No. 9: FreedomWorks

Meet the 12 loudest members of the chorus claiming that global warming is a joke and that CO2 emissions are actually good for you.

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“If you are going to go ugly, go ugly early.” So says former Republican House Majority Leader Dick Armey on the website of FreedomWorks, his latest corporate-funded front group. This summer, FreedomWorks packed health care town hall meetings with self-proclaimed grassroots activists who spouted talking points about “death panels” and pulling the plug on grandma. George W. Bush is a fan. “Folks, you’ve got to get to know this organization,” he says on the FreedomWorks website. “They have been doing a great job all over the country educating people.”

The group does an especially great job of astroturfing. It has helped plan putatively spontaneous events, supplied protesters with prewritten signs and “sample press releases,” and provided guides for delivering a “clear message” to the media. Last year, the Wall Street Journal exposed FreedomWorks [link] for building “amateur looking” websites to promote Armey’s lobbying interests.

Armey has suggested that FreedomWorks next target will be climate change. (He did not respond to a request for comment for this story.) In August it promoted the Energy Citizens rally in Houston. And it has published a steady stream of attacks on proponents of cap-and-trade policies, who, according to the FreedomWorks blog, are just “anti-capitalists and big-government supporters and rent-seekers trying to gain wealth and power through pseudo-science.”

FreedomWorks traces its roots the now-defunct, Exxon-funded Citizens for a Sound Economy, along with another group, Americans for Prosperity. AFP lacks Armey’s star power but not his sharp-elbowed tactics. It has run ads describing climate-bill backers as “wealthy eco-hypocrites,” offered free balloon rides on a climate change “hot air” tour, and fed Glenn Beck’s attacks on former green jobs czar Van Jones. Both groups are funded in part by foundations tied to Koch Industries, a holding company with extensive oil interests. The board of the FreedomWorks Foundation, the group’s policy and education arm, includes Steve Forbes, the publisher of Forbes, which recently named ExxonMobilGreen Company of the Year.”

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THE TRUTH...

is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

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