The Secret Origins of the Tea Party

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tags: GOP, Tea Party, Koch



Jeff Nesbit is the executive director of Climate Nexus and former communications official at the FDA and George H.W. Bush White House.

The spring of 1993 was a lousy time to be associated with the Republican Party in Washington, D.C.Bill Clinton had just stormed into the White House. The Democratic Party controlled both houses of Congress. Even undersecretaries of powerful cabinet departments from the Bush administration discovered that they were unloved, unwanted, and unemployed in the nation’s capital.

That included me. I’d worked at the White House as the director of communications for Vice President Dan Quayle, an Indiana Republican, during the second half of the elder Bush’s term as president. In 1993 D.C. had few open doors for refugees of the losing Bush White House. Defeat had been sudden and unexpected, and plenty of folks like me found themselves on the street with bleak job prospects in a place that had become a one-party town.

So I did what many others did in that spring of 1993 in the nation’s capital: I began consulting. My first client was a think tank that I’d never heard of—a small outfit with big dreams and a curious checkbook.

At the time, no one knew much about Citizens for a Sound Economy (CSE). When I’d asked about funding for CSE, it had taken a while to get a clear answer. But, eventually, it became obvious when Rich Fink showed up at critical strategy sessions and spoke with unblinking certainty about what Charles Koch was interested in and wanted done without question. Though few have heard of Rich Fink, he’s been in the inner circle of the Koch brothers’ movement-building efforts for decades, influencing the creation and actions of Koch-funded front groups.

CSE was, in effect, a wholly owned subsidiary of Koch Industries, the second-largest privately owned company in the United States, with interests in manufacturing, trade, and investments.

But what I didn’t know when I began consulting for Citizens for a Sound Economy was what any of the connections between CSE and the Koch brothers were really all about. What was the endgame? Today, we know. ...




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