Until recently I had never heard the term “astroturfing” — that was until I went Googling around the internet trying to make sense of this last government shutdown and debt debacle. During the shutdown I spent a good amount of time listening to all sides, from Fox News to PBS and everything in between. I was sorting through the rhetoric trying to get to the core of what they were all arguing over. You know — since we send our elected representatives to Washington, D.C. to do some fundamental acts of governing. Passing a budget is number one and number two is paying our bills. You know — the ones that we have already racked up. So as a retired businessman, I did not get what the big deal was — just do your job. Is that asking too much? Apparently for some junior senators and freshmen/women members of the U.S. House, it seemed a bit daunting, or so it seemed. I digress.

During the middle of this whole disgusting fiasco brought on by the Tea Party and Sen. Ted Cruz, an article came across my email and a link to a letter sent out by a conservative action group to all conservative Republicans, Libertarians and of course Tea Party members. This 501(c)4 non-profit political action group is financially backed and formed by none other than the Koch brothers. What really caught my eye was the “talking point” that this group wanted our elected politicians to use when referring to the Patient Protection & Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. “Train Wreck.” I’m sure you have all heard it more than enough times. The Tea Party professes on their website that they are a grassroots organization that only takes money from individual citizens, not political action groups. So why are they taking their marching orders from a political action group and the Koch brothers?

Then the next shoe dropped and news came forward that in fact a group had formed back in July to develop a strategy to defund or repeal Obamacare and to hold a government shutdown and treat of defaulting on our national debt as hostages unless the president and the majority of the Senate met their demands. This was the Tea Party-influenced group backed by Edwin Meese III and the Koch brothers and a dozen or so conservative political and business-action lobbying groups that conspired to shut our government down and default on our national debt. Just to move their political agenda forward.

If a senator did not go along with Sen. Cruz and his backers, they would run attack ads against the representative in their home district and remove financial and political support. Intimidation plain and simple — and on their own party members.

So who is the Tea Party? Are they really who they say they are? Or is the Tea Party astroturfing?

Astroturfing is the practice of masking the sponsors of a message (for instance political, advertising, or public relations) to give the appearance of it coming from a disinterested, grassroots participant. Astroturfing is intended to give the statements the credibility of an independent entity by withholding information about the source's financial connection.

You be the judge.

Leonard Miller

Ocean Park

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