Thursday, October 31, 2013

Tea Party flames out......
A tea bag, bursting
into flame....

The Tea Party has imploded, has immolated itself on the flame of it's own extremism. 

In less than a week, we have an important conservative southern primary, in Alabama, and an important southern state-wide election in ultra-conservative controlled Virginia. Those elections will tell if the Tea Party has lost it's influence, and by how much.

The Tea Party is a radical rightwing wreck.  And part of the problem has to do with the battle of the big donors who astroturfed the Tea Party in the first place, who are at war with the 'other' big money on the right that is fed up with the crazy ideologues who put purity ahead of winning.

So, what defines the Tea Party as astro-turfed? That it is funded and controlled by a few big money donors who share extremist or radical right wing politics.  As noted in Mother Jones - first, the big money part of the equation.  It is worth noting that big money funds ALL of the major Tea Party originating entities:

FreedomWorks, the national conservative group that helped launch the tea party movement, sells itself as a genuine grassroots operation, and for years it has battled accusations of "astroturfing"—posing as a populist organization while doing the bidding of big-money donors. Yet internal documents obtained by Mother Jones show that FreedomWorks has indeed become dependent on wealthy individual donors to finance its growing operation.

Last month, the Washington Post reported that Richard Stephenson, a reclusive millionaire banker and FreedomWorks board member, and members of his family funneled $12 million in October through two newly created Tennessee corporations to FreedomWorks' super-PAC, which used these funds to support tea party candidates in November's elections. The revelation that a corporate bigwig like Stephenson, who founded the Cancer Treatment Centers of America and chairs its board, was responsible for more than half of the FreedomWorks super-PAC's haul in 2012 undercuts the group's grassroots image and hands ammunition to critics who say FreedomWorks does the bidding of rich conservative donors.
According to a 52-page report prepared by FreedomWorks' top brass for a board of directors meeting held in mid-December at the Virginia office of Sands Capital Management, an investment firm run by FreedomWorks board member Frank Sands, the entire FreedomWorks organization—its 501(c)(3) and (c)(4) nonprofit arms and its super-PAC—raised nearly $41 million through mid-December [2012]. Of that total, $33 million—or 81 percent of its 2012 fundraising—came in the form of "major gifts," the type of big donations coveted by nonprofits and super-PACs.

Well-heeled individual contributors ponied up $31 million—or 94 percent—of those major gifts, according to the FreedomWorks board book. Eight donors gave a half-million dollars or more; 22 donated between $100,000 and $499,999; 17 cut checks between $50,000 and $99,999; and 95 gave between $10,000 and $49,999. Foundations contributed $1.6 million in major gifts, and corporations donated $330,000. Corporations once accounted for more of FreedomWorks' hefty donations. In a memo included in the report, David Kirby, FreedomWork's vice president for development, and senior adviser Terry Kibbe wrote, "This year continued our trend of relying less and less on corporate support." At the same time FreedomWorks expanded its small donor ranks from 41,794 in 2011 to 81,081 in 2012. More than 30,000 of those small donors gave between a dollar and $99 this year.

FreedomWorks, flush with wealthy donors' money, took full advantage of the nation's lax campaign finance rules during the 2012 election cycle. The group's nonprofit side shifted millions of dollars in dark money to the FreedomWorks super-PAC, effectively hiding the true source of those funds. One campaign finance reform advocate blasted those internal money transfers as the "laundering of secret money."
And then there is the funding of the directing and controlling - or, if you are willing to be more precise, MANIPULATING - entities.  As an example, again from Mother Jones, we see Freedom Works paying off Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck, who apparently don't succeed on the basis of advertisers:
In 2013, FreedomWorks plans to spend between $25 million and $30 million, according to the board book. Favored causes and projects include the annual Blog-Con convention, the right's answer to Netroots Nation; fly-ins for activists to lobby members of Congress; briefings with lawmakers and their aides; and the recently launched FreedomWorks University. FreedomWorks also plans to continue its financial support for Glenn Beck's media enterprise, including sharing a TV studio with and leasing office space to the Washington bureau of TheBlaze, Beck's website and TV network.

