How a 77-Year-Old Visionary Author Became the Target of a Far-Ranging Right-Wing Conspiracy Theory
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It is this world of right-wing opinion-shapers to which Olson aspires. After graduating from Michigan State University in 2001, Olson worked as a lobbyist for the Michigan Association of Realtors, and then served as district director and campaign manager for a Republican state Senator. In 2006, Olson lost his own campaign for a seat on the Muskegon County Board of Commissioners. He was also a member of Michigan's Republican State Committee.
Olson's family is in the right-wing propaganda business. His brother Ryan was the Director of Education Policy for the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, one of the earliest state-level conservative advocacy groups, funded by right-wing businesses and foundations.
Kyle joined the family business in 2007 when he and another conservative activist started EAG. It originally served as a platform for Olson to write op-ed columns and get quoted in the Michigan media for his crusade against the Michigan Education Association as well as the nation's two largest teachers' unions, the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers. One of its ploys was to put up billboards across Michigan that identified MEA staff members and their salaries. But Olson soon revealed his broader conservative agenda. For example, EAG's political arm (the Education Action Fund) recently paid for a billboard that attacked Rep. Mary Valentine, a Democratic candidate for the state Senate, as a supporter of partial-birth abortions.
Being anti-union and anti-abortion are mainstay positions for Republican Party activists like Olson. But Olson has branched out beyond the conservative GOP mainstream. He's joined the lunatic fringe, using his camera and computer to sniff out the left-wing Marxist conspiracy. Indeed, Greg Steimel, a researcher for the Michigan Education Association who has followed Olson's career , calls him a "Glenn Beck wannabe."
On his own website, Olson brags that he appeared on Beck's program on July 29, 2009 "to discuss his rare (if not first-ever) video interview with ACORN founder Wade Rathke and the SEIU/ACORN connection to the proposed government takeover of health care." Olson created ACORNcracked, one of several right-wing anti-ACORN websites that has emerged in recent years to fulminate against the community organizing group. His website also proudly declares that "Glenn Beck cited Kyle's work on both December 11, 2009 and December 14, 2009 regarding political consultant Robert Creamer and his influence over health care reform." Olson has contributed seven pieces on Breitbart's BigGovernment website, ranting about ACORN, SEIU president Andy Stern, and Obama.
Olson manipulated his way into Piven's home hoping to entrap her into saying something outrageous that he could use to further his own career. Clearly he aspired to be the next James O'Keefe, who became a right-wing celebrity for his anti-ACORN videos, but whose recent arrest in New Orleans for breaking into Sen. Mary Landrieu's office has destroyed his own credibility.
Unlike O'Keefe, however, Olson's Piven tapes have thus far produced no mainstream controversy. That's because, watching Piven answer his questions, most viewers would be hard-pressed to disagree with her basic analysis of America's current condition. Big corporations have too much power. The concentration of wealth has gotten out of hand. Only an outraged and organized movement for change among the poor and the middle class is likely to bring about the reforms we need.
Piven admits to being "unnerved" by what she now realizes was Olson's lying in order to get her to agree to the interview.
"He made no impression on me. He didn't say anything about himself -- and I didn't ask. Maybe I should have been more curious. Perhaps I should have wondered why he'd drive all the way from Michigan, just for an interview."