Editor's Note: This piece was originally written and published in September, 2010, shortly before the wave election that swept in the first group of billionaire-backed conservatives. Since then, money has flowed freely from the United States to the UK to fund initiatives like Brexit, and the lies which fueled Thursday's vote. I thought it worthwhile to republish it as a reminder of how far they've come. - Karoli
In February of this year, Brendan Steinhauser of FreedomWorks posted his thoughts on the tea party movement's past, present and future. Part of his post concerned the 'mainstreaming' of what was formerly presented as a populist movement. The third rail of his 'vision' for FreedomWorks was this:
Third, the movement must institutionalize itself in the culture and politics. The movement must re-invigorate the conservative/libertarian movement by utilizing the resources of free market think tanks, intellectuals, advocacy groups, books, magazines, websites, online networks and funding sources. The movement should take advantage of the existing infrastructure of conservative/libertarian politics and spread these resources throughout the movement so that millions more Americans will be exposed to the ideas of F.A. Hayek, National Review, the Cato Institute, the Hoover Institution, etc..
One might assume from that paragraph that FreedomWorks' intention was to limit itself to the United States. Not so. Yesterday, Allen McDuffee's ThinkTanked blog reported the attendance of US tea partiers in London at the Resource Bank Institute sponsored by the TaxPayers' Alliance, a Grover Norquist clone based in London as reported in the Guardian.
Today's conference will be attended by Americans who have lobbied in the US to overturn Barack Obama's healthcare plan and maintain tax breaks for the rich. Several of the groups have close links to the billionaire brothers David and Charles Koch, prominent tormentors of the Obama administration.
The Guardian also lists the lobbying groups that are involved, many of which most Americans would not consider lobbying organization, but nonetheless includes: The Cato Institute, FreedomWorks, Americans for Prosperity, Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation, Krieble Foundation, Heritage Foundation. Some won't be surprising and others will garner some level of protest.
Of the groups Allen listed, only one protested: Cato Institute. Their response to Allen, in part:
...a couple of corrections on your story. First, we receive less than 5 percent of our annual operating budget from Koch interests, not "tens of millions of dollars." Second, as a non-profit organization, we have provided no financial support to the Tea Party movement. The only "backing" we've given to the Tea Party movement might be the policy papers publicly available on our website advocating limited government.
Well, just to be clear, "tens of millions" is not an inaccurate figure. From 1998-2005, Koch charities funded Cato to the tune of about $13 million. Since then, the bulk of their donations have gone to the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, but only after Cato was securely set as a leading libertarian think tank. Koch charities have also given FreedomWorks nearly the same amount in that same time frame, when it was still known as Citizens for a Sound Economy. (Summary)
Similarly, Scaife charities funded the Heritage Foundation, who is also listed as a "gold sponsor" of the Resource Bank Europe, described thus:
Modelled after the Resource Bank organized every year by the Heritage Foundation in the United States and the Liberty Forum organized by Atlas Economic Research Foundation, Resource Bank Europe - the largest annual congress of free market think-tanks in Europe - gathers today representatives from dozens of European and American think tanks, academics, policy experts, elected officials and other parties interested in the debate over strategies and problems posed to the European free economies and interested in the future of individual liberty in Europe.
Despite Cato's denial, the Guardian followed up with an article today confirming FreedomWorks' involvement in the tea party presence in London this week.
Terry Kibbe, a consultant at Freedom Works, which claims to convene 800,000 activists, told the Guardian she wants to help mobilise otherwise cerebral political institutions in the UK and Europe by helping them create grassroots activist wings.
Behind the Tea Party movement are a series of well-financed and well-established rightwing lobby groups who pay for TV adverts, campaign materials and supply training for local grassroots chapters.
"We have been working to identify groups in Europe that would be amenable to becoming more activist-based, thinktanks that could start activist wings," said Kibbe. "We have worked with the Taxpayers' Alliance, in Austria and in Italy, and we want to do more."
Here's some background on Terry Kibbe:
- Married to Matt Kibbe, President of FreedomWorks
- Former employee of Unisys Corporation and EDS before going to work for Koch Industries in 1997 as manager of systems excellence for Koch's public affairs department (SourceWatch)
- From Koch Industries she jumped to Christopher Cox's office as his administrative assistant
- Founded the Consumers Rights League, an astroturf organization fronting for the credit card industry.
So FreedomWorks sees itself as the global grassroots organizer for conservative libertarian causes, does it? I wonder how that squares with their tax-exempt purpose. When Brendan Steinhauser writes this...
Finally, the movement should seek to take over the most conservative of the two major parties: the Republican Party. The movement should do this from the ground up, precinct by precinct, county by county – in every county in America.
...I wonder if the real thinking is to take over the world, precinct by precinct, democracy by democracy. It's clear they're meddling overseas with the intent to instill more climate change deniers in Europe, defeat net neutrality on a global basis and install oil barons as the New World Order.
Something really has to change, and soon. There are some power plays going on here which are not healthy for any country, county, precinct or democracy.