Americans' hard earned tax dollars were used to help fund a study that attempted to link the Tea Party movement to the tobacco lobby. The study argues that the Tea Party was not a spontaneous grassroots movement, but rather the brainchild of big tobacco.
Tea Party leaders quickly mocked the study's conclusions, which were published earlier this month in the Tobacco Control journal. It was also reportedly presented by its actual authors at an on-campus symposium in San Francisco on Feb. 8. The research was conducted at the University of California-San Francisco.
"The Tea Party that we see in 2009 actually has decades of influence from tobacco and other corporate interests," co-author Amanda Fallin said.
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The study was funded by federal taxpayer grants through the National Institutes of Health and its subsidiary the National Cancer Institute, both federal agencies. It's difficult to tell how much grant money specifically went toward this study, but federal records show researchers at the university have received $7 million since 2007 to study tobacco issues.
The study argues that while conventional wisdom says the Tea Party launched in the spring of 2009, its "roots" lie in the tobacco industry efforts of the 1990s. The premise is that the group Citizens for a Sound Economy, a tobacco industry ally which opposed tobacco taxes and control in the '90s, split a decade later into the conservative groups Americans for Prosperity and FreedomWorks, which have since linked up with part of the Tea Party movement. The study argues that their tactics and beliefs have remained constant by opposing new taxes and regulations.
However, opposing tobacco taxes is a relatively small part of their current agenda. And those two groups do not compose the entirety of the Tea Party movement. They work with a range of local and national Tea Party groups, but those groups -- including the national Tea Party Patriots -- have their own management.
Democratic leaders have routinely attempted to paint the Tea Party as a manufactured movement created to do the bidding to Wall Street fat cats and the "radical" conservatives. But the tobacco thing, that's new.
"If you're going to have a conspiracy theory, at least try to make it pass the laugh test... and this one doesn't even do that," AFP President Tim Phillips told FoxNews.com, adding that opposing tobacco taxes is "probably point-00001 percent of the effort."
Tea Party Patriots co-founder Jenny Beth Martin said the student was "an example of the frivolous spending inside the government…that has landed us $17 trillion in debt.
The National Cancer Institute said in a statement to Fox News that NCI and NIH played no role in the selection of the research topic when it provided funds.
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