Friday, January 15, 2010

Anatomy of the Tea Party Movement

With so many rumors, half-truths, misleading statements, infighting, etc., I thought it would be a good idea to do some research on the various groups using the phrase, "Tea Party" in their names. Of course, I'm a pretty busy girl and didn't have the time to hunker down and do the research, so I enlisted the help of Ma LibertyBelle. The following represents the initial findings of her research. Afterward I'll throw in my two cents.

Let us first define the various types of organizations that can exist.

501(c ) (3) —these are organizations set up for charitable, education, etc., service to a community. They are tax exempt (pay no tax on their income) and donations are tax deductible for donor. These groups cannot take any part in election campaigns and may not attempt to influence legislation as a substantial part of its activities.

501 (c ) (4) —these organizations are tax exempt (pay no tax on their income) but donations are NOT tax deductible for donor. These groups can do everything a ( c) (3) can do plus they are capable of extensive lobbying; they can advocate for and against legislation. I think NumbersUSA is an example of this kind of group.

Political Action Committees (PACs) —these groups can endorse political candidates and raise money to defeat or elect candidates. They can receive up to $5000 per years from an individual or another PAC. They can give up to $5000 per election cycle to a candidate committee. They can give up to $15,000 per year to any National Party committee. Generally, these groups also do not pay taxes on their income but, of course, donations are not tax deductible for donors.

527 Organizations —these groups are non-profits and they can help elucidate the issues surrounding a candidacy or may lobby for or against legislation. Swiftboat Veterans and are examples of these. 527’s are generally tax exempt (do not pay tax on their income) but, of course, are not tax deductible for donors.

Some groups, like FreedomWorks and the NRA, encompass all four types of groups. Each part of the organization, in that case, has to be clearly separate and segregated in terms of board of directors, income, spending, bookkeeping, etc.


Most Americans who consider themselves part of the tea party movement have only a vague awareness of the various national tea party groups that have taken form since the movement begin. We get notices of various local rallies and we go to make our voices heard. We do not go as members or adherents of any one particular tea party Group. Today, Liberty Belle's father and I went to the pro 10th Amendment Rally in Olympia and visited the offices of our state legislators. We weren’t very interested in which group or groups sponsored the rally. We just showed up to work.

In fact, however, several different groups DO exist and, during the past few months, we have witnessed some growing pains among the groups. There are disagreements, rivalries and turf battles taking place over issues that go to the essence of the movement’s purpose and strategies as well as more trivial rivalries.

The reality is that there is room for all types of tea party groups. It is a movement, not one definitive group with a definitive leader. A spokesman for FreedomWorks has said,

One thing that’s clear is that anyone who says they own the tea party movement is going to get run over because no one owns the movement.

How right he is. Back on Presidents’ Day, February 16, 2009, when scores of citizens joined our daughter at Westlake Park to tell President Obama “Do not sign off on Porkulus”, we assembled as individuals seeking redress from our government. We are still individuals, but because we have a common purpose, it is natural for the movement to begin to organize itself.

To help you with figuring out who is who and which group is which, I am summarizing basic information on the most important national groups (in no particular order) at the present time:

Tea Party Patriots

This is a non-partisan, non-profit, umbrella coalition of hundreds of local tea parties and individuals. TPP states it’s mission is to attract, educate, organize, and mobilize fellow citizens to secure public policy consistent with their core values. TPP. operates with a board of directors. Politico reports that in December, TPP held a conference call with organizers across the country to discuss plans to form its own Political Action Committee (PAC).

American Liberty Alliance

This is a for-profit company co-owned by Eric Odom who was one of the early tea party organizers. They state their objective is to provide a place of collaboration for Free Market movements, On their web site they state they are not a non-profit group and that donations are considered gifts and are not tax deductible. Odom has just founded Liberty First PAC to raise money to fund congressional challengers embodying the movement’s principles.

Tea Party (Our Country Deserves Better PAC)

This is a PAC, The Tea Party Express part of OCDB has conducted publicized bus tours with tea party rallies across the country, one tour ending at the 9/12 March on Washington DC, for which they paid funds to the PAC officials, the consulting firm that runs the PAC and to the activists who traveled on the Express. The PAC’s coordinator said its goal “is to support conservative candidates for Congress in 2010 and a conservative presidential candidate in 2012.” They are currently endorsing Scott Brown in Mass. And asking for donations for his Senate race. Question: why not just advise donors to go directly to his campaign website and donate there?

Tea Party Nation

This is a for-profit company that runs a networking website for activists and has planned what is billed as the “First National Tea Party Convention.” The TPN states the three-day convention in February is aimed at bringing the Tea Party Movement leaders together from around the nation for panel discussions, training, networking, etc. Sarah Palin and Congresswoman Michele Bachman are scheduled to speak. The TPN president explains that his group is also hoping to have a profit from the event that can be funneled back into conservative causes through a 527 group it plans to set up to get involved in campaigns. (Our daughter has been invited appear as a panelist to discuss the future of the tea party movement, which would appear to be a timely and important topic.)

