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Ear to the Ground

How the Right Wing Manipulated the Government Into a Shutdown

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Posted on Oct 6, 2013
401(K) 2013 (CC BY-SA 2.0)

We all knew the right wing was organized. But The New York Times on Saturday dives deeply into the machinations—mostly scripted by Koch brothers-funded groups—that led to the government shutdown, revealing a deeply cynical campaign to effectively undermine the American democratic process.

The focal point is the Affordable Care Act—Obamacare—but the real target, as usual, is the Obama presidency itself. The campaign began with a secret meeting of right-wing power brokers, led in part by Ed Meese, Ronald Reagan’s attorney general until he resigned in the midst of the Wedtech scandal, that was held somewhere in Washington, D.C. Participants, in cloak-and-dagger style, declined to tell the Times reporters where they met.

Out of that session, held one morning in a location the members insist on keeping secret, came a little-noticed “blueprint to defunding Obamacare,” signed by Mr. Meese and leaders of more than three dozen conservative groups.

It articulated a take-no-prisoners legislative strategy that had long percolated in conservative circles: that Republicans could derail the health care overhaul if conservative lawmakers were willing to push fellow Republicans—including their cautious leaders—into cutting off financing for the entire federal government.

“We felt very strongly at the start of this year that the House needed to use the power of the purse,” said one coalition member, Michael A. Needham, who runs Heritage Action for America, the political arm of the Heritage Foundation. “At least at Heritage Action, we felt very strongly from the start that this was a fight that we were going to pick.”

Last week the country witnessed the fallout from that strategy: a standoff that has shuttered much of the federal bureaucracy and unsettled the nation.

Republican legislators who refused to go along, or balked, found themselves on the target end of ad campaigns in their home districts. Some are now facing tea party challengers from the right in primary campaigns—often the only campaign that matters in gerrymandered districts.

The Tea Party Patriots group offers an online “toolkit,” including “sample Tweets,” for activists to work to defund Obamacare, a law that was passed by both chambers of Congress, signed into law by President Obama, upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court and for which citizens began registering last week. Who funds the Tea Party Patriots? The shadowy and Koch-tied Freedom Partners, whose members pay $100,000 to belong, and which an earlier Politico piece suggests exists primarily to destabilize the U.S. government by pushing it toward some sort of Randian utopia—a past that never really existed. The president is Marc Short, who came out of the shadows (ahead of a required public tax filing for the group) for an interview with Politico:

Short says his members are “concerned that the nation that they grew up in and that their businesses have flourished in will not be there for their children and grandchildren,” and are “committed to trying to restore what they view are free markets in a free society in America.” Many, he said, are “Horatio Alger-type stories,” most of them not household names, who got rich after starting small businesses, from service to manufacturing to information technology: “They are really worried about the country that’s going to be left for their future generations.”

Yet all remain unidentified, a secret cabal spending hundreds of millions of dollars to bend the nation’s political machinery to their will in what their mouthpiece calls “a free society in America.”

Free, apparently, if you have the wealth to buy the democratic results you want.

—Posted by Scott Martelle.

 

 

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