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August 17, 2009

"Grassroots" FreedomWorks paid Armey $400,000 for part-time job

Former House Majority Leader turned lobbyist Dick Armey resigned from the lobbying firm of DLA Piper on Friday amid criticism of his leadership role in FreedomWorks, one of the main right wing groups organizing town hall mobs against health care reform.

Armey probably wasn't spending that much time at DLA Piper anyway. He earned a total of $400,000 from FreedomWorks and the FreedomWorks Foundation during the 2007 tax year, according to tax records. The records say that Armey was putting in 36 hours per week at Freedom Works and the Freedom Works Foundation. (This is original reporting. Please support Majikthise by crediting.)

One wonders whether Armey had much time left over for his lobbying clients at DLA Piper that year, which included pharma giant Sanofi-Aventis and the Medicines Co.. Armey represented Sanofi again in 2008 and continued to represent the Medicines Co. through 2009.

The former Republican congressman told Politico he was resigning because he didn't want his lobbying clients to face media scrutiny for their association with FreedomWorks.

FreedomWorks has been accused of laying down astroturf at town halls. The protesters are real people, but the town hall protests are organized by Freedom Works and other groups underwritten by industries with a financial stake in derailing healthcare reform. 

Defenders say there's nothing wrong with grassroots organizing. Grassroots groups often make common cause with other interested parties, including corporations. However, it's telling that Armey thinks his clients need to be shielded from criticism of FreedomWorks, as if were something shameful.

Pro-reform, pro-Democratic groups like the SEIU, ACORN, MoveOn, and Organizing for America proudly identify themselves at town hall meetings. They make no secret of the fact that they are part of a national movement with powerful institutional backers.

Nor is it a secret that big pharma and big insurance have given heavily to influential Democrats like Max Baucus over the years. Hedging your bets is a grand old tradition in Washington. The way things are going, the money to Democrats may turn out to have been better-spent.

The backers of the town hall mobs are trying to paint these gatherings as spontaneous, organic uprisings as opposed to what they really are, events coordinated by Washington insiders on behalf of corporate clients. A recent posts on FreedomWorks' blog assails Democratic health for being a product of pharmaceutical and insurance money! It is, but it's odd to hear FreedomWorks complaining.

Why wouldn't pharmaceutical and insurance companies be proud to stand with patriotic Americans against government-administered health insurance? Probably because protesters at town hall meetings are saying and doing things that no "respectable" lobbyist would want to associate with his clients.

Like the town hall attendee in New Hampshire who recommended sending immigrants home with a bullet in the head, or right wing TV personality Glenn Beck who draws parallels between Obama's health care reform efforts and Nazi eugenics. Beck is promoting FreedomWorks' 9/12 DC march on his show and heading up his own 912 Project.

This is all protected speech, of course. However, if corporations and lobby shops are funding and facilitating these types of actions, they need to be held accountable for what's happening. Any demonstration can attract the odd extremist, but these town hall meetings have established an ongoing pattern of ugly, disruptive behavior.

These firms are entitled to give, but they'd better tell us what their people are doing to keep these events from becoming platforms for hate mongers. Are their people trying to keep order, or are they standing by as protesters shout down Democratic legislators and derail the conversation?

If DLA Piper's clients are concerned about allegations that they are supporting ugly rabble rousing in the name of grassroots participation, Armey's departure shouldn't get them off the hook. DLA Piper's website bill the law firm as "one of the world’s leading legal services providers, representing companies and investors in the biotechnology, pharmaceutical and medical device fields."

DLA Piper's lobbying practice also boasts of its "grassroots" organizing capabilities on its website: "The practice utilizes an array of strategies to support a client's goals, including grassroots campaigns, educational initiatives and media outreach." It's common for real grassroots and member-supported organizations to hire lobbyists. However, a glance at DLA Piper's register of paying lobby clients reveals few, if any grassroots groups. The firm advertises that it does some pro-bono work for grassroots groups, but none of the groups listed has an obvious connection to healthcare or town halls.

In general, if a giant corporation pays a former Congressman's lobbying firm to drum up grassroots support, the term "grassroots" loses all meaning. At that point it's not grassroots organizing, its demagoguery--especially if they are willing to make common cause with those who claim the president is an advocate of Nazi-style euthanasia of the elderly.

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Comments

Try to find out next how many hours Norm Coleman's wife works the Hays Companies.

That's all this fight is about, is lobbyists.

The Truth behind Healthcare

This sentence is unfair:

Any demonstration can attract the odd extremist, but these town hall meetings have established an ongoing pattern of ugly, disruptive behavior.

To provide evidence that the disruptive behavior is extremist rather than merely shrill, you give an example of one racist protester. This is not enough - it's always easy to find individual examples, and it gets easier the more people you have on your side looking for outrage stories in the local news.

I am attending the 9/12 March on Washington with my brother and sister and we were definitely NOT recruited by Freedom Works or any other organization (and I believe this to be true of most attendees). The threat of this country being moved to full scale socialism is what has motivated us to attend. You can spin it any way you want but it doesn't change the truth! We are not a mob - we are in general the producers of society. By and large we have never attended a political march or townhall event before. We are having to take off work in order to be in Washington but we feel that we are at a turning point in the history of our country and we must do this.