There are several other established and well-funded Washington-based conservative groups that have gotten most of their funds from big donors. In recent months they’ve helped facilitate and organize aspects of the tea party movement. These groups are:


A non-profit conservative organization. It incorporates a 501 (c ) (3); a 501 (c) (4); a 527; and state PACS. FreedomWorks has recently launched Take Back America PAC.

Americans for Prosperity and Americans for Prosperity Foundation

Americans for Prosperity, a section 501(c)(4) organization under the Internal Revenue Code. Contributions or gifts to AFP are not tax deductible.These groups are two separate entities with their own governing boards. Each is a national organization based in Washington, D.C., with staff on the ground in state chapters across the nation. Americans for Prosperity (AFP) and Americans for Prosperity Foundation (AFP Foundation) are committed to educating citizens about economic policy and mobilizing those citizens as advocates in the public policy process. AFP is an organization of grassroots leaders who engage citizens in the name of limited government and free markets on the local, state and federal levels.

Americans for Limited Government

A section 501(c)(4) organization and contributions are not tax deductible. Per their web site: The time is ripe for an independent, nonpartisan political movement that fights for hardworking taxpayers against the special interests that continually push for big government nationwide., a project of Americans for Limited Government, gives you the resources to stand up against the tyrannical government.

American Majority

A recognized 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. As such, all contributions including bequests, devises, transfers and gifts are tax deductible. The group describes itself as follows: At American Majority, we believe that change must begin at the local level, through engaged citizens effectively implementing freedom. We believe that individual liberty is achieved through limited government and free markets. We believe in lowering the barrier to entry for citizen participation in our republic. By training candidates and activists to be effective today, we are enhancing America's tomorrow. American Majority has been endorsed by the editor of Redstate blog. American Majority may be establishing a PAC called GrassRootPAC.

There may be other groups but these are some of the primary ones at present.

The important point to remember is the following one that is articulated on the web site of the Chicago Tea Party:

We have no Generals. We are all rapid response artillery specialists who can move at a moment’s notice to destroy big spending targets.


Now Ma Liberty Belle and myself do not claim to know everything about everything. This was only meant to be a starting point for other tea partiers to look into the organizations themselves. I think that the more informed we can be, the better choices we can all make.

My opinion right now is this: any group that wants to use "Tea Party" in their name or description MUST BE TOTALLY transparent, upfront, and honest about where the money is going.

As of right now I don't instinctively have a problem with some groups acting as PAC's or 527's - I understand the need for these types of organizations - but I do have a problem with groups that are not upfront with the regular, everyday people that are donating their hard-earned dollars to the cause.

You see, some people might want to do donate to a PAC, while others will want to donate to a non-profit, while others may want to donate directly to candidates. The point is that it is up to each individual to decide where his or her money should go. Unfortunately, there has not been enough transparency with some of the groups. That doesn't necessarily mean they're doing nefarious things with the donations, but they haven't been honest and open and if the Tea Party name means anything to anyone, it must consistently operate with full openness, transparency, and honesty.

Being upfront about the structure of your organization and the destination of donations means a heck of a lot more than just mentioning in a news article every once in a while that your organization is "x" and the money goes to "y." It means that you explain the structure and use of money in every single email, newsletter, page on the website, solicitation for donations, etc.

My parents gave money to Tea Party Express during one of their tours because, based on the style of the emails TPE sent out, my mom thought that it was a bunch of ragtag citizens journeying across the country to rally the troops so to speak. She literally thought that her few dollars were going to gas money to get the bus to the next city. Little did she know it was going into a PAC's coffers. Again, we have no problem with the idea of PAC's. The problem arises when their emails completely, and I think deliberately, mislead many people like my mom into donating. They played on the assumptions and good will of many patriots. Now, had they been upfront about the money going to a PAC to support conservative candidates, she may have donated, she may not have, but at least the choice would have been up to her and my dad.

It may seem like I am picking on Tea Party Express, but it just happens to be the one we dealt with personally. My plea to all the groups is BE HONEST, and my warning to them is that if they are not totally and completely forthcoming then they risk the entire movement because the people that make up the tea parties will become cynical and distrustful. If this happens the movement will die and the lack of transparency will be the reason.

