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Who’s picking up the tab for the tea party?

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Specifically, the tea party – particularly as it fights government spending and taxation under Obama and the Democratically-controlled Congress – is the sometimes-raucous face of traditional limited government lobbying. In return, the movement’s efforts get significant financial backing from those lobbying organizations, which in turn are supported by conservative foundations and business interests.

The Koch brothers

For example, in a recent investigative report in the New Yorker magazine, Jane Mayer details the links between billionaire industrialists David and Charles Koch and the tea party movement. She writes:

"By giving money to 'educate,' fund, and organize Tea Party protesters, they have helped turn their private agenda into a mass movement. Bruce Bartlett, a conservative economist and a historian, who once worked at the National Center for Policy Analysis, a Dallas-based think tank that the Kochs fund, said, 'The problem with the whole libertarian movement is that it’s been all chiefs and no Indians. There haven’t been any actual people, like voters, who [care] about it. So the problem for the Kochs has been trying to create a movement.' With the emergence of the Tea Party, he said, 'everyone suddenly sees that for the first time there are Indians out there – people who can provide real ideological power.' The Kochs, he said, are 'trying to shape and control and channel the populist uprising into their own policies.'"

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