AstroTurf Tea Parties
Hosts on Fox News have been promoting anti-tax rallies around the country on April 15, Tax Day. They claim the events are grassroots-driven protests aimed at the current U.S. tax system. Research by progressive bloggers shows, however, the rallies are actually organized by well-funded think tanks run by lobbyists. -----
Know Five Things
1. The tea parties are organized by two large, well-funded, lobbyist-run think tanks.[Think Progress]
- Americans for Prosperity: This group, run by Ralph Reedâ��s former lobbying partner Tim Phillips, is handling the PR and planning the events in the following states: New Jersey, Arizona, New Hampshire, Missouri, Kansas
- Freedom Works: This group is run by former GOP Majority Leader Dick Armey. They have a) set up Web sites to promote the events that are supposed to look as if theyâ��ve been set up by amateurs; b) written how-to guides and talking points for the events; c) coordinated conference calls among protesters and activists to give them â��sign ideas, sample press releases, and a map of events around the country.â��
2. Free Publicity and Hype on Fox News
- Media Matters has documented the aggressive promotion of the anti-tax protests on Fox News: â��Fox News has in dozens of instances provided attendance and organizing information for future protests, such as protest dates, locations and website URLs. Fox News websites have also posted information and publicity material for protests. Fox News hosts have repeatedly encouraged viewers to join them at several April 15 protests that they are attending and covering.â�� [Media Matters]
- Promising â��fair and balancedâ�� coverage, hosts such as Glenn Beck, Neil Cavuto, and Sean Hannity are all planning to broadcast live from the events. Fox News commentator Neil Cavuto defends the networkâ��s coverage, saying Fox News covered the Million Man March, so it should be able to cover the tea parties. News Hounds, however, points out that the Million Man March took place on Oct. 16, 1995, while Fox News wasnâ��t created until Oct. 7, 1996. [Think Progress] [News Hounds]
3. Heavy Involvement From GOP Leaders
- To stress the grassroots nature of the anti-tax protests, Fox News has stressed the event has no partisan agenda.
- The Hill reports that the NRCC is using the event to raise money. The group sent an e-mail to supporters with a link to show them any local tea parties, then asked, â��You cannot afford to allow the Democrats to continue their fiscally insanity. Please consider contributing $15, $25, $50 or more as we fight for you.â�� [The Hill]
- An article on their Web site claimed â��only two members of Congress â�� both Republicans â�� who have committed to attending the demonstrations on the day income taxes are due.â�� [Fox News]
- On Foxâ��s show Americaâ��s Newsroom, host Megyn Kelly repeated the claim that â��only two members of Congress have agreed to join in, in these events, one of them is South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint.â�� [Think Progress]
- Progressive blogs quickly found at least 12 GOP lawmakers involved in the protests.
- Fox News then â��correctedâ�� its story, saying, â��Editorâ��s Note: Following this FOXNews.com report, the Republican Study Committee surveyed 110 members and found 38 lawmakers who say they will participate in tea party activities on tax day.â�� [Fox News]
4. What Do The Protesters Want?
- Anti-TARP bailout. According to the Web site, the biggest complaint is about the $700 billion TARP bailout of the banks (which happened more than 6 months ago at the behest of George W. Bush.)
- Anti-Obama. From Paul Krugman: â��Thus, President Obama is being called a â��socialistâ�� who seeks to destroy capitalism. Why? Because he wants to raise the tax rate on the highest-income Americans back to, um, about 10 percentage points less than it was for most of the Reagan administration. Bizarre.â��
- Anti-Stimulus. Another complaint is against the package designed to create 3.5 million jobs in the U.S.
- Pro-Tax Cuts. Following a link from the Tea Party web site takes you to a â��Tool Kit For Tea Parties,â�� on a site hosted by Newt Gingrichâ��s group â��American Solutions.â�� Their solutions include: Tax cuts. Getting rid of the Capital Gains tax. Killing the Employee Free Choice Act. More drilling. Getting rid of Sarbanes-Oxley, the 2002 law created in the wake of the Enron scandals to provide oversight of large public corporations. [American Solutions]
5. Polls show â��regular peopleâ�� arenâ��t as interested in the protests.
- A Fox News poll released on April 2 found only 36 percent of Americans said they would â��be willing to joinâ�� a â��tea partyâ�� protest. [Fox News]
Think Progress compiled a list of involved lawmakers and their venues. Also, â��the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported yesterday that Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) will be appearing at tea party protests as well. Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-MT), Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA), and Rep. Tom Rooney (R-FL) have also been urging their constituents to attend tea party protests while Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) is sponsoring a bill in Congress to honor the protests.â�� [http://thinkprogress.org/2009/04/13/kelly-fox-tea-party/]
- Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) and Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT), Salt Lake City.
- Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R-KS) and a representative from Rep. Sam Gravesâ�� (R-MO) office, Overland Park
- Rep. John Fleming (R-LA), Shreveport
- Rep. Ander Crenshaw (R-FL), Jacksonville
- Rep. Bob Latta (R-OH), Wauseon
- Rep. John Shadegg (R-AZ) and former Rep. J.D. Hayworth (R-AZ), Phoenix
- Rep. Sue Myrick (R-NC), Charlotte
- Rep. Bill Posey (R-FL), Brevard
- Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX), Longview
- Gov. Mark Sanford (R-SC), Columbia.
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