On “Face the Nation” yesterday, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour (R) argued, in all seriousness, that that higher gas prices are the result of a deliberate conspiracy, orchestrated by the Obama administration. Barbour, a former well-paid corporate lobbyist for the energy industry, actually wants us to believe the White House wants gas prices to go up, and is forcing them higher on purpose.

He’s argued this before. It’s still absurd.

But Barbour’s argument just happens to coincide with a new ad campaign from a right-wing attack operation, which is pushing a similar line.

A key conservative group will launch a new campaign this week aimed at trying to put the blame for high gas prices on the Obama administration.

Americans for Prosperity, the libertarian-leaning nonprofit chaired by David Koch, will launch rallies and media campaigns in a series of states — beginning with Nebraska — asserting that the administration’s regulation of the energy industries is key to pain at the pump.

“We want the public to know there’s a reason these prices are going through the roof: It’s because of the environment produced by the regulatory practices of this administration,” the group’s president, Tim Phillips, told POLITICO.

As a substantive matter, one would have to be awfully dumb to believe such nonsense, but the charade appears intended to dazzle the confused with spectacle.

The Americans for Prosperity campaign, under the rubric Running on Empty, will take a decidedly different view of the administration’s actions and will kick off this week with rallies in Omaha and Grand Rapids, Neb., followed by events in Missouri, Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin.

The local stops, complete with a 14-foot inflatable gas pump, will be paired with a website allowing consumers to see the amount of money they’re losing in price increases and to “send the bill” to Obama, as well as more traditional radio and television campaigns.

That certainly sounds expensive, doesn’t it? Maybe now would be a good time to note that Americans for Prosperity just so happens to be financed by oil industry money.

These clowns just assume Americans are idiots. Here’s hoping they’re wrong.

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.