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September 7, 2009

The Town Hall Disruptions Were A Corporate Strategy

-- by Dave Johnson

This post originally appeared at Speak Out California

In April we posted A Warning About The Tea Parties here.  The post warned:

They are not what they claim to be.  They are not "spontaneous" or "grassroots."  They are another corporate-funded campaign to trick people into supporting more cut taxes for the rich.

. . . The events have been widely promoted by corporate-funded conservative PR professionals who specialize in "astroturf."  This is a term for the use of money to create an appearance of widespread "grassroots" support.  Currently the corporate-funded conservative lobbying groups Freedomworks and Americans for Prosperity, are organizing the events and conservative media including talk radio and FOX News are widely promoting them.  Support appears to be coming from Koch Industries, the largest privately-owned company in the country.


Many blogs and organizations have conducted research into these "tea party" groups, and warned that this corporate-built group was put together by lobbyists, for lobbyists, to further the goals of their corporate clients.  The names of the lobbyist groups organizing these events were posted along with their own documents proving they were behind the groups. Their strategies were exposed.  The entire operation was laid out in advance.

Then we watched the operation unfold.  Over the summer summer the groups were sent to Congressional town hall meetings that discussed health care reform.  They were given specific instructions to disrupt the meetings, while presenting an appearance of being ordinary citizens who are upset and against the health care reform.  Copies of these instructions were posted on the web.  The instructions include:

- Artificially Inflate Your Numbers: "Spread out in the hall and try to be in the front half. The objective is to put the Rep on the defensive with your questions and follow-up. The Rep should be made to feel that a majority, and if not, a significant portion of at least the audience, opposes the socialist agenda of Washington."

- Be Disruptive Early And Often: "You need to rock-the-boat early in the Rep's presentation, Watch for an opportunity to yell out and challenge the Rep's statements early."

- Try To "Rattle Him," Not Have An Intelligent Debate: "The goal is to rattle him, get him off his prepared script and agenda. If he says something outrageous, stand up and shout out and sit right back down. Look for these opportunities before he even takes questions."


These are the actual instructions given to these groups. They were instructed to disrupt the town hall meetings, and not let others speak.  And this is what they did, across the country.  The entire time, blogs and organizations tracked this, showed how the lobbyist organizations were organizing it, showed where their online calendars were sending people to the different meetings, posted photographs of the signs they carried, that were printed by the lobbyist organizations, and showed newsletters printed by these lobbyist organizations taking credit for their work.

Now the summer is over, and we are witnessing phase two of the strategy.  The lobbyists and Republican members of Congress are going on news programs and claiming that "the public" opposes the health care reforms, because of the disruptions and occurred at town hall meetings!  This is utterly transparent to anyone who follows the news.  It was set in stone that they would say this now, even before the first town hall meetings began, because this was the strategy all along.  The script was written before the first town hall meeting:  make it look like people are upset at the health care reform, then try to kill health care reform based on these manufactured corporate astroturf performances.

Legislators: do not fall for it.

The oil and coal corporations have already started organizing these groups to show up and disrupt meetings on climate-change legislation, again creating a false appearance of public opposition to efforts to fight global warming.  Bloggers and organizations are writing about this now.

A leaked memo sent by an oil industry group reveals a plan to create astroturf rallies at which industry employees posing as "citizens" will urge Congress to oppose climate change legislation. 

Do not be fooled when it happens again.  And if you allow this lobbyist strategy to succeed this will become "the new normal" for politics in this country.  If the corporations get away with organizing people to disrupt meetings and intimidate legislators of course they will continue to 

Click through to Speak Out California

Posted by Dave Johnson at September 7, 2009 12:05 PM


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