In anticipation of the midterm elections, Republicans have created a Pledge to America, a position paper that articulates an agenda the GOP would attempt to legislate if the party is able to win a majority in Congress.
This pledge is “laced with ‘tea party’ slogans,” said Gail Russell Chaddock of the Christian Science Monitor. It is, in effect, a clear pledge to the Tea Party movement with its focus on libertarian principles and limited government.
“The heart of the Republican plan is that you create jobs by cutting government spending and reducing the uncertainty so that small businessmen…can invest and hire,” Chaddock said.
Not surprisingly, the three core values of the Tea Party movement are fiscal responsibility, constitutionally limited government, and free markets.
The Tea Party, or for a better term, the Tea Party movement is just that—a “grassroots” movement rather than a political party. “This ‘party’ may support some candidates, and conservative candidates will claim they have Tea Party endorsement,” said David Schnare, contributor to the Bacon’s Rebellion.
Voters will not find any candidates registered to represent the Tea Party in the voting booths this November. However, Tea Party principles appear throughout the Republican agenda outlined in the Pledge to America.
The GOP’s Pledge to America is a 21-page promise divided into five parts focusing on jobs, size of government, healthcare repeal, congressional reform, and national security.
The jobs portion of the Pledge is based on making permanent the Bush tax cuts for small businesses and also requiring Congress to approve any new federal regulation that costs more than $100 million.
The Pledge opposes the federal deficit but at the same time provides tax cuts for everyone, including corporations and millionaires.
The Pledge was actually written with the help Brian Wild, a former lobbyist for AIG and former lobbyist for Exxon-Mobil, an oil and gas corporation.
Wild is listed as the document owner on an electronic draft of the report obtained by The Huffington Post. However, Republican operatives wrote the document themselves, collaborating on different sections while Wild simply coordinated the Pledge document.
What becomes clear after close scrutiny is that the Pledge’s agenda mirrors that of corporations like Koch Industries, a corporation involved in refining oil and chemicals.
Koch Industries, the second largest, privately-held corporations in the world, is owned by David and Charles Koch. They support a libertarian and free market agenda, which they call Market Based Management. They've have spent millions of dollars in contributions to conservative causes, candidates, and organizations.
According to a document titled “Response to Recent Media Attacks,” the Koch brothers have created and supported many advocacy groups that “benefit economic freedom, the importance of the rule of law, private property rights, the proper and limited role of government in society.”
By supporting these advocacy groups, the Kochs achieve their self-interested, and sometimes radical, agenda without directly entering the fray. This point was articulated in a recent New Yorker piece by Jane Mayer, titled "Covert Operations."
David Koch, who ran for vice president in 1980, has said: “My overall concept is to minimize the role of government and to maximize the role of the private economy to maximize personal freedoms.”
Mayer reports that after the 1980 election, the Kochs retreated from the public arena, but continued to donate more than $100 million into dozens of agencies, PACs, and conservative think tanks. Not surprisingly, the Tea Party movement receives support from these very groups, espousing a similar political agenda.
The Kochs channel their political influence through numerous think tanks and advocacy groups, which are funded by foundations controlled and supported by the brothers. They include Citizens United, Mercatus Center, and Americans for Prosperity, all of which want to limit the role of government in order to maximize personal freedoms.
Through Koch Industries’ numerous connections, the company can indirectly influence policies and set an agenda for governmental deregulation, especially those related to the environment.
“Koch has shown a remarkable ability to get rid of or modify environmental policies and other government rules it doesn’t like,” said Bob Williams and Kevin Bogardus from The Center for Public Integrity website.
Koch Industries peddles its influence to cut sections of laws that cause the company problems.
This can also be seen in the congressional reform section of the Pledge, which would force members of Congress to read a bill by requiring the bill be online for three days before any action can be taken. Additionally, every bill has to explain how it’s permissible under the Constitution.
The Tea Party movement believes that local government is much more likely to bring balance to many regulations, including the environment, than the federal government.
These regulations could include environmental regulation, something of interest to major corporations such as Koch Industries.
“Koch Industries has a record of polluting the environment,” said Bill Berkowitz in the article "The Biggest Company You Never Heard Of."
“In the 1990s, Koch’s defective pipelines were the cause of more than 300 oil spills in five states. In Minnesota, the company was fined $8 million for discharging oil into streams.”
Other examples documented by the Green Market website include:
According to Mayer, the Kochs have campaigned for 20 years to distort and discredit scientific findings, create undercover foundations that oppose environmental regulation, and work to undermine environmental policies—solely for the benefit of the Koch Industries.
For example, Americans for Prosperity, a Koch-financed front group, is a major foundation against environmental protections with its “Regulation Reality Tour.”
According to Lee Fang of The Wonk Room website, “This tour consists of pivotal senators pressuring the Environmental Protection Agency not to regulate carbon emissions, as outlined in the Clean Air Act.”
Additionally, according to a Greenpeace report, this money is typically funneled through one of three "charitable" foundations the Kochs have set up (the Claude R. Lambe Foundation, the Charles G. Koch Foundation and the David H. Koch Foundation).
The Greenpeace report also features several case studies on how the Kochs’ anti-climate propaganda is disseminated and echoed throughout its vast network of front groups.
The influence the Kochs can have greatly increased with the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. FEC that granted corporations and unions the right to spend as much as they want in elections.
The newest take on what constitutes freedom of speech has given rise to 527 committees. These committees are named after the section of the IRS code under which these groups are organized.
These political action committees can now raise unlimited amounts of money to influence elections. “They are also allowed to claim tax-exempt status as political committees while at the same time avoiding regulation by state or federal election authorities,” said Williams and Bogardus.
“About 79 percent of Koch’s contributions went to Republican candidates, totally roughly $2 million for the GOP compared to about $694,000 for Democrats, in transactions where a party affiliation could be identified,” said Williams and Bogardus.
The Pledge to America then is a platform that corporations like Koch Industries would love to see enacted, resulting in tax cuts for the wealthiest, a downsizing of the federal government, deregulation of everything from pollution controls to net neutrality, and especially an abandonment of healthcare reform
Core principles of the Tea Party movement mirror those principles outlined in the Republican Pledge to America, the same principles which would benefit corporations like Koch Industries.
While the Tea Party movement claims to be a grassroots movement, those roots are fertilized and nurtured by billionaires like Charles and David Koch.
Want to read more about the Tea Party movement?
Click here to learn about the history of the Tea Party, tracing the origins of the movement from a national frame to its current role in state and local communities, including Duluth!
Click here to learn about the Koch's financial influences outside the political arena. Read the facts and decide for yourself whether the Kochs’ philanthropy is being used to balance the scales against their ardent politics.
Is the Tea Party truly a "grassroots" movement, becoming a large force in American politics without the financial support of large corporations? Click here to read about the "media fantasy" behind financial contributions to the Tea Party.
Click here to view the results of a survey identifying what CSS students know about the Tea Party. .
Click here to read blog reflections from the CSS journalist students who have been researching the Tea Party in light of the 2010 elections.