My invitation to contribute on a panel at Tea Party Nation's national convention was a difficult choice for me. I don't know enough about them, their structure, or their bookkeeping, and so of course I have questions. As always, I talk over tough decisions with my parents, and we came to the conclusion that if people are going to attend, then there exists an opportunity to discuss these issues. I accepted the invitation in the hope that I can impress upon the various groups, including the hosts, Tea Party Nation, that transparency and honesty are paramount to the advancement of our ideals and will be the primary cause of our success or our failure. Make no mistake, the tea party movement will fail if we fail to rise above the murkiness that currently presides over Washington D.C. and Olympia politics. The back room deals being made for ObamaCare are the most obvious example that come to mind. We must be better than that. I will go and I will try to convince people of this.

In summary, one of my goals is to contribute to a clarified architecture of our fast growing tea party movement. It is critical to the maintenance of our trust in each other, that organizations within the movement be completely transparent about what kind of group they are—for-profit, non-profit, PACs--and how they spend the money we donate.

I believe that if we sort this out then all of the groups could exist, each with a different purpose, and that those fingers could become a fist that effectively fights for the liberty of all Americans.


  1. You are the one who is supporting a RINO in Massachusetts.

  2. Steve, who should we support then? Do you not see any benefit in supporting Brown in this very particular, specific case? I'm open to your arguments.

  3. There are RINOS and then there are RINOS. Scott Brown has pledged to vote against Obamacare if given the opportunity and he is against abortion being paid for with taxpayer dollars. This is a very different situation from NY-23 in which the GOP candidate wasn't just a RINO, but held the same or more radical positions as the Democrat. We conservatives have to be SMART about each race. What is the individual candidate saying and promising, does it make sense and is it consistent with important values we hold dear? If Scott Brown can help us defeat Obamacare, he is worth supporting.

  4. On Scott Brown, I heard him say that he is against giving constitutional rights to terrorists we capture. That is HUGE in my book.

  5. Steve is naive and should be left to mull over the consequences of such ill prepared requests.

    This was a very timely article Belle, one that I wish would have taken a harsher stance on those who benefit at the expense of others in the movement. There are those who mean well but may be naively spending valuable time and resources to advance a personal cause.

  6. I'd rather support a RINO than a Marxist. Yes, Scott has his downsides but he will not support health care. And if he really believes this is the "people's seat", he'll wake up and vote for the people, not the party line. All these congress critters better wake up and start representing the people are they are history!

  7. Great points all. thanks for all of that. I will have to look into org.s that I'm involved with.
    I'd like to link to you if your ok with that.

  8. Ayn Rand expressed views of people and how they function, both as herd members and individuals, showing a preference for individual freedom. America was founded on individual freedom, simply because there was no other choice at the time to follow the Old World herd model. Our Founding Fathers gave us a definition of what Americans created, then a system to keep it going. We had three constitutions to define the limits of the national system, as we kept our individual governance close, starting between the ears and in the heart up to the County level that was supposed to be no further than a days horseback ride. In the 21st century, our elected representatives took an Oath to keep what was established, yet turned on it immediately and trashed it in order to reintroduce the Old World system rejected almost 400 years ago, by force just over 200 years ago. They moved government away from the individual to a distant city and founded it as the center of organized crime, as if it were just an extension of Haiti. Then, they picked our pockets and destroyed our economy.

  9. You totally stole our title! Great minds think alike, I guess. Excellent post.

    There are so many interesting connections btw the groups. For American Majority, for example, is a project of Sam Adams Alliance, where Odom worked immediately before starting the American Liberty Alliance (with help from, another SAA project they 'gifted' to Odom).

  10. From HuffingtonPost:
    "Our Country Deserves Better PAC [which runs Tea Party Express] is helmed by former California State Assemblyman and failed Congressional candidate Howard Kaloogian. Its chief strategist, Sal Russo, is a notorious GOP operative who got his start working for Ronald Reagan's 1966 gubernatorial campaign and is now the principal of Russo Marsh & Associates. Joe Wierzbicki, PAC coordinator, is also a principal of the same firm."

    Past clients of the firm include numerous Republican candidates and the California Republican Party.

  11. Here is a very informative article about Scott Brown. Sure all the pundents right now are protraying him as a conservative but you only have to look at where on his OWN web page he says he supports Romney's health care law and that health care law did require that most all of the people in Massachuttes get health care insurance.

    But here is even more about his RINOness.

    And there is also this article:

    Look a lot of politicians are going to come at us this year pretending to be conservative like they did in 1994. It is going to talk a lot of RESEARCH to even hope to find out if they are on the level or if they are just giving us a nice sounding song and dance to get elected without any intention of actually following it up with any sincere action. It should be obvious by now that politicians lie. And for them it's almost like that is what should be expected. Remember the response to Obama's failure to live up to the who transparency/health care negotiations are going to be on C-SPAN thing. Well that was a "campaign promise". Campaign promises ARE NOT MEANT to be kept.

    Scott Brown at least is being honest enough to admit that he supports requiring the people of Masssachutts to have health care insurance. Other Conservative Sounding RINO Legistlative politicians aren't going to be so honest and it is going to take research from you and I (and not republican controlled pundents) to discover them for the liars they truely are.

