This is the story of the tea party movement in Nashville and the duplicitous behavior, dishonesty, authoritarianism, and downright fraud that this movement is trying to ferret out of our Government. Unfortunately, this particular case comes from the inside. It’s lengthy, but important. What began as a short blog post has become a novella. I left out as many extraneous details as I possibly could and this is the boiled-down result.
In February of 2009, Rick Santelli let out the now famous rant during a segment on CNBC calling for Americans frustrated with Obama’s mortgage bailout “solution” to stand up, make their voices heard, and do something about it. In the days and weeks that followed, thousands of Americans answered his call for a new tea party, in the spirit of the Boston tea party, to present a show of force that the country wasn’t entirely in lockstep with Obama’s plans. Numerous organizations attempted to cultivate the outrage into something politically useful. While the national Republican Party and its like-minded lobbying groups would have liked immediately to lead the parade of opposition, they were woefully unprepared. That wouldn’t be the case many months later, but at least initially, the popular demand for tea party rallies sprang up in the larger cities like Nashville with such swiftness that the de facto local leader was the first moderately organized and connected person to the table. In an age of social networks and 24/7 access to the Internet, this meant that the yet uncreated position was open to almost anyone. In Nashville, the first man out of the gate was Judson Phillips.
Judson sent the word out on Facebook to the myriad groups created in reaction to Santelli’s rant that he was planning a tea party rally on February 27th at Legislative Plaza in Downtown Nashville. Anyone who could throw in and help was invited to contact him. He specifically needed someone to photo document the event so that this event could get some media coverage. I know my way around a camera, and I knew a nice SLR that I could borrow from a friend. I volunteered.
When I arrived at the plaza, I had to call him to find him in the already sizable crowd. As the phone was ringing in my ear, I saw a middle-aged man in a suit reach into his pocket and retrieve his cell phone. I hung up instead of waiting for him to answer and walked over to greet him instead. He smiled, and I introduced myself. I handed my business card to both him and the man to his left that he had been speaking with. Judson looked at my card and smirked. “hearSAY,” he said. “Well of course I like that.” In return, he handed me his business card: Judson Phillips, Attorney at Law. He patted me on the shoulder and added, “Don’t take the test. Call me in the morning.” I must have looked like some kind of lush. Apparently he was the kind of attorney that works to alleviate drunk drivers of their responsibility to the community. He was also, I would later come to discover personally, the kind of attorney who would regularly use his status as a legal professional to threaten and intimidate people into giving him what he wanted.
I had no idea what I was getting myself into.
A few days later, Judson and I regrouped at Fido, a coffee shop in Hillsboro Village. He wanted to discuss two things: (1) how I could contribute to this nascent movement, and (2) an idea he had for an Internet start-up. Since I’m a web designer and partner at hearSAY, he wanted my guidance on how he should go about making this idea a reality.
The idea was simple and naïve. The implementation would be expensive, the marketing doubly so, and the effect would be a mere blip on the political radar. Mr. Phillips wanted to create a social network for conservatives and use it the way he imagined Chris Hughes used his tech savvy to help Obama. Though Fast Company gave Hughes more credit than he deserves, Phillips somehow thought he understood how to use effectively the political potential of a social network as much as the 25-year-old co-founder of Facebook. Like I said, naïve.
I was honest with him. I suggested no less than $180,000 in venture capital for the development and branding of the site. I explained how something of this scale should be designed, developed, branded, and tested all at the same time. He wasn’t trying to create something new. He was talking about taking on a behemoth. (Well, really two.) It had to work right out of the gate.
He thanked me for my time, and I told him that I’d be in contact with him soon — about the tea party stuff, not the website. I honestly didn’t think it would go much further than Judson getting a second opinion from another web professional who would tell him the same bad news. I certainly didn’t expect to garner any business from it for my own firm. By the time I got home from the meeting, I’d forgotten all about it. My mind was on the movement for liberty.
Given that my expertise in web design could help our growing tea party group, Judson asked me if I would make a web page. Something simple, even if it was just one page. It would just need to have information and some pictures. Oh, and he might want to be able to add news items to the page to keep everyone up to date.
For the upcoming April 15th tea party — what would become the Tax Day Tea Party nationwide — Judson wanted Tennessee to make a special splash on the national scene with what he dubbed the 95 Counties initiative. Essentially, Tennessee was to have the best April 15th rallies because we’d have one in every county. Judson and I discussed how our little committee — by now it had grown to 8 or so regulars — could assist each county in getting its contact information and rally time and location online. Our group, at this point calling ourselves Tennessee Tea Party, would be hitting the radio talk shows and political blogs, and we needed a centralized website where Tennesseans could go to get information on the closest rally. Ninety-five counties is a lot, and if we were even to approach success here, the information for 95 counties on a single website would be too complicated for most people to sift through.
I did some research and found some web software with which I could give each county its own group page, allow each county’s group to have its own administrator, and let any web visitor type in a Tennessee zip code, county name, or major city name to arrive at the correct county group’s page. It was a thing of beauty. It was also a lot of effort, but I thought, “For Liberty.”
