Taxpayer dollars were used to fund a study that painted the Tea Party movement as the spawn of the tobacco lobby — a premise that Tea Party leaders say is absurd.
The study was published earlier this month in the Tobacco Control journal and was formally presented by its authors at an on-campus symposium in San Francisco Feb. 8.
“The Tea Party that we see in 2009 actually has decades of influence from tobacco and other corporate interests,” co-author Amanda Fallin said at the time, downplaying the notion that the group is just a “spontaneous grassroots movement.”
The charge that the Tea Party is a tool of broader corporate interests is one often leveled by Democratic critics. House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi was fond of calling the movement “astroturf” in the run-up to the 2010 mid-term elections where Tea Partiers helped Republicans take control of the House.
The research at the University of California-San Francisco echoes the claim, while weaving in an attractive narrative for Tea Party critics — that the Tea Party is continuing the agenda of the tobacco industry.
The study was funded by federal taxpayer grants through the National Institutes of Health and its subsidiary the National Cancer Institute, both federal agencies. It’s difficult to tell how much grant money specifically went toward this study, but federal records show researchers at the university have received $7 million since 2007 to study tobacco issues.
“If you’re going to have a conspiracy theory, at least try to make it pass the laugh test … and this one doesn’t even do that,” AFP President Tim Phillips told FoxNews.com. Further, he said opposing tobacco taxes is “probably point-00001 percent of the effort” today.
Before registering my objections, let me first observe that tobacco is not illegal in this country. Certain advertisements are, and it’s illegal to sell it to minors, but up until very recently tobacco featured prominently in the movies. So even if it were true that the Tea Party were an offshoot of the tobacco lobby (a surprise to every member of the Tea Party I know, however tangential), so what?
Now to my objections. Why is our government spending millions of dollars to demonize a segment of the political spectrum? As the Tea Party is the most anti-government segment of the political spectrum, there is a certain logic, even imperative, to government’s actions. Like any living entity, government seeks to defend itself from attack. This is fight-or-flight, government style.
And what if? What if a Republican executive had spent millions of taxpayer dollars investigating a left-wing group? The fact that the Nuclear Freeze movement was a wholly owned subsidiary of the Soviet Union—as was its spokesman, Ted Kennedy—barely ruffled feathers. Yet put a Democrat in the White House, and you have Muslim outreaches from NASA and federal probes into the funding and founding of the Tea Party. Sure, maybe Republicans engaged in this sort of thing when J. Edgar Hoover ran the FBI. But if that’s the Democrats’ best defense, the prosecution rests.
Last, the whole story fails basic logic. Post hoc ergo propter hoc translates as “after which because of which”. It means that just because one thing followed another does not mean it was caused by it. The Tea Party formed in 2009 as a reaction to the metastasis of government promised by ObamaCare, government takeovers of whole industries, etc. The tobacco lobby already existed, and too opposed excessive government intrusion and regulation of private life. Yet to say that the tobacco lobby founded the Tea Party is like saying global warming caused the asteroid.
Which imbecility is what passes for journalism—and government—today.