Study Confirms Tea Party Was Created by Big Tobacco and Pollutocrat Kochs

By Brendan DeMelle via DeSmogBlog

A new academic study confirms that front groups with longstanding ties to the tobacco industry and the billionaire Koch brothers planned the formation of the Tea Party movement more than a decade before it exploded onto the U.S. political scene.

Far from a genuine grassroots uprising, this astroturf effort was curated by wealthy industrialists years in advance. Many of the anti-science operatives who defended cigarettes are currently deploying their tobacco-inspired playbook internationally to evade accountability for the fossil fuel industry’s role in driving climate disruption.

The study, funded by the National Cancer Institute of the National Institute of Health, traces the roots of the Tea Party’s anti-tax movement back to the early 1980s when tobacco companies began to invest in third party groups to fight excise taxes on cigarettes, as well as health studies finding a link between cancer and secondhand cigarette smoke.

Published in the peer-reviewed academic journal, Tobacco Control, the study titled, ‘To quarterback behind the scenes, third party efforts’: the tobacco industry and the Tea Party, is not just an historical account of activities in a bygone era. As senior author, Stanton Glantz, a University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) professor of medicine, writes:

“Nonprofit organizations associated with the Tea Party have longstanding ties to tobacco companies, and continue to advocate on behalf of the tobacco industry’s anti-tax, anti-regulation agenda.”

The two main organizations identified in the UCSF Quarterback study are Americans for Prosperity and Freedomworks. Both groups are now “supporting the tobacco companies’ political agenda by mobilizing local Tea Party opposition to tobacco taxes and smoke-free laws.” Freedomworks and Americans for Prosperity were once a single organization called Citizens for a Sound Economy (CSE). CSE was founded in 1984 by the infamous Koch Brothers, David and Charles Koch, and received over $5.3 million from tobacco companies, mainly Philip Morris, between 1991 and 2004.

In 1990, Tim Hyde, RJR Tobacco’s head of national field operations, in an eerily similar description of the Tea Party today, explained why groups like CSE were important to the tobacco industry’s fight against government regulation. Hyde wrote:

“… coalition building should proceed along two tracks: a) a grassroots organizational and largely local track,; b) and a national, intellectual track within the DC-New York corridor. Ultimately, we are talking about a “movement,” a national effort to change the way people think about government’s (and big business) role in our lives. Any such effort requires an intellectual foundation – a set of theoretical and ideological arguments on its behalf.”

The common public understanding of the origins of the Tea Party is that it is a popular grassroots uprising that began with anti-tax protests in 2009.

However, the Quarterback study reveals that in 2002, the Kochs and tobacco-backed CSE designed and made public the first Tea Party Movement website under the web address Here’s a screenshot of the archived U.S. Tea Party site, as it appeared online on Sept. 13, 2002:

CSE describes the U.S. Tea Party site, “In 2002, our U.S. Tea Party is a national event, hosted continuously online, and open to all Americans who feel our taxes are too high and the tax code is too complicated.” The site features a “Patriot Guest book” where supporters can write a message of support for CSE and the U.S. Tea Party movement.

Sometime around September 2011, the U.S. Tea Party site was taken offline. According to the DNS registry, the web address is currently owned by Freedomworks.

The implications of the UCSF Quarterback report are widespread. The main concern expressed by the authors lies in what they see happening overseas as the Tea Party movement expands internationally, training activists in 30 countries including Israel, Georgia, Japan and Serbia.

As the authors explain:

“This international expansion makes it likely that Tea Party organizations will be mounting opposition to tobacco control (and other health) policies as they have done in the USA.”

Freedomworks and Americans for Prosperity are both multi-issue organizations that have expanded their battles to include other policies they see as threats to the free market principles they claim to defend, namely fighting health care reform and regulations on global warming pollution. The report’s warning about overseas expansion efforts by Freedomworks should therefore also be heeded by groups in the health and environment arenas.

