NY Times: Conservative Cabal Secretly Plotted Government Shutdown

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October 5, 2013; New York Times


If Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Mike McIntire are correct in their reporting for the New York Times, the government shutdown wasn’t simply an action of recent vintage, but a long-term plan generated by conservative activists, led by former Attorney General Edwin Meese III, to destroy the Affordable Care Act at any cost, even at the cost of virtually all the other functions of the federal government. Meese’s co-conspirators in this high stakes game included David Koch, the money behind Americans for Prosperity, and Michael Needham of the Heritage Foundation’s recently-high-profile political arm, Heritage Action for America.

The Meese plan, kept secret but signed off on apparently by the “leaders of more than three dozen conservative groups,” was meant to be a “blueprint to defunding Obamacare.” According to Stolberg and McIntire, “It articulated a take-no-prisoners legislative strategy that had long percolated in conservative circles: that Republicans could derail the health care overhaul if conservative lawmakers were willing to push fellow Republicans—including their cautious leaders—into cutting off financing for the entire federal government.”

In other words, the current government shutdown wasn’t the result of an impasse between House Speaker John Boehner, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and President Obama, but the product of a long-term plan by Meese, Koch, and others to kill the Affordable Care Act no matter what the cost, even if it meant shutting down parts of the federal government, furloughing hundreds of thousands of workers, and cutting social safety net services. The strategy of these conservative leaders included sample Q&As (Q: “What happens when you shut down the government and you are blamed for it?” A: “We are simply calling to fund the entire government except for the Affordable Care Act/Obamacare”), talking points for shutdown advocates (such as Boehner’s “Obamacare is a train wreck” meme), and action scripts (for example, the burning of fake “Obamacare cards,” etc.).

The purported strategy exhibits amazing political chutzpah. Congress passed the Affordable Care Act in 2010, having forced compromises from the Obama White House to make the program as dependent on private insurers and as distant from a single-payer system as possible. Even then, House Republicans (plus Senator Ted Cruz) did all they could to cut the legs out from the program, but that wasn’t enough. In an all-or-nothing gambit, Meese, Koch, and the others were going to hold a budgetary gun to the nation and demand that the Affordable Care Act’s implementation be halted—regardless of the legislative process.

If the reporting of Stolberg and McIntire is accurate, here is the list of organizations they cite in the article as having had some part in this plan to advocate the interests of billionaires like Koch and tell ordinary Americans looking forward to the benefits of national health insurance reform and expecting to receive federally funded services from the FY2014 federal budget to go without.


Tax Status

Noteworthy Players


Americans for Prosperity


Tim Phillips (president), Art Pope; longtime arm of Koch brothers

Raised in grants and contributions $21.7m in 2010 and $25.4m in 2011; Affiliated with 501(c)(3) Americans for Prosperity Foundation, which raised $16.9m in grants in 2010 and $24.8m in 2011 (David Koch is chairman of AFP Foundation board)

Heritage Action for America


Mike Needham (president)

Raised $3.2m in 2010 and $4.6 in 2011; related to 501(c)(3) Heritage Foundation

Tea Party Patriots


Co-founders Jenny Beth Martin and Mark Meckler

Raised $12.2m between 6/1/10 and 5/31/11

Club for Growth


Former congressman Chris Chocola (president), David Keating, Howard Rich, Ken Blackwell

Raised roughly $5m in each of past two years; has 2 related 527s

Generation Opportunity



Known for “Creepy Uncle Sam” advertisements against ACA; described in the Atlantic as Koch-backed

Young Americans for Liberty


Only human name on 2011 Form 990 is Jeffrey Frazee, executive director (national coordinator for Ron Paul’s 2008 presidential campaign)

Claims 500 college campus chapters

Freedom Partners (formally called Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce)


Two board members from Koch Industries

$254.7m in program service revenue, including $149.9m in membership dues acc. to 2011 Form 990

American Commitment


Phil Kerpen (previously with Club for Growth, Americans for Prosperity, and Cato Institute)


60 Plus Association


Singer Pat Boone is the national spokesman.

