On Thursday, the lobbyist-run groups Americans for Prosperity and FreedomWorks — which were instrumental in orchestrating dozens of anti-Obama tea parties and town hall disruptions — are planning an anti-health reform rally at the steps of the Capitol. Republican leadership, like Minority Leader Rep. John Boehner (R-OH), have endorsed the rally. But two of the most rabidly right-wing members of Congress, Rep. Steve King (R-IA) and Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) are amongst the most aggressive promoters of the rally, with the help of talk radio and Fox News.
FreedomWorks has launched a website called “DontKillGrandma.com” listing recommended tactics for activists to engage in while protesting health reform. For the Thursday rally, FreedomWorks says activists should engage in a “simultaneous chant of ‘Kill the Bill.’” FreedomWorks is funded by corporate money and is led by Dick Armey, the former Republican Majority Leader and until recently lobbyist from DLA Piper.
Americans for Prosperity (AFP) is busing people to the rally. AFP is led by astroturf lobbyist Tim Phillips and is bankrolled by gas and oil baron David Koch, America’s 9th richest person and the financier of dozens of conservative think-tanks, publications, and politicians. Like they did for the April tea parties, AFP has commissioned at least 10 buses from Maryland, New Jersey, and North Carolina to bring protesters — free of charge — to DC for the rally.
During a speech last night, King thanked the lobbyists for bringing in buses from “state after state after state.” He likened them to revolutionary war hero Paul Revere for answering the “call of your country”:
KING: If the Founding Fathers could stand in here tonight, the tears would be running down their cheeks thinking of what is staged to happen in this Congress. This is why we need the American people to come to this city and be here by noon on Thursday. Gather together, come to this Capitol, surround this place, bring your passion, your love for this country, bring your patriotism, and bring your signs while you’re at it. Mr. Speaker, the American people need to come here. […]
There are buses that are coming in from state after state after state, converging on this city. People are dropping what’s important. It’s as if Paul Revere had ridden across America and said, ‘here’s the call, here’s the call of your country.’
Republicans may be growing concerned that very few people will actually show up to their protest. As Mother Jones notes, “As of Tuesday afternoon, the official tea party website indicated that only 25 patriots were on hand for ‘Operation House Call.’” Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) appeared to try to lower expectations for the event by repeatedly downplaying “Thursday’s event as nothing more than a large-scale ‘press conference’ on the Capitol steps.”