This afternoon on MSNBC’s Hardball, host Mike Barnacle had Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) and Chicago tea party organizer John O’Hara on to discuss the tea party protests. Throughout their discussion, both Pence and O’Hara repeatedly claimed that today’s protests were nothing more than a “grassroots” movement that had finally reached a boiling point. It wasn’t until Barnacle pressed O’Hara on how he got involved with the protests that O’Hara explained that he worked for the right-wing think tank, the Heartland Institute. Still, O’Hara claimed he only worked on the tea party project in his “spare time — on weekends and nights”:
BARNACLE: Why are you involved in this?
O’HARA: I work at a free-market think tank, the Heartland Institute here in Chicago. In my spare time, on weekends and nights, leading up to the Feburary 27 tea parties, my good friend J. P. Freire…at the American Spectator invited me and asked me if I could help get some momentum behind a tea party in front of the White House. I did and we had over 300 people show up. … Ever since then you’ve had thousands come out.
Like his fellow astroturfers at Americans for Prosperity, American Solutions, and FreedomWorks, O’Hara is misrepresenting the extent to which his employer, the Heartland Institute, has been involved in helping organize today’s protests. Earlier this week, O’Hara himself issued a press release bragging about how Heartland was “the first organization on board for the first tea parties” and has been “integrally involved in the April 15th Tax Day Tea Party here in Chicago.” Heartland promoted the protests on their homepage today.