Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Grassroots vs. astroturf

Everyone knows about the Tea Party movement, a grassroots movement comprised of actual American voters who are fed up with the size and growth of the federal government. Recently, there has been some organized opposition. Also a grassroots movement? Uh, no...
A seemingly grassroots organization that's mounted an online campaign to counter the tea party movement is actually the front end of an elaborate scheme that funnels funds -- including sizable labor union contributions -- through the offices of a prominent Democratic party lawyer.

A Web site popped up in January dedicated to preventing the tea party's "radical" and "dangerous" ideas from "gaining legislative traction," targeting GOP candidates in Illinois for the firing squad.

"This movement is a fad," proclaims TheTeaPartyIsOver.org, which was established by the American Public Policy Center (APPC), a D.C.-based campaign shop that few people have ever heard of.

...

Here's how it works: What appears like a local groundswell is in fact the creation of two men -- Craig Varoga and George Rakis, Democratic Party strategists who have set up a number of so-called 527 groups, the non-profit election organizations that hammer on contentious issues (think Swift Boats, for example).

Varoga and Rakis keep a central mailing address in Washington, pulling in soft money contributions from unions and other well-padded sources to engage in what amounts to a legal laundering system. The money -- tens of millions of dollars -- gets circulated around to different states by the 527s, which pay for TV ads, Internet campaigns and lobbyist salaries, all while keeping the hands of the unions clean -- for the most part.

The system helps hide the true sources of funding, giving the appearance of locally bred opposition in states from Oklahoma to New Jersey, or in the case of the Tea Party Web site, in Illinois.
Read it all...

(H/T: Jennifer Rubin)

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