In a blog post yesterday, Republican strategist Eric Odom defended his tea party business strategy in response to Think Progress’ reporting on Tea Party Profiteers –- Republican consultants, political operatives, and others trying to take advantage of the tea party movement to make a profit and advance a special-interest agenda. To Odom, it is completely ethical for him and his business partners to “have created a means through which they can pay some bills through their activism”:
And even more absurd is the fact that some tea party activists within the “free market” movement are upset that some entrepreneurs have created a means through which they can pay some bills through their activism. [...] But more importantly, we as “free market” activists should applaud their work in writing these books and we should reward them with our pocket books, not balk at them for doing so.
Odom runs countless tea-party-themed websites around the country, many of them made to appear organic, or locally organized. Through his two for-profit companies, Strategic Activism, LLC and American Liberty Alliance, Odom is able to collect money from unknown sources while setting the agenda and the giving out marching orders for the tea party community forums he controls. As the AP reported, lobbyist Reid McMillian helped write the anti-health reform content for “Healthcare Horserace,” one of Odom’s many websites.
A longtime operative who made a career building what he described as Republican “stealth” “attack sites,” Odom recently proclaimed that the tea party movement should work exclusively to elect Republicans this year, writing, “the Republican Party must be our vessel in 2010.” Indeed, his business partner at Strategic Activism, Allen Fuller, runs a GOP public relations firm called Flat Creek Public Affairs where he helps to direct tea parties into volunteering and fundraising for Republican candidates.
Odom and his fellow profiteers are trying to pull off an elaborate scam. They posture as independents and activists, but they are truly Republican hacks, working largely for big business special interests. Instead of protesting the hegemony of an international corporation — as the original Boston tea party did against the London-based East India Company — they are helping to continue a Bush-era society where corporations like Goldman Sachs have unbridled power.
For instance, former Republican Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-TX), another self-proclaimed tea party leader, rails against the Wall Street bailout and efforts to rebuild the foundations of the economy, even though his own lobbying firm represented AIG, Lehman Brothers, and Merrill Lynch during the bailouts. Armey, who is still paid a lobbyist salary of at least $550,00 a year, told the New York Times that although he does not believe in “death panels” or other “exaggerations,” he encourages others to spread falsehoods to advance his agenda. Armey’s willful lying is instructive for understanding the profiteers: in the most condescending way, they are exploiting the tea party movement to line their own pockets.