the Tea Party movement.
Eric Odom, the PR flak who launched the Tea Party in February 2009, is the same Eric Odom who in August 2008 organized Republican Twitter-mobs who crashed Capitol Hill chanting “Drill here! Drill now!” to force Congress to open up American coastlines to unrestricted offshore oil drilling. Odom used the same Twitter front group, “DontGo Movement,” in both campaigns: Twittering the pro-offshore drilling mobs in 2008 and Twittering the first anti-Obama teabaggers in early 2009. Odom was listed as the “New Media Coordinator” for the Sam Adams Alliance until a few days before the very Tea Party Protest in 2009.
If these organization names get confusing, then just remember this: What really matters is the money behind them — namely, the billionaire Koch money. Since we first broke the Koch-Tea Party links, other media and research outlets have confirmed the Kochs’ key funding and organization role in the Tea Party campaign, as well as defeating climate change legislation and defeating health care reform. The Kochs are the largest oil & gas contributors to the last few electoral campaigns, and their network of fronts and think tanks is daunting.
One Koch-linked front group is The Sam Adams Alliance, led by a longtime Koch aide named Eric O’Keefe. Back in 1980, when David Koch ran for vice president on the Libertarian Party ticket, Eric O’Keefe served as the National Coordinator for Koch’s Libertarian Party. O’Keefe has been sucking on the Koch teat ever since — moving from the Libertarian Party to the Koch-funded Cato Institute, and finally, to the Sam Adams Alliance, where O’Keefe is the CEO.
At first the Kochs denied they were behind the Tea Party campaign, but by the end of 2009, David Koch finally owned up and told an audience how he had planned and funded the Tea Party movement.
It’s important to understand just how close the Tea Party campaign is tied to the campaign pushing for unlimited offshore drilling, because the media has consistently misunderstood and misrepresented the Tea Party movement at every step of the way, treating the Tea Party like a legitimate political movement, rather than what it really is: a well-funded and highly-manipulative PR campaign, paid for and led by right-wing billionaires looking to protect their riches from government regulators and taxes. The Tea Party only exists as long as the Kochs need it to run; once the billionaires’ needs change, they’ll close the account out and get onto other business, dumping all the suckers who volunteered their time and Ayn Rand-inspired placards until they’re needed again sometime in the future.
To understand how this works, let’s go back again to the summer of 2008, the last time there were still restrictions on offshore oil drilling in America. How did it happen that we lifted all offshore drilling restrictions less than two years ago? Strange to believe now, but two summers ago, drilling became the “wedge issue” for the presidential campaign, the way gay marriage was in 2004. In August 2008, for reasons unclear at the time, nothing got the Republican base more quickly worked up for a fight than the fight to open up all of America’s coasts and waters to all the drilling that Big Oil wanted.
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