Alon, there are way more examples than the ones I cited in the piece.

-Teabaggers shouting down a town hall meeting in Tampa Bay.
-Rep. Doggett getting shouted down in Austin.
-Rep. Tim Bishop suspended town hall meetings after residents had to call police to escort him to his car after he was confronted by a group of screaming protesters.
-Rep. Pat Murphy called off his town hall event after being confronted by screaming protesters.
-Protesters interrupted Sen. Arlen Specter and Sec. Katherine Sebelius in Pennsylvania. George W. Bush adviser Mark McKinnon remarked that town halls have become "town hells."
-Rep. Brad Miller's office confirmed that his life had been threatened over town halls.
-The MD congressman hanged in effigy by teabaggers over healthcare.
-Police confirmed that someone who had been following Arizona Rep. Gabrille Giffords around dropped a gun at a meet 'n greet at a Safeway.
-Now the THIRD gun-related incident in a week has been reported at an Obama event, according to the WSJ.
-The swastika scrawled on the office of a black Democratic congressman from south Georgia who hosted a rowdy town hall.

Now, Alon, tell me I'm being unfair to say that there's a pattern of ugly and disruptive behavior.

These people have a constitutionally protected right to yell and scream and even disrupt the meetings non-violently, but their behavior reflects on them and the people who sponsor them.

Mark McColl, do you want to be associated with this kind of behavior? Will you speak out against it?

"To provide evidence that the disruptive behavior is extremist rather than merely shrill ... "

Gee, I dunno, would you call the 12+ guys that were packing heat to Obamas speech in AZ today extremist, or just shrill?

"The threat of this country being moved to full scale socialism ... "

Yes,next thing you know, we'll end up like some socialist hell hole like France or Canada.

How would this great nation even survive without health insurance companies putting profits over the well being of the people? How, I ask you HOW?

Gee, I dunno, would you call the 12+ guys that were packing heat to Obamas speech in AZ today extremist, or just shrill?

I have no idea. I don't know how to compare them to, say, the people in London who erected and then pulled down a statue of Bush, Saddam-style, back in 2003. Or for that matter to the Israeli troops in Lebanon in the 1980s who swapped fantasies of assassinating Ariel Sharon.

France? Canada? Right now it looks like we'll barely even make Switzerland.

Mark, it may be that you were not recruited by FreedomWorks, but if you think we are on the brink of "full-scale socialism," you probably have been deceived by advocacy groups and media outlets that are funded by folks a lot like FreedomWorks. Forty years ago, Ronald Reagan said that Medicare would lead simply and quickly to full-scale socialism. Well, it's been forty years and "producers of society" like you are still waiting for full-scale socialism to come around the corner. And some of the "producers of society" are still afraid to quit their jobs and become entrepreneurs because they'll lose their health insurance.

I have no idea. I don't know how to compare them to, say, the people in London who erected and then pulled down a statue of Bush, Saddam-style, back in 2003.

Alon, I'm gonna go out on a limb here and say that openly bringing firearms to a public event featuring the President of the United States is probably, on balance, a more extreme act than erecting and then pulling down a papier-maché effigy. My suspciion is that the Secret Service is also probably pretty clear on who consitutes the bigger threat, here.

This is article is half libel. Ridicule and personal insult seem to be the only arguments progressives put forth. Everytime the liberal press ignores us or slings mud at us, evreryone who knows Jack, Mary, or Pete at the rally knows what you are saying about them is absolutely false. THIS is why Pres Obama's poll numbers are dropping like rocks. America is learning the media are engaged in doublespeak. I swear MSNBC is actually saying half of the time "2 legs good, 4 legs bad." Everytime you use the word "teabagger" it shows your contempt for dissent. Everytime you pick out a 'crazy' as representing the entire opposition, you are calling people's mothers, fathers, and MANY grandparents crazy. You must believe these personal attacks will keep us apathetic. You don't understand how deeply we believe you are attacking the constitution and America itself. I guess I should thank the MSM for clarifying what shills they are. Every political science professor is now observing the rise of REAL news and the death of ABC, CBS, and NBC news and the rise of the facebook and youtube as tools for political news. I have witnessed MANY ladies over 70 standing in the rain with me in protest time after time. If a public option is shoved down America's throat, it could very well be the death of America as we know it. The problem HERE is many of you think this is a good thing. Who is John Galt?

Thomas, truth is an absolute defense against libel. I have documents to back up my claims. If you think I made a mistake, tell me. Otherwise, you're just blowing smoke.

I firmly believe that you believe I'm attacking the constitution. I also believe you don't know what you're talking about.

You don't understand how deeply we believe you are attacking the constitution and America itself.

Our fanaticism is proof of the validity of our beliefs. That, and the fact that woman standing over there is someone's grandmother.

You are playing right into the hands of a huge Republican brainwashing movement to stop health care reform! I hope you plan on giving up your Medicare if you are against government funded health programs. State programs are overloaded with cases and will go broke from people without insurance. We tried carrying emergency insurance and ended up with a $24,000 loan to pay for a surgery. Wake up! We are the only industrialized nation in the world without any decent program. Where were you protesters when Bush ran the country into the ground?

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