About 150 people gathered in Rocky Mount on Wednesday — tax day — to rally in one of the so-called "grassroots" tea party events. The whole thing is a sham funded by the right-wing and big political money.

One of our local bloggers called it an example of grassroots advocacy.  Anyone who believes the tea parties were local advocacy needs a serious education in how big-time, big-money politics really works.

The tea parties were organized on a national scale by Freedom Works, a so-called "grassroots" advocacy group bankrolled by right-wing Pittsburgh billionaire publisher Richard Mellon Scaife and run by former House Republican Leader Dick Armey, the principal author of the Republican "Contract For America." Freedom Works is the new name of an old advocacy "front" group called Citizens for a Sound Economy. That group was created in 1984 and run out of the office of Republican consultant Eddie Mahe (including years when I worked there as a "senior communications associate").

Scaife always surfaces when a Democrat makes it to the White House. He poured millions on an investigation of Bill and Hillary Clinton and Whitewater.

Armey claims Freedom Works is a "non-partisan" advocacy group but it is a front for big money from rich Republican political contributors.

The only "grassroots" in these operations are the concerted efforts to dupe the gullible and an ability to inspire fear in the easily-scared minions who follow most rabid right-wing causes.

Which explains how this scam could bring out 150 people in Franklin County — home of former racist Congressman Virgil Goode and one of the last remaining bastions for the Ku Klux Klan.

Besides scams like these, we should also worry about the growth of right-wing extremist groups that the Department of Homeland Security says represents a new threat to our nation.

Reports Reuters:

Right-wing extremists in the United States are gaining new recruits by exploiting fears about the economy and the election of the first black U.S. president, the Department of Homeland Security warned in a report to law enforcement officials.

The April 7 report, which Reuters and other news media obtained on Tuesday, said such fears were driving a resurgence in "recruitment and radicalization activity" by white supremacist groups, antigovernment extremists and militia movements. It did not identify any by name.

DHS had no specific information about pending violence and said threats had so far been "largely rhetorical."

But it warned that home foreclosures, unemployment and other consequences of the economic recession "could create a fertile recruiting environment for right-wing extremists."

"To the extent that these factors persist, right-wing extremism is likely to grow in strength," DHS said.

The report warned that military veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with combat skills could be recruitment targets, especially those having trouble finding jobs or fitting back into civilian society.

The department "is concerned that right-wing extremists will attempt to recruit and radicalize returning veterans in order to boost their violent capabilities," the report said.

When I worked for The Eddie Mahe Company, one of GOP consulting firms used by Richard Mellon Scaife, I helped create fake "grassroots" organizations that were, in reality, fronts for corporations and political parties. I also worked for GOPAC in the 1992 elections and it gave me a front-row seat on how big money controls political action.