Not Our Founders’ Tea Party

In December of 1773, a group of Bostonians boarded ships belonging to the East India Company and committed one of the largest acts of vandalism in the history of the world – throwing, what would be today, millions of dollars’ worth of tea into the harbor.

This “Tea Party,” as it was called, was a revolt against transnational corporate power, and its corrupt stranglehold on the British government.
But, fast forward 240 years later, and the Tea Party is now owned by transnational corporate power, and is being used to subvert our democratic government.
How did this happen?
A new study published in the scientific journal, Tobacco Control, and reported on by Stephen Webster on Raw Story reveals that today’s corporate-funded Tea Party goes back a long ways – well before the election of Barack Obama.
Talk of a new Tea Party to advance corporate interests in America began in the 1980’s and 1990’s, when tobacco companies invested heavily in building new broad alliances with other organizations in hopes of fighting back against the emerging anti-smoking agenda in Congress.
According to researchers, tobacco companies like RJR, Lorillard, and Philip Morris funneled millions of dollars into an organization called Citizens for a Sound Economy (CSE).
And guess who founded CSE? None other than…David Koch.
The purpose of CSE was to build a coalition of tobacco companies and corporate polluters to oppose regulations on smoking and air pollutants being considered in Congress. It’s estimated that at least 5.3 million was funneled into CSE by Big Tobacco.
Then in 1993, a Philip Morris PR flack wrote a memo outlining a strategy of fighting any new taxes by joining up with other anti-tax groups to create a “New Boston Tea Party.”
The memo reads, “Grounded in the theme of ‘The New American Tax Revolution’ or ‘The New Boston Tea Party,’ the campaign activity should take the form of citizens representing the widest constituency base mobilized with signage and other attention-drawing accoutrements such as lapel buttons, handouts, petitions and even costumes.”
Ultimately, the tobacco companies failed and were hit with a massive $200 billion settlement in 1998.
But in 2002, the David Koch’s CSE purchased a website, Eventually, plans for this Tea Party were put on hold. After all, A Republican corporatist, George W. Bush was in the White House, and Republicans were in control of Congress.
Only after the banksters crashed our economy, and Democrats swept into Congress, would the so-called Tea Party be revived. And sure enough, it was revived by CSE. Only, by now, CSE had split into two Astroturf corporate-funded organizations: Americans for Prosperity and Freedom Works.
From 2009 until today, these organizations have used corporate media outlets like Fox so-called News to promote their “Tea Party” – bussing in uninformed Americans from all around the country to wave signs and rally against their own best interests – to rally on behalf of the 1%.
So, as early as the 1990’s, a campaign funded by corporate fat cats and big polluters like the Kochs who opposed new regulations and taxes, was underway. It was a campaign specifically referred to by some in the tobacco industry as a “New Boston Tea Party.”
Of course the original participants of the Boston Tea Party 240 years ago would have been horrified by this.
Many people today think that the Tea Act—which led to the Boston Tea Party—was simply an increase in the taxes on tea paid by American colonists. That’s where the whole “taxation without representation” meme came from.
Instead, the purpose of the Tea Act was to give the East India Company full and unlimited access to the American tea trade and to exempt the company from having to pay taxes to Britain on tea exported to the American colonies. It even gave the company a tax refund on millions of pounds of tea that it was unable to sell and holding in inventory.
In other words, the Tea Act was the largest corporate tax break in the history of the world. And since, at the time, most of the British government and royalty were stockholders in the East India Tea Company, it was also a classic example of crony capitalism.
The purpose of the Tea Act was to increase the profitability of the East India Company to its stockholders (which included the king) and to help the company drive its colonial small-business competitors out of business. Because the company temporarily no longer had to pay high taxes to England and held a monopoly on the tea it sold in the American colonies, it was able to lower its tea prices to undercut those of the local importers and the mom-and-pop tea merchants and teahouses in every town in America.
In response, the colonists dressed like Indians in the middle of the night, boarded ships, and commenced the dumping of hundreds of chests of tea overboard – an act that would eventually light the fuse to war.
And yet, today, the Tea Party represents just the opposite. It’s funded by billionaire corporatists who, just like the shareholders of the East India Company, want to pay keep their corporate tax breaks and want freedom to lie, abuse, and pollute wherever and whenever they want.
So this is an appeal to all the Americans out there who consider themselves proud Tea Partiers. Don’t be duped! The Boston Tea Party wasn’t started by a tobacco company – it was against a tobacco company.
The original Boston Tea Party wasn’t just against a tyrannical monarch across the Atlantic. It was also against transnational corporate power that was ruining the economy here in the colonies.
And while our American Revolution eventually defeated this monarch, kicking off an era of self-government around the world, the forces of the rich and transnational corporate power lingered on. And today, they are on the attack, crashing our economy, bankrupting our government, and polluting our environment.
Their tyranny must be defeated now.