A new study funded by the National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health reveals that the Tea Party Movement was planned over a decade ago by groups with ties to the tobacco and fossil fuel industries. The movement was not a spontaneous populist uprising, but rather a long-term strategy to promote the anti-science, anti-government agenda of powerful corporate interests.
The two organizations mentioned in the report, Americans for Prosperity and Freedomworks, used to be a single organization that was founded by the Koch brothers and heavily financed by the tobacco industry. These organizations began planning the Tea Party Movement over ten years ago to promote a common agenda that advocated market fundamentalism over science and opposed any regulation or taxation of fossil fuels and tobacco products.
The disturbing history of links between market fundamentalists, the tobacco industry and the Tea Party movement is part of an even larger trend that I describe in my new book, The Future: Six Drivers of Global Change. Following the era of Progressive and New Deal reforms that restrained corporate influence in American politics following the infamous Robber Baron Era, market fundamentalists were once again motivated and radicalized by the social turbulence of the 1960s. In 1971, a prominent lawyer for the tobacco industry, Lewis Powell, wrote a memorandum for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce that presented a comprehensive plan aimed at shifting the balance of political power in favor of corporations. President Nixon appointed Powell to the Supreme Court just two months later.
Guided by the Powell Memo, market fundamentalists have pursued a comprehensive strategy to dramatically increase corporate influence in American politics. Powell himself worked with other pro-corporate justices to interpret laws in ways that were favorable to corporate interests, most importantly expanding the precedent of corporate personhood. As a direct result, corporate lobbying exploded, increasing from $100 million in 1975 to $3.5 billion in 2010. Corporations also used increasingly voluminous campaign contributions to promote the election of pro-corporate politicians at all levels of government. Wealthy donors founded conservative think tanks to influence public opinion in favor of market fundamentalism. The Tea Party is a clear extension of Powell's strategy to promote corporate profit at the expense of the public good.
Our democracy has been hacked by this expansion of corporate power, preventing meaningful action on several crucial issues. The climate crisis is an instructive example. The strategic goal of the market fundamentalists to "reposition global warming as theory not fact" has created enough false doubt around the issue to hinder progress. The potential consequences of climate change have never been clearer than they are today. Consider what we saw in America just last year. 2012 was the hottest year in American history and 60% of America experienced drought. Extreme weather events, like Superstorm Sandy, caused over $110 billion of damages. Yet Congress remains paralyzed, with many lawmakers even refusing to acknowledge the validity of climate science. The future of our planet demands that we put the sustainability of our planet before corporate profit.
We must reclaim control of our destiny. Reducing corporate influence in American politics and reinvigorating reason-based decision-making is vital to the sustainability of our democratic system.
Original study: http://bit.ly/WrwSzA
Cross-posted from Al's Journal
This story appears in Issue 37 of our weekly iPad magazine, Huffington, in the iTunes App store, available Friday, Feb. 22.