12 March 2010

Astroturf U.S.A.

 I don't know what bothers me more: a double standard, dishonesty, or the insult to my intelligence.

Wait, yes I do. It's the insult to my intelligence, because that invariably encompasses the other two bothersome notions.
Earlier this month, the "Coffee Party USA" formed because supposedly some Americans just didn't feel like the Tea Party Movement really reflected what they felt about the role of government in our lives. Well, I suppose if you buy the Main Stream Media bias that we're a bunch of racist right-wing extremists, then you may want to jump aboard the Coffee Party right away. As a "sheeple" you'll fit right in.

But if you have a brain of any kind, you'll quickly learn that the Coffee Party is the very thing that people like Nancy Pelosi accused the Tea Parties of being: Astroturf. And beyond that, it's a front group for Organizing for America, otherwise known as MyBarackObama.com. Endorsed by the Democrat Party and by Obama himself. MyBarackObama.com is the website that was used pre-campaign, during the campaign, and in the present.

The Coffee Party USA is nothing more than a marxist, union-ist group designed to continue to marginalize people who are members of the Tea Party Movement. A movement, by the way, that is supported by our Constitutional rights (while we still have them).

As a comparison, lets's look at a couple of Mission Statements. I am a member of the Houston Tea Party Society and have been since it started up on February 27, 2009. Here is their Mission Statement:
Mission and Objectives – Houston Tea Party Society:-Is dedicated to the proposition that all citizens deserve a voice in how they are governed, and to the task of encouraging them to use that voice 
-Believes the Constitution of the United States is still sufficient for our governance, and does not need to be re-interpreted or revised in meaning
-Is devoted to political activism to change the political landscape in the Houston Area, and to working with other Tea Party organizations to achieve the goal of demanding our representatives follow the Constitution, limit government reach, and drastically reduce taxes and spending.

Here is the Mission Statement of the Coffee Party USA:
The Coffee Party Movement gives voice to Americans who want to see cooperation in government. We recognize that the federal government is not the enemy of the people, but the expression of our collective will, and that we must participate in the democratic process in order to address the challenges that we face as Americans. As voters and grassroots volunteers, we will support leaders who work toward positive solutions, and hold accountable those who obstruct them.

The federal government is an expression of our collective will? So here's where my intelligence is insulted. How stupid do they think I am? Not only is that statement wholly inaccurate, it contains code words for communism! "Collective will" is not something akin to America; it's familiar more to countries like to China and North Korea. And the federal government, if anyone is paying attention, is an expression of limited powers.

This Coffee Party USA repulsively shows the image of the Constitution while encouraging its followers to take a Civility Pledge:
As a member or supporter of the Coffee Party, I pledge to conduct myself in a way that is civil, honest, and respectful toward people with whom I disagree. I value people from different cultures, I value people with different ideas, and I value and cherish the democratic process.
What?!? Do you see what's wrong with this statement? And this is promoted and funded by our federal governement! Looks like it's limiting YOUR powers, not the other way around.

I guess these people think the "If you can't beat em join em" effort is going to work. They are (coincidentally) launching their "debut" on March 13, the one-year anniversary of the launching of many large and and small, popular and successful, 9-12 Project Groups. How convenient: many of the 9-12 groups will be celebrating their achievements while collectively being ignored by the MSM (see DC 9.12.09). And the Coffee Party USA will will likely be broadcast on White House-prostituting outlets like MSNBC and CNN.

Cases and points:

Further proof, if it's needed, is where the pudding is.  In other words, follow the money.  When you look into where funding goes when one makes a donation to Coffee Party USA, it goes to Democracy In Action, a leftist entity funded by none other than Open Society and George Soros.  Oh, and your tax dollars too.

Insulted yet?
Here's a great article by American Thinker expanding on the Coffee Party and how it's one of the Soros tentacles.  (ACORN was/is a Soros tentacle too.)