According to its recent Form 990, between 7/1/10 and 6/30/11, it raised $18.6m, and between 7/1/11-6/20/12, $11.8m

Conservative 50 Plus Alliance

We do not seek government grants or any tax advantages that can create conflicts with our advocacy and we unabashedly support the capitalist system. Operating as a “for profit” entity means less government regulation, the ability to grow faster and better serve our members.”



Conservative Action Project

Website’s donation page calls CAP a “nonprofit organization



Traditional Values Coalition


Rev. Louis Sheldon, Rev. Terry Cantrell, Andrea Lafferty (executive director, married to Sheldon)

Raised $8.6m in 2010 and $6.6m in 2011

Senate Conservatives Fund

Political Action Committee




Apparently, powerful, wealthy, conservative interests have been planning the government shutdown for some years. It is a testament to their organizing abilities to have pulled this off, with Meese and his allies keeping their formal agreement out of the press until now. Their limited circle of voices and interests can bring the federal budget to its metaphorical knees, while the interests of the American public who want and need a functioning government get run over roughshod. Do you think nonprofits ought to be speaking up about the shutdown? The secret Ed Meese cabal is a powerful reason why.—Rick Cohen

  • Brenda

    Liberals have their list of cohorts as well. How about a balanced article? The Affordable Care Act is not affordable plain and simple. Tax payers can’t afford the premiums and the government can’t afford to add more to the rolls. Everyone in DC is crooked from Obama down to the Congress!

  • Linda

    What’s your alternative? Who else is addressing the aging and growing population of individuals without adequate healthcare? Why not improve upon what was passed? Why was it affordable in Massachusetts when Governor Romney implemented it?

  • Conservative Smasher

    what you meant to say is conservatives are corrupt and unamerican and need to be dealt with and removed from office. you can thank me for correcting your glaring mistakes.

  • Andrew Rei

    The GOP (all of them) are guilty of Insurrection/Rebellion and Seditious Conspiracy….anyone who supports or votes for the GOP are also guilty of those crimes….

  • Brian W

    During the Bush administration, there was a vocal group of Democrats that spoke of the possibility of de-funding the Iraq war. Cooler heads within the party prevailed, and it was never became a real threat. It’s an interesting study in contrast, isn’t it? Now which party has been shown to contain a more crazed, ideological group in its ranks, and a less effective moderate voice? You make the call.
    The lunatics have taken over the asylum on the right side of the aisle, and the head of the facility has apparently joined them rather than give them their pill.

  • Dana

    Where were you when Bush the Younger got us into two wars we couldn’t afford? Cheering him on, right?

  • Dana

    I know you are trying to make the Democrats look good, but this is still a false equivalency argument. The Iraq War was borderline illegal (if not in actuality) and we proposed to destroy innocent lives for no good reason. There was ZERO evidence of WMDs and what was presented to Congress was nothing but lies. We needed for cooler heads not to prevail in that instance. This current situation is nothing like that. This current situation was supposed to help people, not kill them in large numbers.

    We need to get angry and hotheaded when lives are on the line. But lives aren’t on the line here except the ones the GOP is now destroying. And the sad part is, “Obamacare” is considered essential, so they didn’t even shut it down. So what was the point? No one wants to go back to the non-system of healthcare we had before. Except crazy people, maybe.

  • Brian W

    Actually, I am only trying to make the Democrats look less crazy to the left, than the GOP is to the right.
    I was against the Iraq war from day one, and I wish more Dem’s were as well. Aside from the late Robert Byrd, not many stood against giving Bush the authorization. However, once we were there, and deeply involved, it was very difficult to stop funding the war, especially as heavier body armor was being called for.
    I don’t disagree that it is hard to compare taking a hard-line stand against an illegal, and totally uncalled for war, and the ACA. However, it is the only time in my recent memory that one party actually spoke openly about using their power of the purse to take that kind of stand against something that was already approved by Congress. Imperfect? Yes. But it was the best I could come up with. Perhaps you can supply others. By all means, please do.

  • Dee

    Nope. This shutdown is the fault of the conservatives. Different political opinions are settled by the voters, plain and simple. You don’t bring the government to its knees because the people you wanted in office didn’t win.

