We haven't written much about the Tea Party Movement, because it's always seemed fairly blown out of proportion. Conservatives compare it to an anti-tax version of the Iraq war protests, but those protests drew scores of thousands of people into the streets and the "tea parties" that have occurred thus far haven't been nearly that large.
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But in recent days, a new angle on this story has emerged--one which casts some doubt on the degree to which these protests are in any way organic. Lee Fang of ThinkProgress and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman have led the charge, calling the tea parties astroturf events--paid for and, perhaps, populated by, well-funded top-down organizations like FreedomWorks and Americans for Prosperity.
Jon Henke of the website The Next Right defended the tea parties from the charge, writing that "[w]hat FreedomWorks and various other organizations are doing is not "astroturf" any more than the anti-war protests of some years back were astroturf because ANSWER and Moveon.org helped organize people around those events."
There are, of course, differences between MoveON and FreedomWorks. But his post nonetheless raises a couple interesting questions, such as: Who first proposed holding tea party events? When did major conservative organizations get involved? And how much support have they gained along the way?
The answer to the first question is "FreedomWorks." The answer to the second question is "right from the start." And the answer to the last question is "less than you'd expect, given the months of hype."