Part of the tea party’s overt decay into another plaything of enthusiastic right-wing tycoons is detailed in a revealing story in the Washington Post (

FreedomWorks, the tea party coordinating entity based in Washington, D.C., is effectively owned by Richard J. Stephenson, an Illinois man who founded the for-profit Cancer Treatment Centers of America.

For a start, Stephenson bankrolls FreedomWorks to the tune of $400,000 a year to pay off Dick Armey, the former U.S. House majority leader who formerly chaired the tea party group. In September, Armey was accompanied by an armed guard when “the aim was to seize control of the group and expel Armey’s enemies,” according to the Post. Six days later, this coup was ended by Stephenson’s promise of $8 million for Armey, parceled out over 20 years.

Stephenson and FreedomWorks share a close political kinship with Americans for Prosperity, the conservative lobbying group founded by oil billionaires Charles and David Koch.

Making use of gaps blasted open in federal campaign finance laws by the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, the Post reported that Stephenson funneled more than $12 million into FreedomWorks this summer via two shell corporations. He then dictated how it would be spent, including $1.7 million supporting the failed race of tea party favorite U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh, R-Ill., who lost after questioning the heroism of his opponent, a Blackhawk helicopter pilot who lost both legs in Iraq.

The press and public both tend to be rather lazy in efforts to understand these backdoor efforts to manipulate our political system. The Post story is a good attempt to pull back the curtain and reveal the “wizards” behind the tea party. Another example was MSNBC’s Chris Matthews’ recent amusing/embarrassing badgering of an Americans for Prosperity front man to try to get him to admit he is ultimately paid by the Kochs.

There’s nothing wrong with the tea party as an expression of concern about national debt or Obamacare. Differences of opinion make the world go around.

However, it is increasingly clear that ordinary conservatives are being made patsies for the uber-wealthy who want to perpetuate a malleable American government easily shaped to their own ends.