The Tea Party is a grassroots movement that has become a force in American politics without the financial support of large corporations.
At least that’s what the media would have you to believe.
The media have portrayed the Tea Party as a grassroots movement through much of the midterm election campaigns this fall. An editorial published in The Nation magazine titled “Democracy for Sale” states that the idea of grassroots is nothing more than a media fantasy.
This idea of grassroots was reinforced, however, in a statement to the Tea Party Movement by a representative of Charles and David Koch who said, “…no funding has been provided by Koch Companies, the Koch foundations, Charles or David Koch specifically to support the Tea Parties.” (emphasis added)
The Kochs have not, in fact, given financial support directly to the Tea Party, which brings truth to the statement that “no funding has been provided…specifically to support the Tea Party.” The use of the word specifically is what gives the statement credibility.
However, the Kochs have been indirectly funding the Tea Party through at least one of their organizations, Americans for Prosperity.
Americans for Prosperity is an organization, led by the Kochs, which is a group of grassroots leaders whose aim is to educate citizens about economic policy and return the federal government to its Constitutional limits, as stated in their mission statement on the Americans for Prosperity website.
Although the organization states that they are supporters of the grassroots and Tea Party Movement (TPM), the Kochs deny any funding being directly given to the TPM.
Charles and David Koch are correct; there is no proof of direct funding to any sort of TPM. But there has been money given by AFP that has indirectly supported the TPM.
The “Friends of Liberty Day” was an event held in Cincinnati hosted by the Cincinnati Tea Party, Ohio Liberty Council, and Kings Island to learn more about the TPM.
In other words, it was an attempt to inform citizens of the Tea Party, most likely to gain more support. In a news release from the Cincinnati Tea Party, communications manager Sue White listed AFP as a sponsor and funds provider in her article on the Ohio Liberty Council webpage.
In a blog from the “Crooks and Liars” website, a writer with the screen name “karoli” mentions an event put on by the Young Americans for Liberty at Ohio State.
The Young Americans for Liberty is an organization that is a supporter of the Tea Party, but more specifically, of Ron Paul. The karoli blog shows Americans for Prosperity was one of the top-six donors for the event.
The IRS also shows in a March 2010 quarterly report for Young Americans for Liberty at Ohio State that AFP, and also a large financial firm in Ohio, Jacob Group CPAS, LLC, both donated $1,000 to the organization.
In Florida, AFP has set up phone banks and dispatched door-to-door workers giving hand-outs that rail against current Gov. Charlie Crist for his support of stimulus legislation. Crist is a Republican, but supports Obama’s fiscal policies, and for that support, he was branded a “comrade for Obama,” according to FoxNews correspondent Greta Van Susteren.
Also in Florida, a campaign ad was launched in opposition of Alan Grayson and Suzanne Kosmas (Democrat representatives), saying that “Florida can’t afford Nancy Pelosi’s failed policies.”
At the end of the commercial, a line appears at the bottom of the screen, noting, “Paid for by Americans for Prosperity.” Even though AFP isn’t directly funding Florida Tea Party efforts, the organization is funding attack ads of Tea Party opposition.
On top of the funding in Florida, AFP claims about 75,000 activists, according to Apryl Marie Fogel, a director of AFP Florida. Fogel noted these activists are defined as people who show initiative, doing things such as calling members of Congress, attending rallies, and signing petitions.
The Kochs aren’t the only leaders of large corporations who are funding the TPM. The Nation editorial calls such funding an “assault on democracy by multinational corporations.” That unlimited funding by corporations and unions was allowed thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v Federal Election Commission (2010), which critics have decried as granting corporations the right to buy the best government for America.
Billionaire businessmen such as Trevor Rees-Jones, Robert Rowling and Jerry Perenchio have all made million dollar donations to Karl Rove’s American Crossroads project, according to editors of The Nation. These donations are put into Congressional races through Crossroads GPS, but the organization’s donors remain hidden, due to protection from tax laws.
According to The Nation, Crossroads has donated more than $14 million into ads attacking Democratic candidates, such as California’s Barbara Boxer and Washington’s Patty Murray.
The statement from Kochs that they don’t “specifically” fund the Tea Party is true, in that the word “specifically” means directly. However, the Americans for Prosperity financing of ads in Florida, California and Washington are just a few of the indirect ways that the Kochs, through their foundations, have funded the TPM, while keeping alive the fantasy that the Tea Party is a grassroots movement.
Regardless of what has or has not been reported by the media, statistics and formal documents prove that the so-called “grassroots movement” has not grown naturally, but rather, has been fertilized with funding from Koch foundations and companies, among others.
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 view the results of a survey identifying what CSS students know about the Tea Party.
Click here to learn about possible Tea Party principles outlined in Pledge to America, the GOP position paper that articulates an agenda the GOP would attempt to legislate if the party is able to win a majority in Congress.
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.
Click here to read blog reflections from the CSS journalist students who have been researching the Tea Party in light of the 2010 elections.