In an interview with Media Matters for America's Joe Strupp, Dick Armey shed more light on FreedomWorks' financial arrangements with Glenn Beck's media network and Rush Limbaugh's radio show. Those deals were first reported by Mother Jones. Armey said FreedomWorks paid Beck upwards of $1 million to promote Freedomwork last year, calling the deal with Beck "basically paid advertising for FreedomWorks."

It's an uphill battle to get anyone other than the hard core tin foil hat crowd to support the extreme right, but the big money keeps pouring in the big bucks.  As noted in the WaPo two days ago, the tea party has reached a new low, and a new high in people who oppose it.  It is not a big jump to figure out that if people don't like it, or worse, think it is a bunch of dangerous lunatics crazily chewing on the right wing fringe, those larger number of people won't be joining them any time soon.  It is also a fair assessment that the disapproval of friends, family, and the public at large might discourage many others - all but the most intransigent tin foil hat wearers - from joining too.  Those remaining die-hards response to everything, good or bad, is to double down on the crazy extremism, including the nutty conspiracy theories and the ever-present "we're victims!" lament.

Opposition to tea party reaches a high in Virginia, according to poll

Opposition to the tea party movement has reached a high in Virginia, a Washington Post/Abt SRBI poll shows, kicking a key leg of support out from under Ken Cuccinelli II as he tries to win the governor’s race on a strongly conservative platform.

Cuccinelli (R), the state attorney general, trails businessman Terry McAuliffe (D) by 12 percentage points among likely voters, the survey shows. And Cuccinelli’s decline comes as Virginians are increasingly turned off by the movement that has backed him strongly and with which he shares many views. 
The tea party is opposed by 53 percent of registered voters in the commonwealth, up a slim three points from last year and up 10 points from a May 2011 Washington Post poll. Just 36 percent support the movement, down from 45 percent two years ago. Among those with the most intense feelings, voters who strongly oppose the tea party now outnumber those who strongly support it by more than 3 to 1. (my emphasis added - DG)

Independents have soured most dramatically on the tea party: Fifty-five percent oppose the movement, up from 37 percent in May 2011. It’s also opposed by 80 percent of Democrats and 23 percent of Republicans.

Leon Turner, a retired furniture factory worker from Collinsville in southwest Virginia’s Henry County, plans to vote the straight GOP ticket Tuesday. But he’s not a fan of the tea party. “I don’t really like them that much,” said Turner, 74. “I don’t think they’re going to get their way, and I think it will just stir up more problems than it helps.” Turner said that he agrees with the tea party “in theory” on many issues and that he “kind of liked them when they first started out.” But his view has changed, particularly since the fight over funding the health-care law, which led to the 16-day shutdown of the federal government.

“I don’t think they should have went that far,” Turner said.

The shutdown was deeply unpopular, and it hobbled Cuccinelli’s efforts to close the race with McAuliffe. Even 60 percent of avowed supporters of the tea party say they disapproved of the shutdown, although a majority of “strong” tea party backers say they approved of it.
It's not just Virginia where the Tea Baggers are highly unpopular.  Bloomberg noted yesterday, when the big money behind the astro-turf goes away, the grass root participants who were manipulated are set to be manipulated again:

U.S. Chamber Takes on Alabama Tea Party in House Contest

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce fired an opening salvo yesterday in the battle for control of the Republican Party, endorsing a self-described “pro-business” candidate in a special U.S. House race whose opponent is backed by Tea Party groups and is vowing to “be like Ted Cruz.”
The endorsement in the Alabama contest is the chamber’s first political move since the 16-day partial U.S. government shutdown and debt-ceiling battle, which exposed a rift between the Republican establishment wing and the smaller-government movement. Cruz, a Republican senator from Texas, was the chief proponent of the ill-fated plan to link defunding Obamacare to lifting the debt ceiling and passing a government spending bill.

