The Tea Party is the spawn of big tobacco? That’s a new one.

(Fox News) — 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.

Tea Party leaders, though, roundly rejected the findings. They argued that the groups the study focused on do not compose the entirety of the movement, and that the tobacco issue is a relatively minor aspect of the present-day small-government agenda.

And they complained that a study that arguably targeted administration critics was funded by taxpayers.

“It’s an example of the frivolous spending inside the government … that has landed us $17 trillion in debt,” said Tea Party Patriots co-founder Jenny Beth Martin.