April 2, 2010

If you gave a Tea Party and no one came, would it still be news? If, on the other hand, Koch Industries and the RNC gave a Tea Party and a handful of people came, would it still be news? Or would reporting it three or four times a day make it news?

Shoq and StopBeck pointed me to something I hadn't noticed: CNN is serving as a built-in PR machine for the Tea Party Express.

Since the kickoff of the TeaParty Express Tour, CNN has embedded a small press corps in their custom-painted "CNN Express" press bus for the sole purpose of following teabaggers around the country , reporting 3-4 times daily on the activities of the corporate-funded, RNC-connected Tea Party Express.

This clip from Wednesday boggled my mind. You can see how few there are at this rally, but watch as Ali Velshi and Ed Lavandera turn it into a "movement".

LAVANDERA: But these other rallies that have take been place in St. George, Utah, in Phoenix, and in Salt Lake City, now in Grand Junction, have had -- one of the ones we went to had close to 2,000 people. The last couple that we've been to have been around 500, a couple hundred people or so. This one's a little bit smaller.

They are packing up here shortly and headed to Denver tonight, so we'll see how that works. Some of these other rallies have been held during the days, so obviously people have to work and that sort of thing. But in Denver, it will be an interesting one to check out. It will be after work, and see what kind of turnout that they draw there.

The organizers here maintain that they are very happy with the turnout that they've been getting, but I think as they push forward and move closer to Washington, D.C., the numbers and the intensity of the turnout --


LAVANDERA: -- will be important to keep an eye on just to get a sense of how much people are engaging and joining into this effort.

VELSHI: All right. Well, maybe when you get closer to Washington, D.C., do you mind if I join you for a couple days? I'll come on the bus, ride along with you.

In one short clip, we have two reporters apologizing for low turnouts, promising more, and watching for it to grow as it gets closer to "Washington, DC". Nowhere do they mention how the Tea Party Express is funded or who the major players are. It begs the question: If CNN weren't embedded with the Tea Party Express, would we call it a 'movement'? Who is the story? TPE, or CNN's invention of the TPE?

The Tea Party Express is not -- I repeat -- NOT a grass roots movement. It's a professionally coordinated corporate PR effort funded and founded by professional PR hacks, principally from the firm of Russo Marsh & Rogers (also known as King Media Group) in Sacramento, CA.

New FEC disclosures have just been filed, so let's have a look at the money trail.

The TeaParty Express is primarily a Howard Kaloogian project. Howard Kaloogian was featured in an earlier Crooks and Liars report on paid agitator Deborah Johns and in this report about bus tour co-sponsor, the BusBank, who was found negligent and responsible for the deaths of 23 passengers.

Or maybe you recall Kaloogian as one of the architects of the Gray Davis recall/Arnold Schwarzenegger coup of 2003.

According to the most recent Tea Party Express FEC disclosures (PDF), employees of the Tea Party Express include Mormon mom Tiffiny Reugner, Amy Kremer, former Tea Party Patriot, Marine Mom Deborah Johns, and Joe Weirzbicki. These are the paid hacks comprising the face of the "Tea Party Express" campaign.

The newcomer to the Tea Party Express group is Frontline Strategies and Media, LLC. A visit to their website is, well...interesting. It's a shell site, with a front page and a lot of "coming soon" pages underneath. The domain frontlinestrat.com was registered in June, 2008 to Brent Lowder. Brent Lowder is COO of the California Republican Party.

California Department of Corporations lists Frontline Strategies and Media LLC's primary contact as Eric Beach. And look what Eric Beach's bio on Mercury Public Affairs says:

Mr. Beach's political background is extensive in California. Prior to becoming Chief Operating Officer, Mr. Beach was Campaign Director for Bill Jones for United States Senate in California. During California's historic recall, Mr. Beach served as a senior staff member for Arnold Schwarzenegger's successful run for Governor in California and as a member of the California Gubernatorial Transition Team.

If it isn't already obvious what a sham this outfit is, it should be now. It's probably not much of a surprise either, but tell me this: Where does CNN ever disclose the nature of this "movement" or who is behind it? Look at the transcript up there. It says "organizers". It makes it sound like a bunch of really committed citizens got together and are taking the country by storm. A real American grassroots movement!

CNN's decision to embed themselves in the Tea Party Express Great American PR and Propaganda tour while failing to specifically report who sponsors and orchestrates these events points to the bankruptcy of our corporate media and their willingness to mislead viewers about what they are doing and why they are there.

This isn't just my usual round of press indignation. These people have ruined California and left a leading-edge state in a pile of dust and rubble. Now they want to do it to the country, and they've enlisted CNN to help them. It's just one more reason to dump CNN.

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