This article is part of the Center for Media & Democracy's spotlight on front groups and corporate spin.
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Patients First is a subsidiary of Americans for Prosperity. It shares the same street address as Americans for Prosperity (1726 M Street NW, Washington, D.C. 20036). Patients First is responsible for sending out the "Hands off My Health Care" bus to rally opposition to President Obama's efforts to reform health care and health insurance in the U.S.
Spreading myths, drumming up fear
Patients First is responsible for spreading fear about proposals to reform healthcare. For example, its Web site says that a "Public Option Is a Back Door to a Total Washington Takeover," and claims that government would start denying treatments based on cost. The site does not mention that private insurance companies currently do this.
Following is a quote from Rachel Maddow on Patients First, Americans for Prosperity and other astroturf groups that are fighting health care reform:
Yet another sponsor [of "Recess Rally"], Americans for Prosperity, and their subsidiary Patients First. Americans for Prosperity's Director, Art Pope, who has the headquarters of the North Carolina Republican party named after him since he's given them so much money. Their Chairman, David Koch, the 19th richest man in the world who runs Koch Industries, which is the largest privately held oil company in the United States.
Americans for Prosperity runs the group Patients First which is busing people across the country to attend these town hall meetings.
This is what these groups do. They're experts at fake grassroots campaigns that promote corporate interests. Americans for Prosperity is the group that ginned up anti-stimulus rallies earlier this year. They also organized what they called the "Hot Air Tour" to campaign against the whole idea of global warming. They were the ones who sent Joe the Plumber around the country to rail against the Employee Free Choice Act, which is pro-labor legislation.
This oil industry and Republican operative billionaires club is, according to the Republican party spokesman today, just average middle class Americans. Just regular American folks sitting around the kitchen table thinking about whether they can get away with saying that the government, continuing its long standing policy of encouraging living wills, is really a secret plot to kill old people.
One other thing about Americans for Prosperity, their most visible spokesman, is a man named Tim Phillips. He is the President of the organization and we've asked him to come on the show to talk with us about the group. Tim Phillips got his start in fake grass roots with a firm called Century Strategies, run by Ralph Reed. Century Strategies is famous for having duped Christian groups into lobbying for energy deregulation. You know, like the Bible said.
They were doing that at the behest of Century Strategies' client, Enron. Tim Phillips and Ralph Reed were later made even more famous in the Jack Abramoff scandal, for duping Christian groups into lobbying against gambling. But only in areas where these guys happened to have competing gambling interests as clients.
These guys are the pros. This is an industry. Americans are showing up at these events to shout down the discussion, to chase their Congressmen, and they are enraged. And they're enraged at least in part because they're being riled up by over the top, fabricated conspiracy theories about health care. And they're being directed and orchestrated by the corporate interests that do this for a living and do it very well.
RecessRally.com is not some organic outgrowth of American anger. This is how corporate America creates the illusion of a grass roots movement to support their own interests. This is what they do. They are professionals. This is an industry.
To talk about these town hall events as some organic outpouring of average American folks who have concerns about health care is to be willfully blind to what is really going on, which is professional P.R. operatives generating exploitative, manufactured, strategically deployed outrage in order to line their own pocket.
These P.R. spin misters get paid a lot of money for doing it. The corporations they work for get to kill legislation that would hurt their profits. And the real people who they launch into these town hall settings after they're told that health care reform is a secret commie plot to kill old people and to mandate sex changes, those real people get more, and more, and more and more angry, and more, and more, and more alienated, and ultimately they get left, like the rest of us, with a health care system that is broken and doesn't work in the interest of the American people, but does work in the interest of the corporations that profit from the way the system is now. This is professional, corporate funded Republican staffed P.R., and it should be reported as such.
- John Grooms, Creative Loafing Unhealthy lies and the truth about healthcare reform August 18, 2009
1726 M Street NW
Washington, DC 20036