Playboy: Santelli's Rant A Rightwing Plant

by: Paul Rosenberg

Sun Mar 01, 2009 at 17:04

(h/t Ben P in "Quick Hits")  Apparently, Rick Santelli's televised rant was at least 6 months in the making, according to Playboy online, which reports that the website pushing the "spontaneous" outpouring of support for Santelli was registered by name by a rigtwing Chicago media figure back in August.  Whatever you think of it, Playboy has a long history of breaking stories the traditional media overlooks, and it looks like they've done it again.  Because that's just the first level of the story.  The deeper level is that all this pre-planned organizing is backed by the Koch family and their foundations, in much the same way that Richard Mellon Scaife supplied the main push behind Whitewater.  Although there are obvious differences, and we're just at the beginning here, there are obvious similarities as well: a big bucks clandestine conservative operation speaheaded by a single family outfit, in coordination with people on the ground of the home state of a popularly elected Democratic President, fronting themselves as part of a populist opposition.

Before getting to the Playboy quote, here's what Ritholtz wrote:

I was interviewed by several journalists last week about Rick Santelli's Rant - my exact quote was it had a "Faux" feel to it. (I haven't seen it in print yet)

What was so odd about this was that Santelli is usually on the ball; we usually agree more often than we disagree. He's been responsible for some of the best moments on Squawk Box.

But his rant somehow felt wrong. After we've pissed through over $7 trillion dollars in Federal bailouts to banks, brokers, automakers, insurers, etc., this was a pittance, the least offensive of all the vast sums of wasted money spent on "losers" to use Santelli's phrase. It seemed like a whole lot of noise over "just" $75 billion, or 1% of the rest of the total ne'er-do-well bailout monies.

All this is, of course, patently obvious to anyone.  But Ritholtz isn't just anyone.  He's someone money people listen to. And he goes on to quote from Playboy, but mostly just about the first level....

Paul Rosenberg :: Playboy: Santelli's Rant A Rightwing Plant
Here's the first part of the Playboy story that Ritholtz quoted:
"How did a minor-league TV figure, whose contract with CNBC is due this summer, get so quickly launched into a nationwide rightwing blog sensation? Why were there so many sites and organizations online and live within minutes or hours after his rant, leading to a nationwide protest just a week after his rant?

What hasn't been reported until now is evidence linking Santelli's "tea party" rant with some very familiar names in the Republican rightwing machine, from PR operatives who specialize in imitation-grassroots PR campaigns (called "astroturfing") to bigwig politicians and notorious billionaire funders. As veteran Russia reporters, both of us spent years watching the Kremlin use fake grassroots movements to influence and control the political landscape. To us, the uncanny speed and direction the movement took and the players involved in promoting it had a strangely forced quality to it. If it seemed scripted, that's because it was.

What we discovered is that Santelli's "rant" was not at all spontaneous as his alleged fans claim, but rather it was a carefully-planned trigger for the anti-Obama campaign. In PR terms, his February 19th call for a "Chicago Tea Party" was the launch event of a carefully organized and sophisticated PR campaign, one in which Santelli served as a frontman, using the CNBC airwaves for publicity, for the some of the craziest and sleaziest rightwing oligarch clans this country has ever produced. Namely, the Koch family, the multibilllionaire owners of the largest private corporation in America, and funders of scores of rightwing thinktanks and advocacy groups, from the Cato Institute and Reason Magazine to FreedomWorks. The scion of the Koch family, Fred Koch, was a co-founder of the notorious extremist-rightwing John Birch Society."

