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Utilizing Public Airwaves, Media Mogul Murdoch Is Big Muscle Behind Fraudulent Astro Turfers

Burrowing inside the radical right's gathering of astroturfers and mouthpieces, AlterNet Reporter Adele Stan discovers what makes the anti-health reform machine tick.

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While Phillips was the master of ceremonies at the RightOnline event, Reed shared the stage with Dick Armey at an anti-health-care rally in Atlanta that was co-sponsored by Americans for Prosperity.

By comparison, the other astroturfing operations AlterNet covered in previous reporting -- all of which count themselves as part of the Tea Party movement -- look rough around the edges.

FreedomWorks, led by former House Majority Leader Dick Armey, R-Texas, is basically your father's astroturfing outfit, rallying the grumpy-old-man crowd to great effect on behalf of Armey's former K Street clients

ResistNet, the "official community" of Grassfire.org, is a home-made-looking meeting place for gun enthusiasts, militia types, birthers and the most ardent of the Obama-is-Hitler contingent.

Glenn Beck's 9-12 Project draws from the audience for the derangement he displays on his Fox News Channel program, but he has closed down the comments section of his site ever since rowdies at a Tampa town hall that turned violent mentioned Beck as their inspiration to the local newspaper. (However, a link to a schedule of town hall events does appear on the 9-12 Project's home page.)

Of course, there's plenty of crossover among the constituencies of the various sites, and plenty of links among the players.

For instance, Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., who famously predicted that health-care reform would be Obama's "Waterloo," appeared in the video that opened the RightOnline general session. His endorsement also graces the Grassfire.org Web site, as do the plaudits of Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., chairman of the Republican Caucus, who sent in a video message to the RightOnline crowd.

Phillips, the AFP president, worked on Armey's political campaigns.

While Fox News has hardly been secretive about its involvement in the anti-health care cause, the reach of its parent company, Rupert Murdoch's News Corp., goes further than the utterances of its pundits over the airwaves, or Beck's 9-12 Project.

The Americans for Prosperity roster of RightOnline conference speakers was heavily populated by those who toil for Murdoch -- fully one-third of the list of 15 -- in addition to two others who have links to Murdoch.

Fox News contributors Michelle Malkin and Jim Pinkerton addressed the crowd, as did columnists John Fund and Stephen Moore of the Wall Street Journal, another News Corp. property. AFP Policy Director Kerpen writes a column for FoxNews.com. Pittsburgh radio host Glen Meakem works for a Clear Channel station whose featured programming includes the Wall Street Journal Report, Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity. Ronald Kessler writes for NewsMax, which was founded by a former reporter for the New York Post, yet another News Corp.entity.

When I asked Phillips about the Fox/ Wall Street Journal connection to his organization, he looked surprised.

"We have someone from Fox News?" he asked.

"Well, Fox News Channel contributors," I replied.

"OK. So, they're not on the payroll of Fox News. Do any of those guys get money from Fox News?"

He's asking me? "I don't know if they're paid by Fox," I said, "but I assume that they are. Do you have a partnership with Rupert Murdoch?"

"Not at all, not at all," he replied with a little laugh. "The fact is, the Wall Street Journal's my favorite newspaper; I love those guys. I like what they write. I look at Steve Moore and John Fund, and those are two of the smartest guys. They're also entertaining, in addition to being philosophically sound.

"I don't know if you've read The End of Prosperity, Arthur Laffer and Steve Moore's book; it's one of my favorite books of the last three or four years. I've really found it to be incisive, so I really like those guys. But there's no partnership -- financially, understood, or anything else."