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Taxpayer dollars were used to fund a study that painted the Tea Party movement as the spawn of the tobacco lobby — a premise that Tea Party leaders say is absurd.

The study was published earlier this month in the Tobacco Control journal and was formally presented by its authors at an on-campus symposium in San Francisco Feb. 8.

“The Tea Party that we see in 2009 actually has decades of influence from tobacco and other corporate interests,” co-author Amanda Fallin said at the time, downplaying the notion that the group is just a “spontaneous grassroots movement.”

The charge that the Tea Party is a tool of broader corporate interests is one often leveled by Democratic critics. House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi was fond of calling the movement “astroturf” in the run-up to the 2010 mid-term elections where Tea Partiers helped Republicans take control of the House.

The research at the University of California-San Francisco echoes the claim, while weaving in an attractive narrative for Tea Party critics — that the Tea Party is continuing the agenda of the tobacco industry.

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