And here's the second, which establishes the short-term connections between different out-front actors:

"Within hours of Santelli's rant, a website called sprang to life. Essentially inactive until that day, it now featured a YouTube video of Santelli's "tea party" rant and billed itself as the official home of the Chicago Tea Party. The domain was registered in August, 2008 by Zack Christenson, a dweeby Twitter Republican and producer for a popular Chicago rightwing radio host Milt Rosenberg-a familiar name to Obama campaign people. Last August, Rosenberg, who looks like Martin Short's Irving Cohen character, caused an outcry when he interviewed Stanley Kurtz, the conservative writer who first "exposed" a personal link between Obama and former Weather Undergound leader Bill Ayers. As a result of Rosenberg's radio interview, the Ayers story was given a major push through the Republican media echo chamber, culminating in Sarah Palin's accusation that Obama was "palling around with terrorists." That Rosenberg's producer owns the "" site is already weird-but what's even stranger is that he first bought the domain last August, right around the time of Rosenburg's launch of the "Obama is a terrorist" campaign. It's as if they held this "Chicago tea party" campaign in reserve, like a sleeper-site. Which is exactly what it was.

But Ritholtz didn't quote from some of deeper sleuthing that was done: was just one part of a larger network of Republican sleeper-cell-blogs set up over the course of the past few months, all of them tied to a shady rightwing advocacy group coincidentally named the "Sam Adams Alliance," whose backers have until now been kept hidden from public. Cached google records that we discovered show that the Sam Adams Alliance took pains to scrub its deep links to the Koch family money as well as the fake-grassroots "tea party" protests going on today. All of these roads ultimately lead back to a more notorious rightwing advocacy group, FreedomWorks, a powerful PR organization headed by former Republican House Majority leader Dick Armey and funded by Koch money.

On the same day as Santelli's rant, February 19, another site called went live. This site was registered to Eric Odom, who turned out to be a veteran Republican new media operative specializing in imitation-grassroots PR campaigns. Last summer, Odom organized a twitter-led campaign centered around to pressure Congress and Nancy Pelosi to pass the offshore oil drilling bill, something that would greatly benefit Koch Industries, a major player in oil and gas. Now, six months later, Odom's DontGo movement was resurrected to play a central role in promoting the "tea party" movement.

Up until last month, Odom was officially listed as the "new media coordinator" for the Sam Adams Alliance, a well-funded libertarian activist organization based in Chicago that was set up only recently. Samuel Adams the historical figure was famous for inspiring and leading the Boston Tea Party-so when the PR people from the Chicago-based Sam Adams Alliance abruptly leave in order to run Santelli's "Chicago Tea Party," you know it wasn't spontaneous. Odom certainly doesn't want people to know about the link: his name was scrubbed from the Sam Adams Alliance website recently, strongly suggesting that they wanted to cover their tracks. Thanks to google caching, you can see the SAA's before-after scrubbing.

Even the Sam Adams' January 31 announcement that Odom's fake-grassroots group was "no longer sponsored by the Alliance" was shortly afterwards scrubbed.

But it's the Alliance's scrubbing of their link to Koch that is most telling. A cached page, erased on February 16, just three days before Santelli's rant, shows that the Alliance also wanted to cover up its ties to the Koch family. The missing link was an announcement that students interested in applying for internships to the Sam Adams Alliance could also apply through the "Charles G. Koch Summer Fellow Program" through the Institute for Humane Studies, a Koch-funded rightwing institute designed to scout and nurture future leaders of corporate libertarian ideology. The top two board directors at the Sam Adams Alliance include two figures with deep ties to Koch-funded programs: Eric O'Keefe, who previously served in Koch's Institute for Humane Studies and the Club For Growth; and Joseph Lehman, a former communications VP at Koch's Cato Institute.

All of these are ultimately linked up to Koch's Freedom Works mega-beast.

There is clearly much, much more to this story, which itself should serve as a reminder of how little we really know about all the many scandals of the Bush era.

Ritholtz claims no further knowledge about any of this, but opines that if true, "Santelli may have to fall on his sword, and CNBC may owe the public an apology."

We shall see.  Ordinarily one would not think so.  This is just how the right wing rolls.  But in case you hadn't noticed, "ordinary" is changing.  After all, ordinarily someone like Ritholtz wouldn't even be writing about something like this.

Clearly, this story belongs on Countdown and Rachael Maddow, stat.  But, wait, CNBC? MSNBC?  Something's gotta give.