    Conservatives need to take some “personal responsibility” for this fiasco.

  • Richard La France

    The Koch Brothers are a pair I’ve been ranting about for months on the blogs. I’ve spent hours at this keyboard telling people, including my Representatives for California, that the Tea Party Members and the billionaires who pay them to obstruct, deny, make the President fail (openly admitted by Mitch McConnell after Obama’s second term election), and all the negative things going on.

    I shared articles with readers about the horrible things the Kochs were doing with the assistance of red state governors, and how they had all but destroyed freedom of the people in Michigan, stolen public land, their related oil and energy companies fracking spills in Michigan and Wisconsin, a plan to buy Belle Isle, a beautiful public island park in the Detroit River, and build mansions for the wealthy there, tearing down the museum on the Isle. And all the laws in red states being pushed through under unrelated topics and without the votes of the people.

    I have demanded investigation of the entire Tea Party, inside and outside politicians and including the wealthy people behind it. I’ve accused all of Congress and the Senate of remaining silent, and all the news organizations for not daring to mention what was really behind all the filth going on in this country’s government, both federal and state. I’ve lambasted the Democrats for sitting silent while the Tea Party took control of everything and demanded to know why they waited until just recently to say something. It was only when I suggested that perhaps they were all being funded by the billionaires’ club that no one was saying or reacting or pushing back against the Tea Party’s openly ill-willed antagonism of the country and its people.

    So, thank you, New York Times and Rick Cohen for saving my reputation as a sane person, albeit a bit too outspoken. But, if we don’t speak up, bad will always turn to worse and I warned my representatives that if the Tea Party wasn’t stopped and they accomplished their coup during this shutdown, there would be rioting in the streets. Americans will not live under fascist rule and the Tea Party is nothing less than an extreme, fascist organization that is out to grab everything it can get its hands on in a global fashion. The Tea Party leaders have actually admitted that all they care about is having an inheritance for their families. And don’t think Dick Cheney and his Tea Party daughter aren’t part and parcel of this whole, sad situation.

  • michael

    So now it’s a crime to vote for someone not on the Government Approved List.

    Orwell nods…..

  • JenV

    What’s with the suppositions:
    “If Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Mike McIntire are correct in their reporting…”

    “If the reporting of Stolberg and McIntire is accurate…”

    Do you have reason to believe The New York Times ran an incorrect or inaccurate article? If so, why cover it here? There is MUCH to agree/disagree with in this article, and the comments reflect that, but when you add the suppositions you undermine the integrity of the original piece.

  • Rick Cohen

    Dear Jen: As a news outlet that relies on the reporting of other outlets, NPQ often finds itself challenged about the reporting from the source articles that we cite. In most cases, we are hard-pressed to do an independent confirmation of their findings, thus the caveats, though I think one caveat in this case would have been more than sufficient. Usually, this comes up when we are writing about someone charged with a crime, where spreading “allegedly” through the article is necessary–and usually that doesn’t seem to suffice with the people we’re writing about.In this case, as you can tell from my writing beyond the caveats, I found the NYT article compelling, so much so that I added as original information the table on the groups that were mentioned. But I hear you about too many caveats…Thanks for writing.

    Rick Cohen

  • Billy Phillips


    For those who say “Obama Care must go because this is what the American people want.” (Actually 33% are in favor of repealing Obamacare.)

    If doing what the American people want is what the politicians are concerned about………..

    What about the 90% of Americans that want background checks?

    What about the 78% of American’s who believe that the immigrants in the U.S. today should be allowed to stay and provided a path to citizenship?

    What about the 58% that think the priorities in Washington should be the Economy and Jobs vs. the 16% that think it should be about deficits and debt?

    What about the 58% that say America needs new campaign finance laws?

  • Cabrio

    Just because the NYT says something doesn’t make it so. Where is there proof? They’ve been blaming the Kochs for all kinds of things but never seem to bat an eye at Soros or others who fund many many liberal leaning orgs.

    This is poor journalism at it worst. Accusations but no proof and one sided. pathetic.

    I’ll say it again … where’s their proof??