CNN Completely Sells Out, or Why I Feel Sorry For Kenneth Vogel

It’s one guy at CNN, evidently, one guy fervidly osculating the nether cheeks of the “Tea Party Express.” Even though the evidence is clear and indisputable that the “Tea Party Express” is a group that is cashing in on and making money off of the “Tea Party” movement. Kevin Vogel has written story after story about it, and even produced the smoking gun, and has been utterly ignored.

This is CNN’s photo! So, is this REALLY how buses are made?

Gee. I wonder how that feels? It’s got to be awful. But first (or butt first, for that matter), CNN slides up against the Tea Party Express, all warm and slippery [emphasis added]:

December 17th, 2010 12:06 PM ET

CNN and Tea Party Express to host first-of-its-kind Tea Party presidential primary debate

By: CNN Political Producer Shannon Travis

Washington (CNN) – CNN is teaming up with the Tea Party Express for a first-of-its-kind presidential primary debate, both organizations announced Friday. The Tea Party debate, featuring 2012 Republican presidential candidates, is scheduled for Labor Day week 2011. It will take place in Tampa, Florida – the site of the 2012 Republican National Convention.

Since the spring of 2009, the Tea Party movement has been increasingly vocal in advocating for less government spending, lower taxes and shrinking the deficit. The Tea Party debate will place specific emphasis on those issues.

Tea Party Express Chairman Amy Kremer talked to CNN about what activists hope to hear from Republican presidential candidates. “We want to hear what their ideas are – what their thoughts are – on turning this economy back around and getting us on a sound economic footing, paying down some of our deficit, getting a balanced budget, and reining in the spending,” Kremer said.

Kremer added, “We’ve proven ourselves in this last campaign, election cycle of 2010, we’re the only Tea Party group that engaged in election activity. And we got involved because we simply believed that if we’re going to affect change we’re going to do it at the ballot box. And the tea party movement has proven how powerful it is.”

Sam Feist, CNN Political Director and Vice President of Washington-based programming said, “The Tea Party movement is a fascinating, diverse, grassroots force that already has drastically changed the country’s political landscape.”

Undecided voters turn to CNN to educate themselves during election cycles, so it is a natural fit for CNN to provide a platform for the diverse perspectives within the Republican Party, including those of the Tea Party,” Feist added. [...]

CNN Political Producer Shannon Travis (r) interviews teabaggers

Remember that name, the guy who INTERVIEWS HIS OWN BOSS for this story: CNN Political Producer Shannon Travis.  Except, as Kenneth Vogel points out at Politico, the Tea Party Express isn’t “tea party” at all. He’s BEEN saying that for a long time, but let’s start with today:

CNN and Tea Party Express to host 2012 debate
By KENNETH P. VOGEL | 12/17/10 1:22 PM EST
Updated: 12/17/10 2:12 PM EST

CNN said Friday that it is joining forces with the Tea Party Express — a political action committee that played a key role in the 2010 midterm elections — to co-host a Republican presidential debate. The debate is scheduled for Labor Day week in Tampa, Fla., in September — five months before the 2012 presidential primaries begin.

It’s CNN’s second entry into what’s already become a crowded schedule of debates for the race to determine the GOP nominee to take on President Barack Obama. The announced partnership with Tea Party Express raised eyebrows both in the media world and in tea party circles. CNN’s ratings have sagged as it has staked its claim to a more traditional, objective news format, while its main competitors, the conservative ratings juggernaut Fox News and the left-leaning MSNBC, have come to embrace political points of view.

The Tea Party Express, meanwhile, has come under fire from rival tea party groups, which contend it’s a front for the Sacramento Republican consulting firm that runs it. But the PAC spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on ads boosting tea party candidates in the 2010 midterms and was credited with helping carry its endorsees to victories over more-establishment-backed candidates in Senate races in Nevada, Alaska and Delaware — where all the PAC’s candidates went on to lose their general election campaigns. “Undecided voters turn to CNN to educate themselves during election cycles, so it is a natural fit for CNN to provide a platform for the diverse perspectives within the Republican Party, including those of the tea party movement,” CNN political director Sam Feist said in a statement. In it, he called Tea Party Express “a fascinating, diverse, grass-roots force that already has drastically changed the country’s political landscape.” [...]

CNN ‘reporting’= BUS-ted

Unbelievable. This just seems jaw-droppingly stoopid, given the very long and very public record of the PR stunts of the Sacramento People In Buses.

was credited with helping carry its endorsees to victories over more-establishment-backed candidates in Senate races in Nevada, Alaska and Delaware — where all the PAC’s candidates went on to lose their general election campaigns.”

Pick me a winner, CNN.

