The tea party movement has a new target: Corporate America. Leaders of FreedomWorks, Dick Armey’s branch of the conservative revolution, tell US News’ Paul Bedard that the tea party movement is now ready to go to war with companies that the group says endorse “President Obama’s progressive agenda.”
On the short list are General Electric and Johnson & Johnson. Their crimes: “Their initial focus” of FreedomWorks’ anti-corporate war “will be on consumer firms that lobbied for passage of Obama’s agenda items that helped their firms.” Those items include: “healthcare reform, bailouts, cap-and-trade energy policies or other issues pushed by the administration.”
How will FreedomWorks take out these corporate giants? Through what it says will be a series of massive consumer boycotts Bedard likens to past anti-corporate protests mounted by Jesse Jackson.
“[A] Tea Party boycott could be bigger and impact the political world in Washington where corporations are generally viewed as supporting Republicans,” Bedard writes.
The crew at FreedomWorks aren’t the first tea party leaders to think of this. Back in January, former Christian Coalition organizer Allen Hardage attempted to put together a tea party National Day of Strike targeting companies who advertised on MSNBC or CNN and/or donated money to Democratic candidates. The idea fizzled out after some conservatives began to question the idea of attacking corporations — “conservatives are not about boycotting commerce,” one wrote — and pointing out how embarrassing for liberals the many failed boycotts progressives have tried to get moving in the past have been.
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But FreedomWorks has something Hardage didn’t: hard data. (Well, the group actually has many things Hardage didn’t, not the least of which is the fear that a group perceived to have just “taken back” Washington can inspire in a boardroom, but still.) FreedomWorks has released a poll it commissioned showing conservative voters are open to the group’s anti-corporate messaging.
“Respondents were read a series of statements about how GE lobbied to pass Obama’s stimulus plan and cap and trade, as well as how Johnson & Johnson ran ads to help pass the health care reform legislation,” the pollster, respected GOP firm Wilson Resarch, writes. Among conservatives, the firm found that “Unfavorable opinions about the companies double while favorability falls” after respondents are told about the companies’ actions.
So now all FreedomWorks has to do, its leaders say, is spread their version of the truth about these companies to conservatives far and wide, using the same kind of grassroots internettery the group used to get the tea party rolling over the past couple years.
FreedomWorks will “urge bloggers and other activists to spread the news about how companies lobbied for Obama’s agenda,” Bedard writes. “And soon after look for the groups to list the ties of major firms to the Democrats and progressives.”
Group president Matt Kibbe says it’s time for the tea party to clean up boardrooms just like it cleaned out the Democratic majority in the House.
“Tea Party activists are willing to tackle progressive CEOs just as they tackled progressive politicians,” he told Bedard. “Judging by the results of the midterm elections, progressive CEOs should buckle up, because Tea Party activists are going to give them a very bumpy ride.”
FreedomWorks did not immediately respond to TPM’s request for comment.
Read Bedard’s whole story here.