Republicans have suggested that the protests are an organic response to the Democrats' health care plan and criticized the opposition party for casting the protesters as a "mob" of "extremists."
Democrats, by contrast, have suggested the protesters are doing the bidding of Republicans and their allies, among them D.C. lobbying group FreedomWorks.
One of the sites set up to organize and encourage the protests is called "Operation Embarrass Your Congressman." Its self-professed mission:
"Expose the arrogance, ignorance, and insolence of our elected officials. Since public outcry against bad legislation has had little effect, maybe public embarrassment will. Be a participant in government, not a spectator. Join the operation and confront your congressman with the truth, facts, and their own arrogance, ignorance, and insolence! Capture it on film or audio. Expose it for all the world to see!"In an effort to find out who is behind the site – and thus get a better handle on just how organic the protests really are – I looked to see who had registered the domain. It turned out, however, that the registrant was a company called "Whois Privacy Protection Service, Inc.," the purpose of which is to protect the identity of individuals when they register domains.
I also emailed the editor of the site asking who he is and whether he is affiliated with any organization. This afternoon, I received a response.
"I'm by myself - no affiliations," the editor wrote. He said he is "conservative by nature" but only voted Republican in the 2008 election because of Sarah Palin.
The editor wrote that he started the site because he was "fed up with DC politics." He said he runs a small business and is "not an activist," describing himself as a "firm believer in [the] 10th amendment" who rejects big government.
"Protests at Town Halls are real Americans, not like liberal activists of last 8 years (Acorn, etc.)," he wrote.
The respondent claimed the site has gotten 250,000 hits in its six-day existence. He wrote that "I've never written a blog" and "have very little web experience," though it's worth noting that he was sophisticated enough to hide his identity when registering the domain.
He also said he is not a member of the so-called "Tea Party" movement against government spending, though he said has been to a couple Tea Party events "to watch."
The email was signed, simply, "The Editor."
An important note: None of this information can be confirmed. It's fair to say an organizing lobbying group trying to hide its identity would be more likely to simply ignore my email than send a response of any kind. But it's impossible to know with certainty, based on the email, who is behind the site.
UPDATE 5:20 pm ET: The editor of the site has sent a follow-up email. It is posted in full below.
As I said before, I'm alone in my effort. No one knows who I am (not even my spouse - since they would NOT approve;)
The people who have in [large] part sent me mail are people who already planned to go to town halls. They're mad as hell.
Barbara Boxer's comments on "dressed to nice" to be REAL American's is a real insult.
This site is just a place where people can "vent" by posting what they consider examples of ARROGANCE, IGNORANCE, and INSOLENCE.
But now, it's looking like the page that list Reps who won't talk will be the most popular. I'm posting reports as I get time. They are literally closing up, turning the answering machines on and leaving for parts unknown.
AND, I'll post Republican and Independent examples if I get some - but all people are sending me is (D) clips.
I'm not happy with either party..
Thanks for the interest.