Puppets and Puppeteers: A Moyers Interactive


Who’s Pulling the Strings


Some gristle to gnaw upon:

Ginni Thomas

Virginia “Ginni” Thomas is the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Critics have called out her activism as a potential conflict of interest with her husband’s judicial duties since 2000 – while working for the Heritage Foundation, she collected resumes for George W. Bush’s potential presidential appointments even though the court was still considering Bush v. Gore. She remained at the Heritage Foundation during the Bush presidency, serving as its liaison to the White House.

Thomas is a columnist for The Daily Beast and a key figure in “Groundswell,” a coalition of conservative media figures and activists who coordinate messaging as part of a “30-front war” against progressive policy.  


Inside Groundswell

“We’re Failing the Propaganda Battle”

The Groundswellers feel that they too often lose the political narrative to their progressive rivals. One memo that circulated among members declared, “We must reclaim the language and put ‘a face’ on our messages; tell stories. Write articles on 4th grade level!”

Several months after Groundswell kicked off, Steven Sutton, vice president of development for the conservative Leadership Institute and a former chief of staff to several House GOPers, proposed a “strategic message development project” for the outfit. “What is needed,” he wrote, “is an umbrella thematic message under which each specific issue can be magnified and maximized. For those familiar with it, this is an extension and development of theLeesburg Grid (which the Left has co-opted and now uses extensively, and the Right has ignored and allowed to fall into disuse.)”

Sutton suggested using four main themes: Obama and liberal policies fail; Obama and liberal policies make things worse; there is a lack of leadership in the White House; and Obama “puts politics ahead of people/our country/America.” These themes, he contended, “are best used sequentially, rather than randomly/haphazardly/isolated…The most important thing is to think thematically and drive these messages.” Sutton went on:

Issues matter. Details matter. Substance matters. But theme matters more. Substance matters only as it helps to reinforce the themes.



Michael Needham

Needham, a long-time Heritage staffer, works under DeMint as the CEO of Heritage Action for America, the conservative think tank’s young and aggressive advocacy arm. As Zeke Miller reported for Time, the group “has been working day and night for years to bring about just the crisis now gripping DC.”“A team of organizers, lobbyists and 20-something social media specialists are harnessing the power of the Tea Party to drive a wrench into Congress’ gears… It uses a three-pronged strategy to twist arms on Capitol Hill: lobbying members on hot-button issues, ranking them publicly on how they vote, and getting word out far and wide when lawmakers buck the conservative line.”

This week, Politico reported that the Koch Brothers had cut a check for a half-million dollars to Heritage Action, and the same day the group announced that it was no longer backing the shutdown it had worked so hard to precipitate.


And when we say pivot, you pivot:
The Koch Brothers
The Koch Brothers claim they are “neutral” about shutting down the government in an effort to defund Obamacare. This week, Koch Industries’ chief lobbyist Philip Ellender sent a letter to the Senate distancing the company from the shutdown, and insisting that the Kochs wanted to focus on slashing spending rather than Obamacare.
But, as Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Mike McIntire noted in a recent New York Times article, the two “have been deeply involved with financing the overall effort.”
“A group linked to the Kochs, Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, disbursed more than $200 million last year to nonprofit organizations involved in the fight. Included was $5 million to Generation Opportunity, which created a buzz last month with an Internet advertisement showing a menacing Uncle Sam figure popping up between a woman’s legs during a gynecological exam.”

 Raul Labrador

One of the most outspoken crusaders against Obamacare, tea party-endorsed Raúl Labrador — elected during the 2010 midterms – also advocates US withdrawal from the United Nations, returning to the Gold Standard and eliminating the Department of Education. In the debt ceiling battle, he has been key in pushing House leadership to the right with his calls to “defund” the law. Labrador has repeatedly insisted that the president and the Democrat-controlled Senate are to blame for the shutdown, not him and his colleagues: “The House is listening to the American people by advocating for a one-year delay of the individual mandate. The Senate, meanwhile, is trying to instigate a shutdown with the hope that Republicans will get the blame. In fact, it will be the Senate that gets blamed for refusing to fix the individual mandate.”
Ted Yoho
Rep. Ted Yoho, a former large animal veterinarian specializing in cattle, took office earlier this year, and is a proponent of blowing the debt limit in the name of defunding Obamacare. “We did a town hall the other day, and 74 percent of people said, ‘don’t raise the debt ceiling,’” he told the National Review. For his part, he thinks Congress should move full steam ahead. He told The Washington Post that he doesn’t want to raise the debt ceiling — ever again. “I think we need to have that moment where we realize [we’re] going broke. I think, personally, it would bring stability to the world markets.”




Related Articles