Politics

Bank Lobbyist-Run Front Group ‘FreedomWorks’ Tries To Trick Protesters Into Only Protesting Federal Reserve

In a post titled “Wall Street Protesters Should Instead Focus on the Federal Reserve,” a staffer for the group FreedomWorks claims:

The Occupy Wall Street website—which surely does not represent the views of all the protesters—has released a 13-point list of pro-government demands. OccupyWallSt.org demonstrates their economic illiteracy by demanding free college education for all, one trillion dollars in infrastructure and ecological spending. One little detail is missing: who is going to pay for all of this?

FreedomWorks is a front group used by Wall Street lobbyists to concoct bank-friendly schemes. FreedomWorks is playing its usual role: masquerading as a grassroots group to confuse activists and help big corporations. Even the Wall Street Journal has mocked the organization for its astroturf campaigns, which often include “amateur-looking” websites to promote the lobbying interests of FreedomWork’s leaders. Here’s a short run-down of how FreedomWorks manipulates people to promote their Wall Street donors:

FreedomWorks is run by super lobbyist Dick Armey. Armey left his lobbying firm after ThinkProgress first revealed his long history of orchestrating fake grassroots efforts on behalf of his corporate lobbying clients. Still, Armey has a history of influence-peddling as a registered lobbyist for the Royal Bank of Scotland, Citizens Bank, the Investment Company Institute, and many other banks. His longtime firm DLA Piper represented AIG, Lehman Brothers, and Merrill Lynch during the bank bailouts.

FreedomWorks has pushed a myriad of bank-friendly policies to benefit Armey’s lobbying clients and other FreedomWorks board members. The biggest example would be FreedomWork’s central role in promoting President Bush’s attempt to privatize Social Security. In 2005, FreedomWorks literally paid people to attend rallies to support Bush’s event. The New York Times caught a FreedomWorks operative pretending to be a regular town hall citizen standing up to support Bush’s plan. In more recent history, FreedomWorks has instructed Tea Party members to oppose financial reforms designed to clean up corruption on Wall Street, regulate predatory bank practices, and limit risky behavior that has systemic implications for the economy.

FreedomWorks is headed by a group of Wall Street investors and bank lobbyists: FreedomWorks board member C. Boyden Gray is a longtime DC lobbyist whose firm Grey and Shmitz represents the trade association for Goldman Sachs, AIG and JP Morgan — the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Other board members include James Burnley, a corporate lobbyist for a firm that represents ING Bank, right-wing bank apologist Steve Forbes, as well as investors Frank Sands and Robert Lansing.

The demand that protesters avoid big banks and instead picket the Federal Reserve is typical FreedomWorks misdirection. As Matt Yglesias notes, the Federal Reserve is not inherently the problem; the Federal Reserve not doing enough to promote fiscal and monetary stimulus to encourage jobs growth is the issue.