    Remember this when you hear ANY politician. Politicians Lie. And Campaign Promises are made to be broken. This can't turn into another 1994. We must demand something more substantial of our politicans (and of ourselves) than we did back then.

  12. If Scott Brown can help us defeat Obamacare only to help pass through a similar health care scam (like Romneycare which he clearly says he supports) then what in the end have we really gained?

    And by the way, I would not rather support a RINO than a Marxist. At least the Marxist is clear about her goals and objective while the RINO, the wolf in sleeps clothing, works within for the same objectives as the obvious Marxists.

    The enemy within is always more dangerous.

    "A nation (or any organization) can survive its fools, and even the ambitious. But it cannot survive treason from within. An enemy at the gates is less formidable, for he is known and carries his banner openly. But the traitor moves amongst those within the gate freely, his sly whispers rustling through all the alleys, heard in the very halls of government itself. For the traitor appears not a traitor; he speaks in accents familiar to his victims, and he wears their face and their arguments, he appeals to the baseness that lies deep in the hearts of all men. He rots the soul of a nation, he works secretly and unknown in the night to undermine the pillars of the city, he infects the body politic so that it can no longer resist. A murderer is less to fear. The traitor is the plague."

    So yeah, I rather support an open Marxist rather than a RINO. After all the RINO is a Marxist (progressive) too but he just isn't being honest about it.

    This seems very close to the whole "lesser of two evils" thing that the GOP always uses to get people to vote for bad candidates like John McCain. It is because of that very mentality that we are in the position we currently find ourselves in.

    Search out the term on Google, Yahoo, Bing, etc. "Mainstream Republicans of Washington State". They are the enemy we must FIRST defeat before we can even be in a position to fight the Democrats. First we must defeat the progressive Republicans and only then can we hope to save our country from the progressive Democrats.

  13. What is the individual candidate is saying and promising...

    Obama PROMISED that the health care bill negotiations would all be on C-SPAN.

    So, have you been watching them?

    What the individual candidate is saying and promising means little. Campaign promises are almost expected to be broken.

    Words, rhetoric, promises, are cheap in the political world. You would have thought that people would have at least figured that out by now.

    Obama said a lot of stuff, promised a lot of stuff that he has now turned his back from. But the Republicans that ran in 1994(sounding a lot like Republicans now) also promised a lot that once in office they turned their backs from.

  14. Both Romneycare and Obamacare mandates that people are required to purchase health care insurance.

    It takes only the minimal of research to find that out.

  15. This kind of reminds me of how conservatives were so excited about getting Arnold Schwarzenegger elected Governor of California.

    Well, they aren't so excited about him anymore are they?

    It seems like conservatives make the same mistake over and over again when it comes to supporting RINOS.

    There's never a good reason to support a RINO. We always pay for it in the end. When will we ever learn? When will we ever learn.

  16. I do see a benefit in this ONE odd specific case in supporting a guy who is totally unworthy of public office and who for the most part will use his power to further progressivism in America.

    There is an unique situation here. But I have read many articles where people are encouraging this to be the norm not the exception.

    Indeed we could have found the sole situation where voting for a RINO could make sense. But I am so afraid that this year will turn into another 1994 that I wonder if the temporary benefit of getting Steve Brown elected will be outweighed by his election causing all these other RINOS to get elected nationwide.

    And I also am angered at the disingenious way in which Steve Brown is being protrayed. Too many Conservatives (I believe even you) are calling Steve Brown a Conservative. If he is a "devil's bargan" he should be protrayed as a "devil's bargan" and not as the poster boy 2010 Tea Party candidate.

    More than the fact that the tea party people are supporting him, what really concerns me is HOW they are supporting him. In a knee jerk fashion, without any discernment, without any research, just because "he sounds good". Perhaps indeed this will be unique and not the rule as well. We shall see. But then again I have seen. In 1994 i saw. And I know where that leads.

    History have taught me that regardless of what benefit we might think electing a RINO would result, in the end we pay more than we benefit from electing a RINO candidate. Perhaps this is the one UNIQUE situation where that's not the case. And perhaps this would be the ONE case this year where tea partiers will support a slick tougued conservative sounding RINO - sounding conservative but not meaning it. But I fear instead of being an understandable abnormity, it will be the norm.

  17. A Massachutts win might actually backfire on the Repugs.

    A win will put people back into the complacent mode they spend most of their lives in.

    Remember that although Republicans won in 1994 Clinton won re-election in 1996.

    They "Peaked" too early.

  18. From last year, but this "co-opting" is going going to get worse this year.

  19. I have serious doubts about the effectiveness of these charity organizations but who did something ? only them.

    Melinda Robinson

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