I should mention at this point that I only rarely had conversations with other members of Tennessee Tea Party leadership. Our only means of communication as a group outside of occasional meetings was by using the rather archaic reply to all button in our respective email applications. Of course, this meant that anyone not on the initial email wouldn’t receive subsequent replies by the group. On numerous occasions, I asked if I could set up a private Google Group through which we could all communicate, but the most encouraging response I received was: “Yeah, I think we should look at something.” When I finally set up the Google Group, however, Judson did not take the time to use it for communication within the group.
Legally, we weren’t even an official organization yet, but Judson kept promising to get to it. He wasn’t sure what we’d be, but there was universal agreement on being non-profit. We were just waiting for him to “understand the law,” as he put it. “Probably a 501(c)(3),” he wrote me. Judson was commanding the battleship, and each of us was dutifully completing his or her tasks. This certainly was an efficient way to operate, as it cut out arduous steering committee meetings where we all debated the future of our particular group and how to accomplish goals.
Over the next month, a flurry of requests came to my inbox and voicemail from Judson regarding improvements to the website. I had made use of Elgg, open source software that bills itself as a powerful social engine, to accomplish what the website needed for the 95 Counties initiative. Though I altered it considerably, it was still a social networking platform at its core. This was turning out to be most unfortunate; the excited web designer in me was thinking about loads of cool features without engaging a proper filter: Why not let users sign up and RSVP to attend their county’s rally? Why not let them connect with each other? Hey, wouldn’t it be great if any member could post pictures from their rally on the site?
And it all seemed like a wonderful idea at the time — user-driven content! A great idea, that is, until a few days before the April 15th rally.
Early on the morning of April 13th, Judson called me in hysterics. He’d been able to get booked on Michael DelGiorno’s local radio show that morning, and in a few hours he would be on the air. He wanted me to switch the site over from the tnteaparty.org branding and colors that we had been using to the new Tea Party Nation brand he’d floated to me a few days earlier. In an email on the 8th of April, Judson complained that practicing law was keeping him from doing other things he wanted to do, and he wanted this new Tea Party Nation to generate him enough income so that he wouldn’t have to practice law anymore. (At the time, I suppose it seemed innocent enough; even employees and leaders in a non-profit need to make a living, and anyway, the only revenue mentioned for Tea Party Nation so far was in the context of advertising.) Judson wanted to take this website to the national level, and he even had a logo that a kind volunteer donated to him. He sent it right over, and I got to work. I was so excited about the possibility of exposure on a national level for our tea party group (and for a site I’d created!) that I dove right in without really thinking it through. Was this what the rest of the leadership in Tennessee Tea Party wanted? At this point in my business life, I was no longer just pushing back client work, I was outright rejecting new projects in favor of advancing the movement. But again, what’s a great movement without some sacrifice? “For Liberty“, I thought.
The Nashville Tax Day Tea Party rally came off swimmingly, with crowd estimates over 10,000 in Legislative Plaza. It was a group effort, to be sure, but you’ll never hear Judson credit anyone in our planning group other than himself for making it possible. We moved the whole operation down to Franklin for an evening rally that the suburbanites could attend, and we had the Tea Party Nation sign-up tent at this rally just as we did at the earlier rally in Nashville. Membership on the site was climbing into the thousands just from rally attendance alone, and then we heard reports coming in that our site had been mentioned by Phil Valentine on his national radio show. The reports seemingly were confirmed by our server crashing shortly thereafter, and we couldn’t have been more excited. I hopped into overdrive, used my personal check card to pay the lease on a new, beefier server, and got to work moving everything onto the new box.
The suggestion then was made by several in our little tea party group that we needed to set up a donation box online as we would need funding very, very soon to pay for things like the leased server, the printed Tea Party Nation banner, etc. We couldn’t wait for advertising revenue to roll in. We quickly set up a ChipIn box on the site and tied it to Judson’s wife’s PayPal account. Admittedly, I thought this was odd. I told Judson that this would make many, many potential donors really uncomfortable, but he assured me that it was just temporary since he hadn’t yet been able to get us a bank account or a PayPal account. The latter required the former, which in turn required a business license. Apparently we still weren’t officially a non-profit. Judson assured me that was still in the works as well.
Something was bothering me. The more Judson talked about Tea Party Nation internally and publicly (I want TPN to be bigger than Facebook!), the more I began to realize that he’d taken a sort of back door approach to accomplishing the big idea he’d asked me about many months before at Fido. With an overwhelming amount of tiny requests, along with the volunteer efforts of a few other gracious people, he’d managed to have me create the conservative version of Facebook that he dreamed about. Then I remembered: Judson wanted income from Tea Party Nation to replace his income from the law practice. Everything clicked, and I was steamed.
At the same time, my business partner brought to my attention that my devotion to this tea party site was grinding our web design business to a halt. We had no new projects, and nothing was on the horizon. Accordingly, I quickly let Judson know that I could no longer afford to volunteer 80 and 90 hour weeks to this project. I was the co-owner of a fledgling (and now potentially failing) business, and my savings were nearly dry. I was incredibly frustrated with myself: my zeal for the movement and excitement for the work I was doing caused me to hand-deliver a social network, for nary a cent, to a man who believed it otherwise would have required several hundreds of thousands of dollars in start-up capital. At the same time, it nearly killed my own business.
