ThinkProgress reported last week that corporate lobbyists are helping to orchestrate the anti-Obama tea party protests. These lobbying-run front groups, along with promotion help from Fox News, are organizing the tea parties by calling right-wing activists and asking them to organize. They are also coordinating conference calls among activists, writing press releases, providing sign ideas, building websites supporting the protests, and distributing talking points so that the protesters can stay on message.
Today, FreedomWork’s Adam Brandon responded to the criticism that its efforts to organize these anti-Obama protests are ‘astroturf,’ saying that the organization’s work in coordinating and planning the events would be akin to “MoveOn’s model.” However, MoveOn is not run by corporate lobbyists and is funded by actual grassroots activists. On the other hand, the leader of FreedomWorks, Dick Armey, who is ranked as one of DC’s top “hired guns,” is a corporate lobbyist with a history of directing FreedomWorks to support the goals of his lobbying clients. For example:
— Armey’s FreedomWorks is actively organizing against health care reform. Indeed, Armey’s lobbying firm represents pharmaceutical companies, such as Bristol-Myers Squibb, that oppose comparative effectiveness research in the health reform plan because such a program may cut into revenue for branded drugs.
— Currently, FreedomWorks is focusing their energy activism on supporting the status quo reliance on fossil fuels. In addition to working for various domestic oil companies with a vested interest in opposing change, Armey’s lobbying firm represents Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Prime Minister of the UAE, on energy related issues such as maintaining the U.S.-UAE relationship where “U.S companies have played major roles in the development of UAE energy resources, which represent about 10 percent of global oil reserves.”
— In 2006, Armey’s lobbying firm represented the Senado de Republica (Mexican Senate) on “enhancing U.S.-Mexico relations,” and specifically on immigration policy. Curiously, during the same period, Armey’s Freedom Works stood out as one of the few right wing organizations to boldly support comprehensive immigration reform.
FreedomWorks represents a top-down, corporate-friendly approach that has been the norm for conservative organizations for years. As Obama prepares to push to close corporate tax loopholes, reform health care, and transition to a clean energy economy, we can expect more corporate lobbyists to create astroturf protests to oppose change.
Armey’s FreedomWorks gave Fox News the following statement today, acknowledging their role in organizing the movement:
We’d like to say we are one of the main driving forces, but we are not THE driving force behind the protests. We’re mainly helping activists get in touch with each other.