"Astroturf In Action: Right-Wing Billionaire David Koch Pays For 40 Buses To Haul In Protesters"
Americans for Prosperity (AFP), the corporate front group founded in the 1980s by Koch Industries billionaire David Koch, worked closely with Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) to orchestrate the anti-health reform rally today. As ThinkProgress reported yesterday, AFP has been encouraging right-wing activists to board their buses — free of charge — to attend the rally. While AFP does not disclose all of its corporate donors, foundations controlled by David and Charles Koch provide millions in yearly funding, and David continues to chair the AFP foundation and preside over AFP’s annual convention.
ThinkProgress found at least a dozen AFP staffers standing at their designated bus drop off point near the Capitol, handing out signs, directions, talking points, petitions, and donuts to protesters. Many of the people who work at AFP are longtime Republican operatives, like Ben Marchi, the AFP Virginia director who previously worked for the National Republican Congressional Committee and for Rep. Tom Delay (R-TX). Victor Zapanta produced this video report of AFP staffers talking about their exploits at the rally today:
AFP STAFFERS: We have 25 buses just from Pennsylvania, New Jersey we probably have 5 or 6 from Maryland.
AFP STAFFERS: We have about 40 buses coming.
David Koch’s AFP has a long history of marshaling “grassroots” support for GOP objectives. In the early 1990s, AFP, then known as Citizens for a Sound Economy, worked secretly with then-Rep. Newt Gingrich (R-GA) to organize angry crowds following the Clintons as they touted their health reform bill. Industry money from health insurance, telecommunications, oil, and other companies has flowed freely to AFP over the years to help AFP promote an agenda of boosting the rich, stripping consumer safeguards, and maintaining corporate monopolies. Phillip Morris rented out AFP from the Koch family, contributing millions to the organization in exchange for AFP to build opposition to tobacco regulations.
AFP’s daily activities are managed by Tim Phillips, an infamous astroturf lobbyist who built a career using Christian front groups to wage stealth campaigns. For example, his work includes fighting under the radar to promote energy deregulation for Enron and helping Jack Abramoff clients continue forced abortion sweatshops in the Northern Mariana Islands.
Will the media report on the true driver of today’s rally? Or will they leave David Koch out of the equation, despite his hand-in-glove involvement.
This afternoon on the House GOP’s live webcast, Rep. Bob Latta (R-OH) praised the anti-health reform protesters for arriving to the Capitol without any assistance paying for the buses. He also said no central organization was orchestrating the effort:
LATTA: Some stakes took over 20 buses [...] You know, they’re not rabble-rousers.
KINGSTON: Who paid for them?
LATTA: They all paid for themselves. You know, these people came down on their own.