Finally, this report might serve as a wake-up call to some people in the Tea Party itself, who would find it a little disturbing that the “grassroots” movement they are so emotionally attached to, is in fact a pawn created by billionaires and large corporations with little interest in fighting for the rights of the common person, but instead using the common person to fight for their own unfettered profits.

— Brendan DeMelle reposted from DeSmogBlog with permission

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18 Responses to Study Confirms Tea Party Was Created by Big Tobacco and Pollutocrat Kochs

  1. Ozonator says:

    Clearly the extreme GOP can’t say pro-life without cancer sticks and toxic AGW.

  2. Steve Lounsbury says:

    At last …. proof that the malignancy of the Tea Party is rooted in the treachery of societies enemies.

  3. Merrelyn Emery says:

    I suspect one of those 30 countries is Australia as the uncanny resemblance between the Tea Party and tactics used by the LNP opposition since Abbot became leader has been widely noted, ME

  4. Chris says:

    The puppets fighting against the evils of government don’t realize their strings are being manipulated by evil corporate puppeteers.

  5. Mike says:

    Joe, Use your persuasive skills to convince the journal to take down the paywall on this one.

  6. John Mashey says:

    As per TEA Party: Tobacco Everywhere Always also at DeSMogBlog:

    This article has 184 footnotes with references to many more details, plus another 16 pages of dense supplementary material listing organizations, people, funding, campaign examples, with its own 161 footnotes. In my opinion, it is an investigative tour de force, costs $30 and is worth every penny.”

  7. Digby Dellums says:

    The original study was funded by OUR TAX DOLLARS by the NIH.
    This document, especially considering its political ramifications, should be FREE.

  8. catman306 says:

    This revelation makes me wonder if there’s some connection between Big Fossil Fuel, Tobacco and the NRA.

  9. Frank says:

    I don’t doubt it but then again when you think that Progressive government itself was a tool created by the rich industrialists of their day, it kind of puts this into perspective. Progressivism, at least the economic side of it, is 100% beneficial to the moneyed interests of the day. Large corporations like Walmart, GE, GM, Boeing, Blackrock, Wackenhut, etc would never be the size they are or have the power they do if it were not for the big powerful progressive government protecting their global interests all in the name of course of protecting the middle class and jobs. Progressives, neocons, tea partiers are all tools of the moneyed and connected elites to get what they want.

  10. Frank says:

    Why on earth would you think that big Corps don’t like government? Most big corps, especially those in the heavily regulated (read protected) industries love government and the bigger and more powerful the better! There is no other way to enforce a cartel and limit competition then through the power of government. The more power the government can give itself the more valuable it is for the large corps to invest in political outcomes that will benefit them and hurt their competition. This has been the political model in the US and especially the Northeast and Midwest for decades. The Tea Party is no more a grass roots movement than the Occupy movement was. Both are controlled by moneyed elites.

  11. frank mansell says:

    I must be a genius, i knew this from day one with their so called grassroots bus tours.

  12. Gabby says:

    Frank, I think you have no idea what the progressive was all about.

  13. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    They are only ‘pro-life’ before you are born, and after that, all bets are off.

  14. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Just think Corey Bernardi, the face of the future.

  15. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Please forgive me, catman, but your suggestion reminds me of Basil Fawlty, and his ‘..Special Subject- the bleedin’ obvious’. Like attracts like- swans fly with swans, and carrion flies with carrion flies.

  16. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Frank has a point. Despite all the efforts of the rational and enlighted fraction of the US public, the grip of death of the moneyed elites has never been loosened, through Depressions, Civil War, civic unrest and endless global warfare, since the rich men of the colonies drew up their ‘Declaration of Independence’.

  17. PAULA DENMON says:

    No surprise here, but very interesting to see the documentation.
    Funny, how I was thinking last night during the SOTU, “Most Republicans don’t stand up for anything except K-STREET, really”.
    Now I see that thought was correct and I know why.

  18. lori says:

    The policies that have led to monopoly power are not the policies of “big, progressive government”. Those are policies that have been written by industry themselves, thanks to the influence of money in our elections – industry groups like ALEC and the Chamber of Commerce.