Andrew Langer is a man who knows how to brew a Tea Party, or so he would have you believe. He is the president of the Institute for Liberty, a right-wing think tank which published a guide on the subject. Yet Langer’s real expertise isn’t in the brewing of the tea; it’s in the selling of the movement. A recent New York Times article has revealed that Mr. Langer is far from a folksy tea party organizer who sticks up for the average American consumer. In fact he is a professional bloviator with a history of work with corporate funded anti-regulatory front groups.
One of his most recent projects, and the one that earned him attention from the Times, is called the Consumers Alliance for Global Prosperity.
Begun in August of 2010, the Consumers Alliance for Global Prosperity is an attempt to use the tea party movement to derail sustainable forestry in one of the world’s most endangered rainforest - for the benefit of an Asian paper corporation. Here is an example of the destructive practices the Consumers Alliance supports:
Langer's pro-deforestation campaign, called “Pulp Wars,” attacks environmental groups, labor unions, and American businesses, accusing them of conspiring to keep Indonesians poor and American retail prices high. The mission of Pulp Wars, according to a facebook page for the group, is to fight the “Empires of Collusion,” defined as “greedy corporations, scheming union bosses and radical environmentalists -- that are working hard to restrict free trade in an effort to make countless everyday products more expensive for consumers.” According to CAGP, the empire includes such unlikely colluders as Greenpeace, WWF, and Staples.
In spite of the absurdity of the claims, Pulp Wars is not the only place they are made. Asia Pulp & Paper, a massive corporation responsible for clear cutting the Paradise Rainforest, made the exact same claims about in a report called “Green Protectionism.” Tellingly, APP’s report came out three days before Langer released the Pulp Wars version. The Times writes:
“Three days later, Mr. Langer came out with his own detailed report that hewed to these same themes, and put up a Web site, pulpwars.com, to promote it. Titled “Empires of Collusion,” it reads like a brief for Asia Pulp & Paper and has been followed by reports on subjects like palm oil and American paper industry subsidies that are important to Asia Pulp & Paper and its parent company, Sinar Mas. He has worked these issues into podcasts, Facebook postings and opinion columns, often with a folksy Tea Party-friendly twist... Although some of his material cites Asia Pulp & Paper, Mr. Langer insists that he had not even heard of the company.”
In addition to suspiciously similar reports, Langer is linked to other people and groups who have run public relations campaigns for Asia Pulp and Paper, as this graphic by the New York Times shows.
Langer and his institute are a perfect example of how professional apologists masquerade as tea party populists, couching pro-corporate propaganda in democratic language. But he is not the biggest or the baddest in the corporate shill industry. Groups like the Koch funded American’s for Prosperity and Dick Armey’s Freedomworks (both of whom Langer has worked closely with), are much better funded, yet their funding and motives are equally obscure. As Greenpeace’s Scott Paul says: “If you can spend as much money as you want and remain anonymous, then it doesn’t matter if you’re an overseas company or the Koch brothers, you pay the same network of anti-regulatory front groups.”