Tea Party Speaker Larry Horist Lobbied for Red Chinese and Big Tobacco
Chicago businessman and GOP activist Larry Horist moved to Boca Raton two years ago and has started to make a splash in local right-wing circles. He’s featured speaker at tonight’s Wellington meeting of the Palm Beach County Tea Party.
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Touted as “an outstanding, distinguished public speaker” who “personally knows [Obama confidantes] David Axelrod and Valerie Jerrett [sic],” his hosts failed to mention other aspects of Horist’s career. Among them are his lobbying on behalf of the Chinese Communist government of Harbin, Manchuria. The other is his time as a lobbyist for Big Tobacco.
Horist had a long, colorful, and controversial career in the fever swamp of Illinois politics. As a consultant and lobbyist, he was consistently on the political right but managed to make enemies on both sides of the aisle. Area columnists labeled him a “loose cannon” with a “grand sense of… self-importance” and derided him as “‘Uncle Larry,’ a cranky ideologue.” According to a 1996 profile in the Chicago Reader:
A search for the “real” Larry Horist uncovered a complex and surprising figure. During a career spent bouncing around business and politics since the early 60s, Horist has exemplified many of the social trends of his generation: Rebelling against button-down corporate culture. Taking up the role of “Mr. Mom” between marriages. Remarrying and deciding to have a baby in middle age. Working as part of a husband-wife team from an office at home. Struggling to hold together ensemble families from different marriages, different religions, and even different races.
Horist told New Times he’s semiretired now, though he continues to run the consulting firm Thomas & Joyce, “A Strategic Problem Solving Company.”
Horist told us that, based on his Chicago experiences, David Axelrod and Valerie Jarrett are “the two people who influence [Obama] most. If you strip off Obama’s clothes you’ll find Jarrett and Axelrod.” He described them as representatives of “the two factions in Chicago politics: the power machine — Axelrod is a brutal, take-no-prisoners guy, the source of a lot of the divisiveness in the country — and the left-wing intellectuals, personified by guys like Bill Ayres… Jarrett represents the hard-core, ideological Left.” (The supposed Obama/Ayres connection is bogus.)
Horist holds to a typical Tea Party characterization of Obama, “the street activist… a fascist. I say that if you look at the policies… not guys like Hitler and Mussolini but he has a tendency towards authoritarianism… Socialists take over the private sector. His instinct is to co-opt the business sector and bring them in, which is more closely related to what we call the fascist model… It’s a quasi-owned relationship to business and Wall Street.”
In what followed, Horist, in very calm and reasonable tones, denounced “the bailout,” the stimulus, the Department of Education, and “a big, powerful central government” generally.
That last point struck us difficult to reconcile with Horist’s work on behalf of the Communist Chinese. The Harbin Business Exchange (“the fast track service to information, contacts and future business relationships [in China]“), an arm of his firm Thomas & Joyce, describes itself as “YOUR ALL CHINA CONNECTION FOR: Joint Venture Partnerships, Outsourcing, Manufacturing, Foreign Investment, Sourcing Chinese Funding, Reaching the Chinese Market, Public Works Investment.” According to its website, HBE is:
an international private/public partnership serving as the representative of Harbin in the United States. First proposed by American businessman, Larry P. Horist, the HBE was formally authorized in an agreement signed in Harbin on June, 2002. It is a cooperative partnership between operates in cooperation with the Harbin Municipal Government and TJI International, Inc.
(Harbin sounds like a fascinating place with a particularly complex history. Horist has visited many times and calls it his “second home.”)
“They’re all a bunch of capitalists over there,” Horist said, chortling. “There are egregious things about China — their policies and their trade practices and their intellectual property issues — but the one thing I will say with certainty: They’re heading in the right direction, and we’re heading in the wrong direction.”
“The Chinese people, outside of a few things, are much freer than we are,” Horist said. “They’re like the United States in the 1800s. There’s a lot of energy, a lot of excitement among the people. They have an enormous pride in their country. They work very hard for their country.”
China is still a one-party dictatorship, Horist acknowledged, but argued that “things are changing… I’m one of those little nuances in the system that’s making it a better country.” Asked if he then favored an end to the Cuban embargo, Horist said he’s “favorable to opening up negotiations on ending it.”
Horist’s work for Big Tobacco covered several years in the late 1970s, when he was Midwest representative for the Tobacco Institute, pulling down the present-day equivalent of almost $100,000 a year. In that role, he propagated the argument that second-hand smoke poses no dangers. (A good analysis of tobacco industry strategy at the time can be found here.)
“There is no conclusive evidence in all medical literature today that directly links cigaret [sic] smoking to any human disease,” Horist told the media at that time. (That cigarettes cause cancer and other diseases has been shown to a virtual certainty since, at the latest, the 1950s.)
Horist is unapologetic about his work for Big Tobacco, citing the small “l” libertarian argument: “People take risk in their lives and they do what they want to do,” he said. “I do believe in freedom… Everything in life comes with some risk. Most people who smoke don’t get lung cancer… The role of government is to educate, not to regulate.”
Does Horist plan to become involved in Palm Beach County politics?
“As a curmudgeon or a raconteur, maybe,” he said. “I’m not going to run for anything. I might help some candidates along.”
PBC Tea Party meeting
Today, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.
Total Wine & More. Shoppes at Isla Verde, 960 S. State Road 7, Wellington.
Fire Ant — an invasive species, tinged bright red, with an annoying, sometimes-fatal sting — covers South Florida news and culture. Got feedback or a tip? Contact [email protected]