In their ongoing project to expand their influence, the Tea Party -- or in this case, Dick Armey's FreedomWorks -- is about to start targeting corporations for their bottomless wrath. "We are going after the rent-seeking corporations feeding at the public trough," says the organization's spokesperson.
Well, sort of. Actually, they're going to be naming and shaming companies that lobbied in support of the stimulus bill, which will no doubt be followed by further targeting of companies too friendly to Democrats in some other way. They certainly won't be going after the who-knows-how-many corporations that procure costly favors of one kind or another from the government -- don't hold your breath for them to target ExxonMobil over the billions in taxpayer subsidies oil companies receive, for example. But they've even got a poll showing that when you tell conservative Republicans that a company supported the stimulus, they turn against the company.
I'm guessing the actual economic impact of this campaign on the companies in question is going to be miniscule, but that's not really the point. It's more about making sure that all corporations stay firmly on the Republican side. This isn't particularly new -- back in the day, Tom DeLay used to monitor lobbying firms' donations, and any who gave to Democrats would be given a stern warning that they shouldn't expect action on the bills they were pushing. You can couch it in terms of the people's money, but what it's really about is naked, hard-nosed partisan politics.
Which is perfectly fine. If corporations want to play in politics, whether it's in campaigns or lobbying for legislation, they ought to expect that their actions will become public and some people might not like what they've done. It's actually something we could use more of. But no one should be allowed to pretend that FreedomWorks' effort is about anything but helping Republicans and hurting Democrats.
-- Paul Waldman