I busted the original group in 2005 in “Swift Boat Moms in Winnebagos” when the same people launched their “You Don’t Speak for Me Cindy” bus tour. Then they trotted out the same players for a crypto-racist bus tour entitled “Our Country Deserves Better” in 2008. Kenneth Vogel got back that far at least, publishing a stunning, sourced exposé of what a cynical and usurious astroturf vehicle this was:

GOP operatives crash the tea party

By: Kenneth P. Vogel April 14, 2010 04:56 AM EST

Just days after the first widespread tea party demonstrators hit the streets a year ago Thursday, Joe Wierzbicki, a Republican political consultant with the Sacramento firm Russo Marsh + Rogers, made a proposal to his colleagues that he said could “give a boost to our PAC and position us as a growing force/leading force as the 2010 elections come into focus.”

The proposal, obtained by POLITICO, was for a nationwide tea party bus tour, to be called the Tea Party Express, which over the past seven months has become among the most identifiable brands of the tea party movement. Buses emblazoned with the Tea Party Express logo have brought speakers and entertainers to rallies in dozens of small towns and big cities, including one in Boston on Wednesday that will feature former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. Aided by campaign-style advance work and event planning, slick ads cut by Russo Marsh, impressive crowds and a savvy media operation, the political action committee run by Wierzbicki, Russo Marsh founder Sal Russo and a handful of other Republican operatives has also emerged as among the prolific fundraising vehicles under the tea party banner.

Known as Our Country Deserves Better when it was founded during the 2008 election as a vehicle to oppose Barack Obama’s campaign for president, the PAC saw its fundraising more than quadruple after it took the Tea Party Express public in July, raising nearly $2.7 million in roughly the following six months, compared with less than $600,000 in the preceding six months, according to Federal Election Commission filings. [...]

Here’s a bit of the first page of that proposal, from the April 17, 2009 draft:


Project Proposal ‐ DRAFT [04-17-09]

OVERVIEW:  The Our Country Deserves Better Committee is planning a cross‐country tour during the final two weeks of September (lasting approximately two‐weeks and taking place between September 14 – September 30).

The tour will be called “The Tea Party Express” and will feature a proper luxury coach wrapped in a “tea party” themed graphical design.  “The Tea Party Express” will cross the nation, stopping in cities to conduct “tea parties.”

The locations of these “tea party” rally stops will be determined based on these criteria:

  • The city or state is represented by a member of Congress or Senate who has been a flagrant supporter of the big‐spending programs that have been pushed through, and/or bailouts, and/or tax increases.
  • The member of Congress or Senate faces a re‐election campaign in the 2010 elections.
  • The member of Congress or Senate is somehow politically vulnerable – either having won their seat in the 2008 elections in a district that would normally be represented by a conservative or where the Senator/Congressman is shown to be vulnerable based on recent polling.

Examples of the types of individuals who we will target include: Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada, Sen. Chris Dodd of Connecticut and also likely Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania (by targeting him we can also show that we are not simply targeting Democrats, but also those Republicans who have been guilty of being fiscally irresponsible).

PARTICIPANTS:  “The Tea Party Express” will be led by the leadership of the Our Country Deserves Better Committee (Mark Williams and Deborah Johns), musical performers (Lloyd Marcus who has tentatively confirmed his participation and also Rivoli Revue of “A Bailout Song” who have expressed an interest in working with us but who have yet to get back to me about their availability or their willingness to participate in the tour), key staff (Joe Wierzbicki, Kelly Eustis, and if available, Sal Russo), Gary Pon of Free Republic (what’s a national tour without him!) and potentially one other individual to serve as a speaker* (an example would by Lew Uhler of the National Tax Limitation Committee) and hopefully two additional staffers.  We might also choose to invite a blogger to come along with us to blog on the tour (one who is respected by leading conservative bloggers).

At each “tea party” stop we will also invite to speak the following types of individuals: local tea party leaders, fiscally conservative political candidates, local officials or dignitaries, local talk radio hosts, etc…

That speaker * turned out to be Sarah Palin at the front and back end of the bus tours.

Sarah Palin in Searchlight, Nevada, kicking off  the national TPE III tour

Remember Searchlight, Nevada? So, it was a slick professional production from day one. The next two paragraphs kind of say it all:

It is also possible that we might invite Pajamas TV, national tea party or conservative leaders such as Michael Patrick Leahy of Top Conservatives on Twitter, or other such individuals to come with us. This will be a very sensitive matter that we will need to discuss in the coming days.  We have to be very very careful about discussing amongst ourselves anyone we include “outside of the family” because quite frankly, we are not only NOT part of the political establishment or conservative establishment, but we are also sadly not currently a part of the “tea party” establishment (i.e. Michelle Malkin, Eric Odom of Don’t Go Movement, Smart Girl Politics, Top Conservatives on Twitter, Freedom Works, Newt Gingrich of American Solutions, etc…)

We can probably pull off a phenomenally successful tour without these big‐ego establishment types, provided that we do a good job in getting the word out to local tea party leaders and grass roots conservatives who operate in their local communities independently as is – the April 15th tea parties may have been promoted by Fox News, Pajamas TV, Michelle Malkin, FreedomWorks, American Solutions, etc… however almost all of the tea parties were organized and led by individual activists in local communities

Turns out they got themselves a whole CNN luxury tour bus and more than once.

