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Tea Party Inc.: The Big Money and Powerful Elites Behind the Right Wing's Latest Uprising

The Tea Parties are billed as a people's movement. But they wouldn't exist without the help of deep-pocketed billionaires.

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The Media Storm

It is not unusual for op-ed pages to reflect the bias of an outlet's owners. It is highly unusual, however, for news operations to engage in outright political organizing on behalf of a CEO's agenda. Yet that's just what certain Fox News hosts and Wall Street Journal columnists seem to be doing on behalf of Rupert Murdoch, who is opposed to regulation of any kind, hates taxes, and despises labor unions -- having famously broken unions at his UK newspapers.

News Corp's best-known personalities accomplish this by working hand in glove with the like-minded ideologues at Americans for Prosperity. Fox News hosts, along with Stephen Moore and fellow Wall Street Journal columnist John Fund, are regular speakers at conferences sponsored by the Americans for Prosperity Foundation. At the group's 2009 RightOnline conference, a third of the plenary speakers were News Corp writers and pundits, including Moore and Fund, as well as Jim Pinkerton and Michelle Malkin, who were paid Fox commentators at the time. Fox News personality John Stossel spoke against health-care reform at three rallies sponsored by Americans for Prosperity, while Sean Hannity, host of a prime-time Fox News show, live-broadcast Americans for Prosperity's 2009 Tax Day protest in Atlanta -- and the network preempted regular programming to present it. Moore and Fund also shill for the foundation's anti-regulatory "worker education" project, known as Prosperity101.

The door swings the other way as well. By means of his regular presence on Fox's airwaves and column at the FoxNation Web site, Americans for Prosperity vice president Phil Kerpen was instrumental in building the case against Obama green jobs adviser Van Jones, who was ultimately forced to resign his White House post.

At last year's RightOnline conference, I asked Americans for Prosperity president Tim Phillips if his group worked in partnership with News Corp, given the presence of so many of its personalities on the roster.

"Not at all, not at all," he replied with a 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. But there's no partnership -- financially, understood, or anything else."

News Corp enjoys a similarly friendly -- if similarly informal -- relationship with FreedomWorks. In early October, FreedomWorks was promoting its Take America Back campaign -- a get-out-the-vote effort -- with a photo of Glenn Beck standing before his iconic blackboard. The FreedomWorks' Web site also featured an audio message from Beck: "I've been sayin' it for weeks. If you care about freedom, you must get involved. If you really want to end tyranny in Washington, you must get involved. And the group you need to find out about is FreedomWorks. … Take America back -- FreedomWorks.org." Just days ago, Beck's image was used in a splash screen to solicit contributions for FreedomWorks' PAC.

To Rupert Murdoch, Glenn Beck is much more than a broadcaster; he's Murdoch's lead community organizer. His show has leached revenue since the civil rights group Color of Change launched a boycott of his advertisers, reportedly chasing away at least 100. But his act is far more profitable to News Corp in another way -- by creating the conditions for a stripping away of federal regulations that limit the growth of News Corp and its bottom line. And so Beck's rants become more shrill and his claims more preposterous, whether he is stoking racial fears or recalling that old bogeyman threat of looming socialism -- a theme straight out of the John Birch Society, of which the Kochs' father, Fred, was a founding member.