ThinkProgress first reported that corporate front groups run by lobbyists were orchestrating the radical anti-Obama tea party protests held yesterday. One of the front groups that mobilized the protests is Americans for Prosperity, an organization funded by oil industry money and run by Tim Phillips, a former partner in Ralph Reed’s lobbying firm. On Monday, New York Times columnist Paul Krugman noted these these “astroturf” campaigns were meant to appear as a grassroots, spontaneous protests.
Speaking at a tea party protest in Madison, Wisconsin yesterday, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) mocked Krugman’s assertions:
RYAN: Earlier this week, a columnist from the New York Times wrote about these events and I want to read you a few quotes. What we have here today is an astroturf event, a fake grassroots event. These rallies don’t represent a spontaneous outpouring of public sentiment. What do you all think about that? [audience boos]
In addition to arranging for buses to bring people to the Madison tea party, Americans for Prosperity staff wrote press releases to publicize the event, coordinated logistics, and even distributed talking points. Matt Block, the Wisconsin state director for Americans for Prosperity, shared the stage with Ryan, delivering one of the keynote speeches.
As critics have pointed out, Ryan and other GOP lawmakers are embracing the lobbyist-backed tea parties in a bid to return to the failed policies of the Bush administration. Ryan, the ranking member on the House Budget Committee, offered the Republican alternative budget last month. His budget not only cost $225 billion more than the Democratic plan, but gave the average CEO $1.5 million in tax breaks.
Jesse Russell posted signs featured at the Madison rally where Rep. Ryan spoke. The signs included messages such as “Obama’s Plan White Slavery,” “Obama is the Antichrist,” “Obama Terrorist to America in God we trust,” and signs honoring the standoff at Ruby Ridge. View them here.