And that CNN stooge mentioned above, who OUGHT to know this? He’s still on a CNN bus following (and giving legitimacy TO, which is NOT a neutral press by any means, and is corrupt as hell) the Tea Party Express bus(es). Uh, here’s his OMG report from somewhere in ROTFLMAO land:

October 19th, 2010 03:14 PM ET

TRAIL RUNNING: Tea Party Express tour is temporarily stopped – by roadwork

By: CNN Political Producer Shannon Travis

En route to Ely, Nevada (CNN) – Tea Party activists often say that the movement is virtually unstoppable. But the current bus tour for the Tea Party Express was forced to temporarily stop on Tuesday.

The reason: roadwork.

The re-paving of some eight miles of road caused a delay as the roving bus tour traveled on a two-lane highway between Wells and Ely, Nevada. Ely will be the site of the third rally on the Express’ 30-city tour.


Which gets you THIS much more for your click

Tea Party activists, entertainers for the tour and journalists riding along all milled about on the side of the road wondering how far the car backup stretched and how long the delay would be.

It lasted roughly 30 minutes before highway traffic workers cleared the buses, and traffic, to continue on.

After the afternoon rally in Ely, the Tea Party Express will hold an evening rally in Las Vegas.

That’s not reporting. That’s PRESS AGENTING. That’s selling Neil Diamond at the Three Rivers Casino and Resort in McMinnville. That’s hyping TRON.

But it ain’t journalism.

It’s a complete, corrupt, damning and embarrassing sellout by CNN. The “media” people utterly manipulated by a slick media operation in Sacramento, California dating back to Ronnie Ray-Gun’s days in the gubernatorial seat, wrecking public education in the Golden State. As CNN’s coverage proves, it worked all too well.

Here’s that April 17, 2009 Tea Party Express internal memo that Kenneth Vogel dug up again, on how they were going to finance it:

FUNDRAISING:  To do this “right” (having an awesome looking tour bus, getting the word out, having slick/persuasive/compelling advertising, paying for permits/insurance, hotels, food, etc…) will require a major fundraising effort between now and “The Tea Party Express” tour commencement.  We will appeal for money for the direct purpose of supporting this tour, but we will also make a heavy push (and likely raise most of our money) by pushing the “Defeat Harry Reid” or “Defeat Chris Dodd” or “Defeat Arlen Specter” political components to this effort.

We will start by fundraising to our own in‐house email lists, then begin our first direct mail fundraising to our in‐house donor lists (which Deborah Johns and I have been waiting to start doing for quite some time), and then renting email lists from entities such as Newsmax, Human Events, GOPUSA, Townhall, WorldNetDaily, etc…  I will also attempt to replicate the deal we had with Intermarkets, Inc. to run an advertising campaign on the Drudge Report where we will split proceeds raised with Intermarkets.

Yup. An “awesome looking tour bus.”

Here was Alex Brandt-Zawadzki and Dawn Teo’s coverage in the Huffington Post:

Anatomy of the Tea Party Movement: Tea Party Express

Alex Brant-Zawadzki and Dawn Teo
Posted: December 11, 2009 12:00 PM
Produced by HuffPost’s Eyes & Ears Citizen Journalism Unit

When people think of the Tea Party movement, what comes to mind are the Tea Party Express rallies that received extensive coverage over the summer from FOX News. Tea Party Express began as a bus tour set up by Our Country Deserves Better PAC*, a political action committee formed in 2008 to oppose then-presidential candidate Obama. The tour was intended to drum up opposition to health care reform, and was soon followed by a second tour, dramatically titled “Tea Party Express II: Countdown to Judgement Day”. A third tour is in the works.

[* Note, no, it began in 2005. See "Swift Boat Moms in Winnebagos" 30 Aug 05 -- HW] lists Americans for Prosperity as a sponsor, as well as and Our Country Deserves Better PAC. Tea Party Express has come under fire for Astroturfing by rival groups such as the Tea Party Patriots who claim it is directed by Republican strategists. Tea Party Express has even been dubbed “The Astroturf Express” by leaders of Tea Party Patriots. This appears to be primarily because of the group’s association with Our Country Deserves Better PAC, which is closely affiliated with the Republican-affiliated consulting firm Russo Marsh & Associates. Past clients of the firm include the California Republican Party and disgraced Florida congressman Mark Foley.

