The insurance lobby has urged the public to turn out for town halls, as have members of the tea
bparty movement and the group Conservatives for Patients’ Rights, which is providing a list of upcoming public events on its website — together with videos of events that have already been disrupted.
These town hall demonstrations represent the intersection of wealthy corporations, tea partiers and conservative activist groups. Do we really need any more proof that these unhinged protests are nothing but right-wing corporate-funded anti-reform astroturfing?
Here’s more on the network of well-funded, well-connected interests behind these demonstrations, after the fold:
The conservative groups, including FreedomWorks and Americans for Prosperity, are harnessing social networking Web sites to organize their supporters in much the same way Mr. Obama did during his election campaign.
The Texas protest against [Democratic Rep.] Doggett was coordinated by Heather Liggett, who has worked with the local Republican Party, as well as the state chapter of Americans for Prosperity, to organize antitax “tea party” demonstrations.
When a member of her group saw a newspaper advertisement about Mr. Doggett’s event, Mrs. Liggett posted it on her Web site, she said, and the word spread “like a domino effect” through her network. She estimated that 450 people showed up.
One group, called Right Principles, which sent protesters to an event in May held by Representative Jim Himes, a freshman Democrat from Connecticut, has distributed a memorandum laying out strategies to “pack the hall” and pummel lawmakers with questions.
That’s the same astroturfing 101 memo I wrote about yesterday.
In Virginia, Bill Wilson, the president of Americans for Limited Government, a conservative group, issued a clarion call on Monday for protests against Representative Tom Periello, another freshman Democrat. Mr. Wilson urged residents of Mr. Periello’s district to “hold rallies, demonstrations, tea parties and protests in opposition to Barack Obama’s insidious efforts to take over the health system.”[…]
In Washington, Amy Menefee, a spokeswoman for Americans for Prosperity, said her group was encouraging members to attend town-hall-style meetings and ask questions, including whether the lawmaker has read the entire health care bill. Ms. Menefee said her group was encouraging its members to “be respectful.”
FreedomWorks is doing much the same; it maintains a map on its Web site where members can post events in their communities.
[All emphasis mine]
So, we have a network of right-wing corporate-funded organizations–who are getting a boost from the health industrial complex–making it look like there’s a groundswell of opposition to health care reform that doesn’t actually exist.
Now, these folks certainly have the right to demonstrate. But let’s not lie and pretend that these protests represent some kind of popular opposition to health care reform–they don’t, they’re just part of a right-wing astroturf campaign of harassment and intimidation.
Rep. Doggett says it best:
This mob, sent by the local Republican and Libertarian parties, did not come just to be heard, but to deny others the right to be heard. And this appears to be part of a coordinated, nationwide effort. What could be more appropriate for the “party of no” than having its stalwarts drowning out the voices of their neighbors by screaming “just say no!”
The Party of No strikes again.
UPDATE: And remember, the health industrial complex isn’t just encouraging these things–they’re chipping in cold, hard cash:
But the insurers have played the inside game, spending about $40 million on an army of lobbyists and lavishing campaign contributions on Democrats and Republicans to kill the public option. In all, the health industry spent $133 million in the second quarter alone, more than a million bucks a day.
I wonder how much of that $1,000,000+ a day is going toward funding the same groups who are organizing/agitating at these protests.
UPDATE II: The most insulting part of all? The right isn’t even hiding it:
CPR [Conservatives for Patients’ Rights] is the group headed by controversial former hospitals exec Rick Scott that’s spending millions on ads attacking reform in all sorts of lurid ways, a campaign that’s being handled by the same P.R. mavens behind the Swift Boat Vets.
In response to my questions, a spokesman for the group confirmed that it has undertaken a concerted effort to get people out to the town hall meetings to protest reform. The spokesperson, Brian Burgess, confirmed that CPR is emailing out “town hall alert” flyers, and schedules of town hall meetings, to its mailing list.
These efforts — combined with CPR’s effort to enlist Tea Party-ers, as reported yesterday by TPM — provide a glimpse into the ways anti-reform groups are trying to create a sense of public momentum in their favor.