Caricature of David Koch

Were David Koch (and his brother Charles) planning to astroturf the Tea Party even earlier than formerly suspected?

Shattering the public perception that the Tea Party is a spontaneous popular citizens movement, a new academic paper provides evidence that an organization founded by David and Charles Koch, attempted to launch the Tea Party movement in 2002.

The peer-reviewed study appearing in the academic journal, Tobacco Control and titled, ‘To quarterback behind the scenes, third party efforts’: the tobacco industry and the Tea Party, shows that the group Citizens for a Sound Economy launched a Tea Party movement website, www.usteaparty.com, that went live in 2002.

According to the website DeSmogBlog.com, who broke this story earlier today, CSE was founded in 1984 by the infamous Koch Brothers, David and Charles Koch in 1984. David Koch sat on the board of CSE for many years and the group’s first president, Richard Fink, went on to become a senior VP at Koch Industries.

The common public understanding of the origins of the Tea Party is that it is a popular grassroots uprising that began with anti-tax protests in 2009.

You can find  a screenshot here of the archived U.S. Tea Party site, as it appeared online on Sept. 13, 2002.

The site is described as, “In 2002, our U.S. Tea Party is a national event, hosted continuously online, and open to all Americans who feel our taxes are too high and the tax code is too complicated.” There is also “Patriot Guest book” available for visitors to voice their support and write a message for CSE and the U.S. Tea Party movement.

The US Tea Party site is no longer online and appears to have been taken down sometime in mid-2011. A DNS registry search, finds that the web address usteaparty.com is currently owned by Freedomworks, an organization heavily involved in Tea Party organizing today.

Image by Donkey Hotey released under a Creative Commons license.