This article said that major financial backers of FreedomWorks, a Washington-based advocacy group, have included MetLife. MetLife contributed in the 1990s to Citizens for a Sound Economy, which merged with another group in 2004 and was renamed FreedomWorks. MetLife has not contributed to FreedomWorks, according to company spokesman Christopher Breslin.
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Conservative Mainstays and Fledgling Advocacy Groups Drive Health-Reform Opposition
Public records show that the group is heavily funded by the Koch Family Foundations, a major contributor to conservative causes headed by two brothers who control Koch Industries, a Kansas-based oil-and-gas conglomerate. David H. Koch serves as board chairman of the Americans for Prosperity foundation.
Armey has come under fire from Democrats for leading FreedomWorks while working at DLA Piper, a firm lobbying on behalf of New Jersey pharmaceutical company Medicines Co. Armey announced Friday that he was quitting DLA Piper to protect it from "spurious attacks" over his role as a lobbyist.
Leaders of conservative groups and at the RNC have sought to distance themselves from some of the most provocative protest tactics, including shouting down lawmakers or carrying signs equating Obama to Adolf Hitler and the Nazis. But these leaders also are unabashed in defending an aggressive posture; FreedomWorks features a quote from Armey on its Web site: "If you are going to go ugly, go ugly early."
As a result of such rhetoric, the Democratic National Committee and other party leaders have portrayed the protesters as products of a fake grass-roots -- or "Astroturf" -- operation led by FreedomWorks and like-minded groups. Meanwhile, conservatives note that Organizing for America, an Obama-backed group, and major unions such as the AFL-CIO and the Service Employees International Union, have pushed to turn out thousands of their supporters at the events.
The complex forces at play in the unrest were visible at town halls last week hosted by Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.). At a meeting in the city of State College, Pa., hundreds of protesters gathered outside a convention hall, chanting and holding colorful picket signs bearing the logos of various conservative groups. Americans for Prosperity brought a "Patients First" bus emblazoned with a giant red hand and the slogan: "Hands Off Our Health Care!"
But the scene inside was calm. Many attendees were local residents who said they were motivated to turn out not by conservative groups but by personal opposition to Democratic health-care policies. Thirty people began the wait at 5 a.m. so they could score the coveted cards allowing them to ask Specter a question.
"By and large, I don't think the conservatives are nearly as organized as they've been portrayed," said Tom Ellicott, 54, a farm-equipment salesman who had traveled from Gettysburg, about 130 miles to the southeast. "The people that got there early like us -- and we talked to most of them as they were coming in -- none of those people were bused in. They were locals. We were by far the furthest to travel."
At a Specter forum at Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pa., Tamie White, 46, expressed her opposition to the Obama administration, which she said is taking "us down a path to total socialism."
"What are you going to do about upholding our freedoms?" she asked Specter. "We are the land of the free and the home of the brave!"
White, a part-time bookkeeper and longtime Republican from nearby Millersburg, said in an interview that she learned about the town hall from e-mails she received from conservative groups. In March, White founded a neighborhood activist group that has about 20 members. She said the group's mission is to keep the federal government from "taking over everything."
"Government is playing God, and I'm here to say government is not God," White said.
Rucker reported from Pennsylvania.