In reaction to the shutdown, which Standard & Poor’s estimated cost the U.S. economy $24 billion, the chamber and other business groups said they will engage in elections -- including Republican primaries -- to help candidates aligned with their economic goals.

“Absolutely we want to send a message,” Rob Engstrom, the chamber’s national political director, said yesterday after the group endorsed Bradley Byrne, 58, in Alabama’s 1st Congressional District race. “We are sending a message here today, and we will send a message in every single one of these races. Some will be in primaries, some will be in general elections.”

The chamber has spent more than $185,000 for direct-mail and digital media ads supporting Byrne since making the endorsement yesterday, according to financial disclosure reports filed today.
Republican prospects, especially in the Senate, dimmed after the shutdown and debt-ceiling fight sparked by Cruz and the Tea Party wing of the House Republican caucus. The impasse led to a record-low 28 percent favorability rating for the party, according to an Oct. 3-6 Gallup Poll of 1,028 adults with a margin of error of 4 percentage points.
The Alabama contest is also being watched by Republican House incumbents who’ve run afoul of limited-government groups. Some are donating to Byrne’s campaign.
This is leading to an all out internecine battle on the right between the wallets of the extreme and the sane, as recorded by Bloomberg:

Americans for Prosperity and Club for Growth, two organizations affiliated with Tea Party groups, are backing candidates to challenge lawmakers they deem too willing to compromise.
Soon thereafter, donations began streaming into Byrne’s campaign from political committees run by Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT), AT&T Inc. (T), Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM), Comcast Corp. (CMCSA), Lowe’s Cos., the National Realtors Association and the Alabama Retail Association, among others.
Much of that money was donated in the first two weeks of this month amid the government shutdown that began Oct. 1.
Byrne’s campaign contributions of $689,215 give him an 8-to-1 fundraising advantage over Young, a property developer who has raised $85,547. Young has loaned his campaign $174,500, according to Oct. 24 financial-disclosure reports.
Political action committees belonging to House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, a Virginia Republican, and Republican Representatives Renee Ellmers of North Carolina, Ken Calvert of California, Steven Palazzo of Mississippi, Martha Roby of Alabama are among those that have given to Byrne.
And then of course, we have Karl Rove, who helped foster the Tea Party now turning on it as well, with his Conservative Victory Project, which is unabashedly all about big money controlling the grass roots, or more precisely the radical right which failed to take direction properly from the big money donors.  A bit of 'leash correction' is being applied to the little people's collars.

The little people, the 'grass roots' that the big money astro-turfed, are fighting back, but given the disparity of small numbers and small wallets, they don't have much chance against the big money machine that is going to mow them down like the well-tended greens on an exclusive country club golf course - the kind that big money right wingers play on, and that little people tea partiers can't.

From Bloomberg

Leaders of the Tea Party and other Republican groups that oppose abortion and gay rights responded by calling Texas-based political strategist Rove, a founder of the victory project, a “fake conservative” who had “declared war” on the Tea Party.

The victory project also was attacked as “Orwellian” by Matt Kibbe, the head of the Washington-based FreedomWorks, which identifies itself as a “grassroots” Tea Party booster.

Rove’s group “is created with the sole operating mission of blocking the efforts of fiscally conservative activists across the country,” Kibbe said, according to the FreedomWorks blog.

The exchanges provide the first public glimpse of a power struggle inside the Republican Party in the wake of its November losses, including in the presidential campaign. If neither side backs down, the rift could lead to more costly Republican primary fights, with the nominees forced to quickly recover as they confront Democrats in the general election.
When the big money starts to go, the old, angry, conspiracy-theory believing, unsophisticated, and frankly crazy and delusional old farts are going down.  The more extreme right wingers, like the Koch brothers and a few others will keep trying to gin up the few, the old, the angry, the spelling-challenged, who are themselves too easily parted, like other fools, from their money.  But it won't be enough to control the GOP.  The days of the Tea Party controlling primary elections is going the way of the Dodo bird. 

They won't go quietly, they won't go gracefully, but the crabby, old, white tea partiers will twitch and twiddle away into illiterate extinction just the same.

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