By Mark J. Fitzgibbons
Desperate to glamorize any cause that's contrapuntal to the hugely popular Tea Party Movement, the mainstream media have made much noise for the Coffee Party. But for the free publicity given by its allies in the media, the Coffee Party is pure boredom. Its statist mission combined with its slogan, "Wake Up and Stand Up," puts all but the most dedicated progressives to sleep.
Some conservative bloggers have wondered whether the Coffee Party is Astroturf. Regardless of how one defines Astroturf, I personally don't care. Activists should be free to start causes. It's the message that matters, and the Coffee Party's is empty, bordering on nonexistent. (Sound familiar?)
The organizations that I have problems with are those financed by politicians using taxpayer money. Private funding of causes, regardless of the native sources, is quite American. Some of the best causes have been started with that combination of activists financed with private money. Let the marketplace of ideas blossom, I say.
I've recorded a training class on the legalities of how activist and Tea Party entities may be formed and financed. The Coffee Party is a good example of how the left does it. The left, which often thinks of itself as a partner with government, is far more advanced in these matters than conservatives because they have an array of networks for those purposes.
The Coffee Party website says its 501(c)(4) tax-exempt status is pending with the IRS, which must approve some, but not all, tax-exempt activist entities. Any 501(c)(4) may engage in lobbying, so contributions to them are not deductible. The contribution landing page for the Coffee Party says that it partners with Democracyinaction.org, a 501(c)(3) organization, meaning contributions to the latter are tax-deductible.
The About Page for Democracyinaction.org states that it gets funding from Open Society Institute, George Soros's organization. Because contributions to 501(c)(3)s are tax-deductible, those funds may not be transferred to 501(c)(4)s, which are allowed to lobby.
Democracyinaction.org offers professional services the same or similar to what many for-profit companies provide and is described at Guidestar.com as follows:
DemocracyInAction is a nonprofit dedicated to leveraging the unique power of online communications for invigorating those committed to ecology, social justice and human rights. To a broad swath of these social change leaders, we provide cutting-edge e-advocacy tools for pennies on the dollar relative to the fees demanded by the private sector. In a word, we democratize e-activism, freeing practitioners to pour resources into mission and strategy.
The most recent tax return for Democracyinaction.org (its IRS Form 990) shows it gets far less in grants than it earns in program service revenue, which I believe are fees it charges to its progressive clients.
Democracyinaction.org is affiliated with for-profits Salsa Enterprise and Wired for Change. Wired for Change lists its "political organization" clients to include the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and ACORN (and we thought ACORN wasn't a political organization). Its candidate clients include Chuck Schumer and Jerry Brown.
In other words, these organizations are consultants playing in the big leagues. Democracyinaction.org lists its address as 1700 Connecticut Ave, Washington, D.C., which is a high-rent district. That, however, does not convince me that the Coffee Party is Astroturf.
What strikes me about Democracyinaction.org and its affiliation with for-profit consultants is that 501(c)(3)s are not only supposed to be engaging in a tax-exempt mission, but are also not supposed to use tax-deductible funds for lobbying or political purposes. Democracyinaction.org is tax-exempt, while its affiliates are for-profit. That doesn't bother me, since I happen to believe that the First Amendment trumps the tax code. The IRS, however, does not typically withhold actions based on that same belief.
None of the entanglements I've described convince me the Coffee Party is Astroturf, but all of them merely demonstrate how the left has a vast network already in place to enable the formation and financing of tens of thousands of start-up causes. It merely means that Coffee Party's founders knew the progressive network and knew to rely on skilled consultants. I could be wrong.
Many conservative start-up causes encounter some difficulty in establishing tax-exempt organizations. It may cost $2,500 to $5,000 and up to get a favorable determination from the IRS (527s and political action committees, which are also tax-exempt, do not need such approval).
The bigger problem, however, may be in the financing of start-ups. To finance a start-up grassroots cause requires seed money. But before soliciting contributions, start-ups must first register with most states under what are called charitable solicitation laws.
It's impossible at this stage to tell whether the Coffee Party was financed by one or more benefactors, but it does solicit contributions through its website. Under what are called the Charleston Principles, even fundraising via the internet requires licensing to solicit contributions. This chicken-and-egg regulatory scheme requires start-ups to pay licensing fees and related costs before they solicit contributions so that they may solicit contributions. It's a prior restraint on grassroots activism, and many a good cause have never gotten off the ground as a result.
Conservative, Tea Party, and other small-government causes need not duplicate how the left has created these networks for start-up activist causes, but the model is there. If progressive 501(c)(3)s may provide professional consulting services to 501(c)(4)s, perhaps at discounted rates, then conservatives should at least entertain the idea of creating their own.
Besides the mainstream media's obsession with trying to take down small-government activists, there are legal barriers created by big-government politicians who want to silence dissent. Sadly, start-up causes may never get off the ground by relying on just passion and patriotism.

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