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Keith called him out (4.00 / 3)
Olbermann already named him a Worst Person after this, so there is hope.

We've got to get this story out to the traditional press. Perhaps TPM can push it further?

True, Re Santelli (4.00 / 2)
but this goes much, much deeper.  Which is where the question lies: will they go down to the level of the vast Koch-financed conspiracy?

I can easily envision Rachael doing so with a twinkle in her eye.  Which I love.  She does "twinkle in her eye" as well as anyone I've ever seen.  But I sort of think this one needs a righteous "special comment" as well.

Will we get both?  Time will tell.

Agreed re TPM.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

[ Parent ]
Does tin foil itch? (0.00 / 0)
Was it completely spontaneous?  Probably not, but it wasn't planned six months ago either.

This Isn't Conspirary THEORY Dude (4.00 / 2)
The domain name really was registered 6 months ago.  And all the other stuff is factual as well.  And yes, they are trying to hide what they are doing--a sure sign of trying to do something in secret (ie, a conspiracy!).

I don't go in for conspiracy theories. I go in for cold hard facts.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

[ Parent ]
My Favorite (0.00 / 0)
This is one of my favorite topics: "the vast rightwing conspiracy".

Here's an essay of mine of the relationship between two of George Mason's star economicists and the Koch empire.

Policies not Politics

And, To Tie Two Diaries Together (0.00 / 0)
One of those associated with GMU is James M. Buchanan, he of public choice theory fame.

From The Trap, quoted in a comment I added to the discussion thread of the Party of Psychopaths diary:

All these theories tended to support the beliefs of what were then fringe economists such as Friedrich von Hayek, whose economic models left no room for altruism, but depended purely on self-interest, leading to the formation of public choice theory. In an interview, the economist James M. Buchanan decries the notion of the "public interest", asking what it is and suggesting that it consists purely of the self-interest of the governing bureaucrats. Buchanan also proposes that organisations should employ managers who are motivated only by money. He describes those who are motivated by other factors-such as job satisfaction or a sense of public duty-as "zealots".

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

[ Parent ]
The Kochs (4.00 / 2)
It may be worthwhile to recall just what the Koch family is all about, and how much undercover political activity they fund.

From Josh Marshall, in 2005...

Americans for Prosperty is the political arm of Koch Industries (i.e., a front) which the Koch family uses to aid conservative causes in general and stuff the Bush White House wants done in particular. (Koch Industries is a big oil, chemical and mining mega-corporation.) Folks seem to go from Koch Industries Washington lobby shop to Americans for Prosperity or back and forth from the White House on a pretty regular basis. And when you look even closer you'll see that they're all also tied in with Citizens for a Sound Economy, another spawn of the Koch family, which was essentially the predecessor of AforP.

Take Wayne Gable, for instance. He is a member of the board of directors of Americans for Prosperity. He's currently the managing director of Federal Affairs -- i.e., the lobby shop -- of Koch Industries, Inc.

Before that he was president of Citizens for a Sound Economy.

Nancy Mitchell Pfotenhauer is now the president of Americans for Prosperity. Before that she was the head of the lobby shop for Koch Industries. Before that she was executive vice president or Citizens for a Sound Economy.

Running AforP today must not take too much time because she's also president of the Independent Women's Forum. But it probably helps that both organizations are run out of the same office.

Look into the inner-workings of Citizens for a Sound Economy, Americans for Prosperity, the Independent Women's Forum and you'll see it's pretty hard to see where one group starts and another stops. They just all seem to lead back to Koch Industries, run by the Koch brothers.

(Bonus Koch Trivia: The father of the Koch borthers, Fred Koch, was a founder of the John Birch Society.)

More about the Kochs... (0.00 / 0)
There's a long and detailed description of the Kochs' political influence, including the "revolving door" relationship between the Bush White House and the Pentagon and various Koch-supported "think tanks," from the Center for Public Integrity, here.

