Monday, October 26, 2015

The Tea Party Scam

Good reporting from Eric Lipton and Jennifer Steinhauer on the ways conservative “Action Groups” are exploiting voter anger:
The petitions that started surfacing online over a year ago were as incendiary as they were urgent, begging recipients to sign up to “Boot Boehner,” “Dump McConnell,” “Drop a Truth-Bomb on Kevin McCarthy” and “Fire Paul Ryan.”

The calls to oust Republican leaders in Congress did not come from Democrats. They came from conservative websites and bloggers who have helped stoke a grass-roots rebellion to make Congress more conservative, a fevered continuation of the six-year Tea Party movement.

But these politically charged appeals to conservatives around the country were often accompanied by a solicitation for money, and the ultimate beneficiaries, records suggest, are the consultants who created the campaigns rather than the causes they are promoting.
One example:
Larry Ward, the founder of Constitutional Rights PAC, defended the move to derail the ascension of Mr. Ryan, calling it a worthy goal. “Politics is supposed to be bloody. It is supposed to be a battle of will,” Mr. Ward said. “And the one who can get the American people siding with them is the one who wins.”

But Mr. Ward also has a financial stake in the fight. He runs Political Media, a Washington-based firm that will charge Constitutional Rights PAC a fee for sending out the blast email with the dual purpose of asking conservatives to help dump Mr. Ryan and to donate to Mr. Ward’s political action committee.

“Help us fund the fight by making an emergency donation of $30, $50 or even $100 today,” the email said, even though records show that Mr. Ward’s PAC spends every dollar it gets on consultants, mailings and fund-raising — making no donations to candidates. Mr. Ward defended his use of his own firm, saying he gave his PAC a discount on his company’s regular service charges.
Nauseating. And it isn't just ordinary schmucks who are being exploited; the Washington Post had some great reporting after the 2012 election showing how much of the money spent by billionaires like Sheldon Adelson ended up in the pockets of political consultants and advertising men. These guys are making money hand over fist. In the 90s the huge mansions being built around Washington were mainly for high tech entrepreneurs and real estate tycoons, but now most of them belong to political guys.

It makes me wonder. How much of the anger and fear in American politics is being created by these consultants for their own purposes? I mean, if these guys just pocket the money, that's disgusting but not especially important. But if it is in the interest of a whole class of well-connected people -- political consultants, advertising agents, talk radio guys, Fox News -- to keep the anger boiling, can they make that happen? Or are they just riding a wave that exists quite apart from them? After all, paranoid politics has been around for 250 years in America. I don't know, but it gives me pause.

It also makes me wonder if angry Tea Party types who worship entrepreneurship and scorn the common good are more prone to engage in this sort of thing than others. Are there Democratic or neocon groups doing the same thing?

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