Tea Party Jets to Grassroots Rallies, Wall Street-Style

Two Tea Party leaders, Mark Meckler and Jenny Beth Martin, have been jet-setting all over the country ginning up support for conservative politicians. Literally.

They’ve been flying around in a private jet like Wall Street CEOs, except they’re heading to “grassroots” rallies instead of merger talks. Meckler and Martin don’t say how outraged, ordinary citizens can find the money to support such extravagance, and they don’t have to. Thanks to the Supreme Court’s ruling in this year’s Citizens United v. the Federal Election Commission, they can now accept unlimited funding without disclosing the identities of their donors.

No one would even know about the jets themselves, but Meckler and Martin never counted on Mother Jones, or a reporter named Stephanie Mencimer. Using public flight-tracking information, the Tea Party Patriots’ flight schedule, and some serious attention to details in the group’s own videos, Mencimer was able to figure out which jet the not-so-populist duo were using. She then traced the plane to Raymond F. Thomson, founder and CEO of a semiconductor company called Semitool, which he sold last year for a cool $364 million.

It’s both sad and hilarious to see the secret financial arrangements of the super-rich masquerading as grassroots activism. But it also shows the lengths to which reporters must go to actually report on political spending in the wake of Citizens United. There is no documentation to follow, just the contrails of private jets.

Social groups target state races

And while secret political spending has been dominated by big corporations this cycle, the legal maneuvering that liberated corporate coffers was actually performed by fringe right-wing groups targeting social issues. As Jesse Zwick emphasizes for The Washington Independent:

Groups advocating against abortion and gay marriage have waged a low-grade war on laws restricting their ability to spend money freely in elections since the early 1980s, and their victory in the recent Citizens United ruling has hardly caused them to rest on their laurels.

Our democracy is now more beholden to corporate greed than ever, but at least gays won’t be allowed to visit each other in the hospital.

This is just the beginning of corporate rights

But the implications of Citizens United extend far beyond the (critically important) realm of campaign finance itself, as Jeff Clements and John Bonifaz of the organization Free Speech for People emphasize in an interview with Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzales of Democracy Now! As Bonifaz notes:

Citizens United was not just a campaign finance case, it was a corporate rights case. In fact, it was an extreme extension of a corporate rights doctrine that has eroded the First Amendment for thirty years.

At its core, Citizens United grants First Amendment rights to corporations on the grounds that corporations are people, just like ordinary citizens. Sound crazy? It is.

The bill of rights for corporations?

As AlterNet’s Joshua Holland emphasizes in an interview with historian Thom Hartmann, the implications of the view that corporations are people are simply absurd. Now corporations have been granted First Amendment rights, but what happens when they start arguing for Second Amendment rights? And what would it even mean for a corporation to have Second Amendment rights?

A visual map of Campaign Cash

What are the most common themes and issues surrounding the untold amounts of cash flowing into this election cycle? To create that visual, the Media Consortium piped 10 articles by our members through Wordle. While all the articles were generally focused on this topic, they were picked at random and published between October 25-29.

For clarity’s sake, we made “Tea Party” “TeaParty,” “Supreme Court” became “SupremeCourt,” and we also merged the first and last names of key players such as Karl Rove and Jim DeMint. Finally, we removed any extraneous words such as “the,” “and,” and “even.” We did not combine the words corporate/corporation/corporations or Republican/Republicans (but examine the frequency as much as the size). To get the latest reporting on the funds feeding into the mid-term elections, go to www.themediaconsortium.org or follow the search term #campaigncash on Twitter. Wordle research by Amanda Anderson.

But wait, there’s more!

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about the mid-term elections and campaign financing by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. 

photo credit: thanks to Shine 2010 - 2010 World Cup good news via flickr

please note: the image above is not of the tea party leaders
by Zach Carter, Media Consortium blogger


Suzanne B.
Sue B7 years ago

I have pretty consistantly jumped in to these discussions, but this one is not a discussion. A discussion is an exchange of ideas, this is nothing but a bunch of people yelling at one another. Progressives have to understand, most all of the TEA party supporters are getting their facts from Fox. Period, end of story, The same people who vowed to assure that a dually elected, American President would fail. That is the very definition of patriotism, isnt it? How very disappointed these people will be when they figure out that there is not a grassroots thing about this movement, and they will find out. Until then, we can present all the facts we like, we can make all the sense in the world, no one is going to listen. You would think they would have gotten an agenda clue when the TEA partiers came out against the minimum wage. My true fear is that if they are willing to state an incindiary position such as that publicly, what in heavens name is going on in back rooms? You know, I said I was not going to jump in and I will stop now. The real reason I wanted to say something was to clear up, once and for all, the misconception of why Nancy Pelosi flies on private Gvt funded jets. It is simple, it is because, as the third in line for the Presidency, after 9-11, the Secret Service told her she had no choice. It is and will be the same for Boehner and every other Speaker of the House from now on. It is to assure the continuity of our democracy in the event of a catastrophe.

