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Early Morning Swim: Rachel Exposes AstroTurf Thuggery at Town Halls

Just a bunch of ordinary Americans.

Conservative activist groups are deeply involved. A leading example is Americans for Prosperity, whose sister foundation is chaired by David H. Koch – a billionaire whose family made a fortune in oil production and whom Forbes magazine in March ranked as the world’s 19th richest person – and which also coordinated the “tea parties’’ in April protesting Obama’s “irresponsible’’ economic policies. The groups are running millions of dollars of television ads and have sent a bus across America to stir up sentiment against revamping healthcare. Its website lists town hall meetings planned by Democratic lawmakers to help activists find a venue for protest.

Another group organizing against the overhaul is Conservatives for Patients’ Rights, led by Rick Scott, former head of Columbia/HCA, a healthcare company that paid $1.7 billion in fines for overcharging government programs in the 1990s. It has been working with a public relations group responsible for the “swift boat’’ ads against Senator John F. Kerry during his 2004 presidential bid. Still another is FreedomWorks, a conservative group led by Dick Armey, a former Republican House majority leader.

Amy Menefee, communications director of Americans for Prosperity, said her group does not condone impolite behavior, and just because it encourages involvement does not mean its members’ views are “manufactured,’’ as Democrats allege.

“Our members are regular people,’’ she said. “They’re not paid. They’re not union members – how about that.’’

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