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Right-Wing Disunity? Clashes at This Year's Conservative Political Action Conference

If there was any unifying theme to this year's conference, it was conflict between different factions on the Right.

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Bachmann wasn't the only Koch-sponsored pol to address the three-day conference. Following Bachmann to the CPAC platform was Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisc., who defeated Sen. Russ Feingold with oodles of help -- including some dirty tricks -- from Americans for Prosperity.

No surprise that Johnson's themes were carbon (cough) copies of Bachmann's. "The EPA…is out of control," Johnson said, going on to complain that the agency seeks to regulate waste and spillage from the dairy industry, which he described as spilled milk.

What is surprising is that this guy, who never before ran for elected office, could get elected to anything. He's just that awful at the podium. At one point, he lost his place in his speech, and instead of riffing from the heart, he made his audience wait while he found his place in his script, which was delivered from paper, what with the self-imposed teleprompter ban in vogue at conservative gatherings these days.

In fact, I'd venture to say, there's no way this guy would have won office without the help of Americans for Prosperity, whose activists backed him over more authentic Tea Party candidates, and then involved itself in a voter-caging scheme apparently designed to suppress the votes of African Americans and college students in Milwaukee.

Johnson falsely accused the Obama administration for launching an attack on doctors, and then went on to tell the story of the valiant doctors who saved his daughter's life when she was an infant. This is a classic feature of conservative narrative creation: make a false assertion about the other side, and then use a true story to refute it.

The Wisconsin senator lamented that when he was a child, "we were taught to look up to doctors and other successful people." He continued, "Now some are demonizing success."

Doctors, he said, are "producers." This is a paean to the Right's old song of producerism, a favorite of the John Birch Society, co-founded by David Koch's father, Fred. In their book Right-Wing Populism, Chip Berlet and Matthew Lyons describe producerism as "a doctrine that champions the so-called producers in society against both 'unproductive' elites and subordinate groups defined as lazy or immoral."

Johnson is a millionaire who, until his election to Senate, ran Pacur, a plastics manufacturing business he co-founded. A producer, for sure.

Also representing the Koch faction of the GOP -- which, these days, is looking like most of the GOP -- was Rep. Paul Ryan, chairman of the House Budget Committee, also of Wisconsin (now known as Midwest Kochistan). Ryan, selected by House Speaker John Boehner to deliver the Republican response to the State of the Union address, appeared at the gathering of political big-wigs sponsored by the foundations of billionaires Charles and David Koch in Palm Springs, California, two weeks ago. Ryan was awarded Americans for Prosperity's "Defender of the American Dream" state-level honor in 2008, conferred upon him by Mark Block, who, until December, was AFP's state director in Wisconsin.

Block turned up at CPAC in the company of Hermain Cain, the former CEO of Godfather's Pizza, who is considering a presidential run. Cain is also a favorite at events sponsored by the Americans for Prosperity Foundation, and is a spokesperson for a program promoted by AFPF, Prosperity 101. Block is now Cain's chief of staff.

Breitbart Carries Kochs' Water

Andrew Breitbart, the disgraced impresario known for presenting doctored video on his Web sites, devoted most of his Saturday morning keynote to bashing the progressive protesters who showed up at January's Koch confab in Palm Springs. Breitbart painted the Koch brothers as honorable capitalists and beneficent philanthropists demonized by progressives in search of a "counter-narrative" to the Right's "exposure" of George Soros, the billionaire who funds numerous progressive causes.