How I funded the tea parties and other tales from the American Dream Summit

Dave Weigel, reporting at the Washington Independent on the Defending the American Dream Summit sponsored by Americans for Prosperity this weekend, delivers a few gems.

Libertarian tycoon David Koch, he writes, finally outed himself as a main funder of the tea party movement. Also: Newt Gingrich plays at libertarian-style fiscal conservative. Plus: Oh how Republicans love gridlock politics!

For months, liberal researchers from the Center for American Progress to Firedoglake to the Rachel Maddow Show have pored over the financial records of libertarian tycoon David Koch to see just how deep his influence ran within the Tea Party movement. On Saturday, speaking at the Defending the American Dream Summit sponsored by Americans for Prosperity, Koch did it for them. Walking onstage at a morning rally, holding a Washington Award that he was about to give to Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C), Koch took credit for launching one of the key organizations of the conservative insurrection.

Fears of the tea party movement being called out as an astroturf campaign, writes Weigel, have all but disappeared.

It was the prominence of Koch, who praised the activists for fueling a “strong, principled, freedom movement,” which revealed the degree to which conservatives have dismissed the “astroturf” attacks that greeted the Tea Parties. The Friday and Saturday summit was the latest and largest attempt by one of the Washington-based groups shepherding the Tea Parties to proclaim themselves leaders of a political majority, and to turn the attention of newly discovered conservative activists to the 2010 elections.

Here’s Gingrich on the dais rewriting history. In this narrative, he was once a grand leader of the balanced budget, an idea deficit-spending Republican leaders have made a mockery of for decades:

Libertarian purists in the crowd found some reasons to be cynical. Three of the headlining speakers, including Gingrich, had supported the Troubled Asset Relief Program–a major motivating force for the Tea Parties. Gingrich’s version of recent political history was kind to the GOP congressional majority in a manner that stretched some facts. “We can balance the federal budget,” he said, “because for four years, when I was speaker, we balanced the federal budget.”

Last, who ever said gridlock government was bad government?

But hard partisan politics won the weekend, and gave some form to the movement Koch finally took some credit for organizing. Activists learned that they were on the cusp of saving the long-planned, one-year elimination of the estate tax. If Democrats fail to pass a bill extending the estate tax in 2010, one of the key Republican victories of George W. Bush’s presidency would be realized. And the more the Tea Party movement could slow down the works in Congress, the better the chance of Democrats forgoing that bill.

“If we run out the clock,” said Phil Kerpen, AFP’s policy director, “the estate tax is gone in 2010, and it would be tricky for Democrats to try and bring it back.”

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