Our Country Deserves Better PAC is helmed by former California State Assemblyman and failed Congressional candidate Howard Kaloogian. Lloyd Marcus, another Tea Party Express partner, is listed as a spokesman for the organization. Its chief strategist, Sal Russo, is a famous GOP operative who got his start working for Ronald Reagan’s 1966 gubernatorial campaign and is now the principal of Russo Marsh & Associates [of Sacramento, California]. Joe Wierzbicki, PAC coordinator, is also a principal of the GOP-affiliated public relations firm Russo Marsh & Rogers (RM+R). [...]

And I have covered this at length. See March 10’s ” “:

The claim? That a “tea party” candidate in Nevada is a ‘ringer’ for Harry Reid, to split Republican opposition. But here’s the festering stinker in the tale by CNN[emphasis added]:

March 10, 2010

A Tea Party Fake
Posted: March 10th, 2010 12:25 PM ET
From CNN National Political Correspondent Jessica Yellin

… A spokesman for Tea Party Express, a national Tea Party group that is encouraging efforts to defeat Reid at the ballot box in November, says it does not view Ashjian as a serious candidate. They say he’s not speaking at either of their two rallies in Nevada on March 27, when they kick off their third Tea Party cross country caravan with events in Searchlight (Harry Reid’s hometown) and Las Vegas, but they say he’s welcome to attend. Tea Party Express also says they are not endorsing any candidate in the Nevada GOP senate primary…

Really? And who would that be? Mark Williams?

Tea Party Express is one of the most flagrant examples of astroturf in the land, the poster critter for fake grass roots.

Take a look at their website, and note that I’ve covered this before:

Oh, and it would be a helluva lot less disingenuous for CNN to have IDENTIFIED the alleged “spokesman” of the Russo MarshRogers group.

You’d think with all the coverage that the (highly profitable) RM+R bus has gotten any reporter not COMATOSE would have noticed that. An embarrassment to any “national political correspondent,” fer sure.

Oh, wait, we’re talking CNN.

CNN’s crap ‘journalism’ strikes again: conned and blankly oblivious.

Shame on you, Jessica Yellin (unless, of course, you have none).


March 10, 2010

That was back before Mark Williams got fired over some quasi-racist comments he made. But Shannon Travis is indefatigably obtuse. He buys the narrative hook, line and sinker. And one wonders who it was that RM+R approached first about partnering with CNN (and, thus, creating an almost impenetrable cloud of false legitimacy)?

I mean, when the facts are out there, and you’re a reporter, embedded in a goddam bus traveling with the TPE, you would think that SOME facts would sink into your brain.

But no. Shannon Travis (almost uniquely) has been CNN’s “liason” with the Tea Party Express (called BY Tea Partiers the “Astroturf Express”) and continues to protect his franchise. When you are stupid by oversight, or lack of means, it’s tragic. But when you are stupid with all the means to relieve yourself of your own ignorance and choose not to, it’s pathetic. So: tragic or pathetic, CNN just got in bed with a flim-flam operation.

Which says a lot about why I almost never watch CNN anymore. They DESERVE their last-place ratings. But ad placement is a new low, even for them.

But, while Shannon Travis remains either willfully or blissfully unaware of the bogus nature of the “Tea Party Express,” at least, hopefully, he now knows how buses are made:

CNN reporter Shannon Travis observes how buses are actually made.

Kenneth Vogel at Politico has done a damn fine job of exposing these people, and has been utterly ignored by “legitimate” CNN, while CNN has been cozying up to the Tea Party Express like a Vegas whore goes for a high roller on a lucky streak.

It may be sexy. It may be exploitatitive.

But it’s NOT journalism.

Even when you bring your own bus.

CNN: how far you’ve fallen.



UPDATE: There are two important  followups to this post (No foolin’!):


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11 responses to “CNN Completely Sells Out, or Why I Feel Sorry For Kenneth Vogel

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  6. Vindication for Mark Williams and the Tea party. Choke on it Hart.

  7. Mark Williams and the Tea Party Express vindicated…. choke on it hart!

  8. Anna Haynes

    Do you know anything about what became of Doug Watts, of the former Russo Watts and Rollins?
    (and if he’s any relation to Chico Calif. weatherman/climate denier Anthony Watts, who won’t answer my Qs about this)

    • No, I don’t Anna. If you have any information, please email me. (See ‘About’ page). I have been remiss in not acknowledging your kind offer. I think I probably need to know more about him and them.

  9. Pingback: More on Mark Williams | his vorpal sword

  10. Pingback: CNN, A Sheep In Wolf’s Clothing: Governor Moonbeam? | his vorpal sword