Glenna Jones-kachtik
Glenna Kachtik7 years ago

Patricia S - So George Soros is an evil man...what about Rupert Murdoch? He has dual citizenship. His Newscorp partner is Saudi Arabian & was one of the only people who gave money to the Park 51 InterFaith Center in New York. (I do believe that you were one of the ones who was adamant that it not even be built). Rupert Murdoch owns FOX NEWS and many other newspapers, radio stations & TV stations. He is one of the richest men in America. As far as I know, George Soros owns no news stations, TV stations, newspapers or media outlets as does Murdoch. When one owns media, one can shape policy the way one wants. Murdoch feeds you swill, makes you believe his manufactured truths & half truths and he shapes policy. The control of the press is POWER beyond belief. Communism, Socialism, Marxism - these cannot ever flourish in an open society such as we have. Capitalism - yes. Fascism - yes; we are already under the control of corporations. Plutocracy - we could turn into a rule by the rich and there are those who would like to see the USA become a Theocracy - where Religion, specifically Christian would rule. Right now, the gap between the rich & the poor is great & becoming more and more every day. George Soros doesn't bother me as much as the Rupert Murdochs of the world.
You won't believe anything I say about Murdoch. People have pointed out your fallacies before. Believe as you wish[ but allow others to do the same.

Seabert B.
Seabert B7 years ago

The middle class americans are disappearing, soon it only going to be rich and the poor man. All these policitian that have there pockets so full of money that they do not know what to do with it all but to make better laws to support major corporations and the far right wing fools. American needs to make a stand against all thse corruptions. Why are people so afraid to stand up against the government? Is this something of the pass or what? All americans that are against these fools need to get out there and vote on Tuesday, November 2nd. Time to make our voices be heard, we need to have a good ole fashion rally all across the United States at every state goverment offices as well in Washington D.C. What do you say, lets get this ball rolling. NOW!! Remember to vote on this Tuesday, November 2 and make your voice heard LOUD & CLEAR!!!

Jim Steve
Jim Steve7 years ago

Right Linda, did you even know that the disclose act exempted powerful organizations such as AARP and the NRA?

Did you people know that the 2008 Obama Campaign refused to disclose their donors?

Mary B.
Mary B7 years ago

YEAH Glena-Jones, I love your posts on everything. You're one of the few authentic people writting.
Instead of stripping corps of their personhood, lets treat them just like we would any person who behavied in a criminal or fraudulent manner to swindle people thru false advertising and everything else they do that disempowers mere mortals. Shut them down, confiscate their assets and let their over paid CEOs defend their behavior in a court of law. If they lose, transfer their asset money to the social services fund to be spent directly on the people of this country. Eventually they will get it that this kind of behavior is not acceptable.

Janna O.
Janna O7 years ago

So, how do we go about stripping corporations of their person-hood?

Janna O.
Janna O7 years ago

So, how can we strip corporations of their "person-hood"?

Bernard Cronyn
7 years ago

I am not surprised to see the emergence of an organisation such as The Tea Party funded by big money and led by the usual band of odd-balls. For many years there have been commentators warning and symptoms emerging that indicate that the USA’s political climate is not very healthy. The political machine of the USA evolved from the simple and courageous model of the founding fathers into a huge complex, corporate funded monster. This behemoth is utterly disconnected from the ordinary voter and places the power and wealth needs of a minority of bankers and businessmen above the nation and its ordinary citizens. A good example of how angry, frightened people can react is Germany after the 1st World War and their citizens flocking to the insane rhetoric of Adolf Hitler. Desperate people can be easily swayed to take desperate measures and the fact that many flock to the camp of “The Tea Party” and not something a whole lot more radical is some small comfort. The way I see it, and I stand to correction is that to avoid more and more voter dissatisfaction and radicalisation in the USA what is needed is firstly a reconnection by representatives to their voters who pay their wages. Next required is a downsizing of the bloated political machine and for it to break free from its media and corporate stranglehold and lastly but not least, returning power from Washington to local organisations who are more in touch with ground roots reality than the suits back in Washington

Patricia S.
Pat S7 years ago

Don't count on it. They're here to stay!

Patricia S.
Pat S7 years ago

I stand by my statement. George Soris is a very evil man!! Mark my word. He will destroy our country as it has been for so many years, so sad but true!