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Big Business's Hidden Hand in the Smear Job on Van Jones

How Americans for Prosperity, the astroturf group that organized town-hall thuggery, teamed up with Fox News to force out Van Jones.

If you thought the targeting of Van Jones for vilification by the right was about his race, his youthful flirtation with socialism, or a petition he signed about the 9/11 attacks, you'd only be a little bit right.

And if you think it was about the Color of Change campaign against Glenn Beck's show on Fox News Channel, you'd really miss the mark.

The racism and red-baiting suffered by Jones at the hands of Beck and his admirers are simply key elements in a marketing strategy designed to serve Very Big Business -- the oil and other business interests that support the astroturfing group Americans for Prosperity.

The strategy is simple: Prey upon the worst fears of the right-wing folks who live next door in order to get them to organize against their own interests.

When word of Jones' resignation from his White House post hit the airwaves, Americans for Prosperity's Phil Kerpen, the group's policy director, wasted no time in taking personal credit.

In his column on, Kerpen wrote, "The Van Jones affair … is one of the most significant things I've ever had the honor of being involved in."

Progressives first became familiar with Americans for Prosperity because of its role, along with Beck's 9-12 Project, in organizing the disruption of town hall meetings across the country at which members of Congress were scheduled to discuss pending health care reform legislation with their constituents.

Many assumed the AFP astroturfers, who are not required to disclose their funding sources, were aligned specifically with health care interests -- and indeed they may be aligned with some. Look a little closer, though, and you'll find at the top of their agenda the derailment of energy reform, especially the cap-and-trade formula for reducing greenhouse-gas emissions.

Naming defeat of clean-energy legislation his "No. 1 legislative priority," Kerpen, in his Fox column, details his role in demonizing Jones in the right-wing echo chamber from which Jones, as an Obama aide, could not escape.

By his own account, Kerpen's quest to fell Jones began on July 9 -- weeks before Color of Change began to organize against Beck -- when he was asked to appear on Fox & Friends to explain "what green jobs are"; and to discuss Obama's green-jobs "czar," Jones.

A little research revealed Jones' involvement, early in his activist career, with a group that embraced socialist values. From there, Kerpen extrapolated, "the 'green jobs' concept was merely a new face on the old ideology of central economic planning and control, an alternative and a threat to free-market capitalism."

The month before, Kerpen explains, he and Beck had dubbed the cap-and-trade energy reform legislation embraced by the Obama as "a watermelon" -- "green on the outside but Communist red to the core." (No racist intent in that characterization, of course.)

Cap-and-trade is a mechanism through which industrial plants are given permits to produce X-amount of pollution. After they've used up their allotment, they can only pollute more by buying the unused permits of other permit-holders. This creates incentives for certain businesses to limit their greenhouse-gas emissions for the monetary payoff of selling their permits.

In Kerpen's Aug. 28 appearance on Beck's show, he broadened his attack to include the Apollo Alliance, on whose board Jones once sat. The Apollo Alliance seeks to build public-private partnerships on green jobs, working with business, labor unions, government officials and activists.

After that, Kerpen brays, Beck "began pounding away" on Jones.

Americans for Prosperity, Fox News and the Murdoch Agenda