On March 2, a Playboy.com article by Mark Ames and Yasha Levine, “Backstabber: Is Rick Santelli High On Koch?” (since removed from the site), revealed that CNBC commentater Rick Santelli’s apparently spontaneous rant of Feb. 19th, in which he suggested having a “Chicago tea party” to protest Obama’s housing stimulous plan, was really a carefully crafted stunt funded by big business (specifically, the Koch conglom).
It was an intriguing allegation, and certainly not outside the realm of possibility; bogus grassroots movements engineered by corporate and/or political interests have become common enough to earn a moniker: astroturfing.
But the Chicago Tea Party rant hasn’t been proven to be an instance of astroturfing, as Megan Macardle of The Atlantic online explains. While “Chicago Tea Party” websites with suspiciously pre-existing domains popped up immediately after Santelli’s rant aired, Santelli so far denies any involvement with them and maintains his speech was spontaneous. And the orgs involved don’t have any clear connection with Koch Industries or the Koch family. Which is probably why the Playboy.com story was yanked almost as soon as it appeared. I’d also like to point out that Big Biz doesn’t need to create pissed-off Tea Partiers to oppose Obama’s housing stimulous plan, as about a million drunken ranters on YouTube will attest.