[ Parent ]
Nancy Pfotenhauer was McCain's spokesperson (0.00 / 0)
towards the end of his campaign. She was on all the MSNBC programs, to my dismay.

[ Parent ]
A nice thought (4.00 / 2)
One of the bigger pieces in the Koch empire is Georgia-Pacific, a building supplies company they paid $20 billion for in 2005.  With the Bush economy sending building and new construction into the crapper, it looks to me like the Koches overpaid.

Georgia-Pacific has a history of polluting (0.00 / 0)
The company produces paper in addition to other lumber products. They have a poor enviromental record: Wiki notes that in a 2000 study, they ranked as the 15th largest source of air pollution. A more recent capsule of their record:
In 2007, the United States Environmental Protection Agency announced legal agreements among the EPA, Michigan, Georgia-Pacific, and Millennium Holdings requiring the companies to clean up an estimated $21,000,000 worth of environmental damage to the Plainwell Impoundment Area. Another settlement required an additional $15,000,000 of environmental work on the Kalamazoo River Superfund site.

[ Parent ]
The right wing in this country has a significant tradition of organizing (4.00 / 2)

Let's not forget that Smedley Butler testified before a Congressional Committee that found evidence existed that a plot existed among right wing industrialists amongst others, that wished to overthrow FDR and establish a fascist government:

In November 1934 Butler began testifying in secret to the Special Committee on Un-American Activities Authorized to Investigate Nazi Propaganda and Certain Other Propaganda Activities (the McCormack-Dickstein Committee). Butler claimed that the American Liberty League was the main organization behind the plot. He added the main backers were the Du Pont family, as well as leaders of U.S. Steel, General Motors, Standard Oil, Chase National Bank, and Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company.

Butler also named Prescott Bush as one of the conspirators. At the time Bush was along with W. Averell Harriman, E. Roland Harriman and George Herbert Walker, managing partners in Brown Brothers Harriman. Bush was also director of the Harriman Fifteen Corporation. This in turn controlled the Consolidated Silesian Steel Corporation, that owned one-third of a complex of steel-making, coal-mining and zinc-mining activities in Germany and Poland. Friedrich Flick owned the other two-thirds of the operation. Flick was a leading financial supporter of the Nazi Party and in the 1930s donated over seven million marks to the party. A close friend of Heinrich Himmler, Flick also gave the Schutz Staffeinel (SS) 10,000 marks a year.

On 20th November, 1934, the story of the alleged plot was published in the Philadelphia Record and the New York Post. Four days later the McCormack-Dickstein Committee released its preliminary findings and the full-report appeared on 15th February, 1935. The committee reported: "In the last few weeks of the committee's official life it received evidence showing that certain persons had made an attempt to establish a fascist government in this country... There is no question that these attempts were discussed, were planned, and might have been placed in execution when and if the financial backers deemed it expedient."

Although the McCormack-Dickstein Committee claimed they believed Butler's testimony they refused to take any action against the people he named as being part of the conspiracy.

What's interesting is that in 2009 the country doesn't have to wait for a Smedley Butker to step foward...the internet, some savy investigative journalism and just a little technical knowledge( taking a screen shot to save google caches) in addition to bloggers willing to carry the catch forth go a long way.

I've met a few who work on Wall Street, (0.00 / 0)
and they all seem to love the word, "loser." They use the word as Santelli does, as in "Why should I pay for some loser to sit around." Hate to generalize and stereotype here, but Santelli's rant just seemed too familiar.

Oh Yeah! (0.00 / 0)
File this with the psycopathy diary as well.

Probably the two places in America with the highest concentrations of psychopaths: prison and the stock exchange.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

[ Parent ]
Speaking of which... (0.00 / 0)
...Did you perchance see American Psycho?

[ Parent ]
Every Day (0.00 / 0)
Oh! You mean the movie!

No.  Didn't have to. Like I said, seen it every day for free.

Just chalk it up as part of the cost of historical class consciousness.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

[ Parent ]

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