I suggested that I hand this off to someone else, but I honestly couldn’t make any suggestions as to whom. We would just need to put the call out to the now 4,000+ members on Tea Party Nation to see who was up to the task. As I anticipated, Judson was shocked. He wouldn’t be able to find anyone else on such short notice, and he begged me to stay. I explained to him that I couldn’t justify it since it was killing my business, and I had a real responsibility to my business partner and his family.
Rather than leave the project, Judson and I agreed to make Tea Party Nation a client of hearSAY, my company. I drew up an invoice for only the time I’d spent on the website. I clock all my web design and development time since it helps me better estimate projects in the future, so this wasn’t difficult at all. I was even explicit about it on the invoice notes.
Please note that the time clocked is strictly development time necessary for the website through the morning of 4/17 and does not include volunteer time at meetings, the rallies, photography, etc.
I slapped a generous 25% discount off our normal rate. While I was furious that Judson used my goodwill and volunteerism to accomplish his own dreams, I still assumed this was a non-profit project. If that weren’t enough, I even applied the most generous of terms in the industry. Verbatim, the invoice terms were: “Due whenever TPN can get the funds together.”
My purpose wasn’t to cash in on the overwhelming success of Tea Party Nation. At this point, there was no overwhelming financial success. It was impressed upon me that it was important for me to stay involved in the project, and I agreed. The only way that was going to be possible was to be paid for my professional services, and it’s not at all rare for a web design firm to receive payment from a non-profit for designing a website. Judson agreed that I should be paid and sent me a tidy sum from his wife’s PayPal account, courtesy of some of the first donations to the ChipIn box. This was good! This would at least help me pay my mortgage.
The following Monday, Judson went on air for a radio interview with Ralph Bristol, the talk radio host slotted before DelGiorno in the schedule. Bristol asked Judson about the donation box on the website; I assume in order to help boost donations. If people knew how the money was being used, they would be more likely to contribute. The host also asked in a leading manner, This is set up as a non-profit, of course. Judson’s answer was that he’d decided to set it up as a for-profit corporation, and that the majority of the donations would be for “paying our web designer.” I didn’t find out about this train wreck of an interview until the following Wednesday night, but this certainly explained why donations slowed to a trickle on Monday. For-profit, are you kidding me?!
This was not what our group planned, and in talking with other members of the leadership, this is not what we wanted to happen. Sure enough, the filing was effective for the for-profit Tea Party Nation Corporation on April 21, 2009, the day after Judson’s interview with Ralph Bristol, and Judson filed the papers such that he was the sole owner of Tea Party Nation.
By the time I found out, it was a done deal. I pleaded with Judson to change this. He agreed to hear concerns but made clear that he was now the owner of Tea Party Nation. He would be making the decisions. Judson’s asinine reasoning for the for-profit status was that Obama would do away with non-profits in 2009 or 2010. (I’m not sure where he conjured that idea, but even if it were true, it would still have been in our best interest and in the best interest of the movement for our group to have been formed as a non-profit. To my understanding, it was not at all legal to solicit and accept donations as a for-profit corporation.) He wrote, “The founders of facebook [sic] not only use their website to support the causes they believe in, they use the wealth they have created to do the same. We need to even the playing field.” However, Tea Party Nation and Facebook are two completely different entities– at least they should be, given that one of the two organizations received its start-up capital from middle-class donors who believed they were contributing to a movement and its labor from volunteers believing they were donating their time to an effort to restore the Republic.
In an email to the entire group that I sent on Thursday night of that week, I laid out every reason why this needed to be a non-profit organization. The email follows (some procedural comments nixed from the end of this email).
I understand your point about facebook, but people don’t join facebook because they want in on political causes. They arrive there for entirely different purposes, even if FB can then be harnessed later on for a populist thing like the election of Obama. Based on the comments I’m getting from people, there are only a tiny handful of people that are on TPN because FB has kicked them off and they want a conservative alternative. People are on TPN because they’re upset with the direction of this Republic and they want to be part of TPN to help bring about positive change, and Ralph Bristol mentions it at the beginning of every hour for the same reason. The social networking aspect to it is secondary, and in fact, a lot of the older folks don’t even want to be on the social network. They are, however, signing up for email updates, and I doubt it’s because they want to know the latest news about the social network. They want to know what the next step in the movement is. It’s been a week now since the rally and we’ve yet to put any solid information online about where we’re going next.
The people that are donating right now are doing so because they assume that TPN is a non-profit political organization with the purpose of putting pressure on Washington in the spirit of the tea parties. People are BEGGING for direction on the site, and they’ve started to murmur about who is leading this whole operation. Donations have dropped off in recent days, and I’m certain it’s because people are concerned that they aren’t getting any new information about the tea party movement from the site. They don’t want new features on the social network, they want information. They want an organization that’ll fight on behalf of them, and that’s why they’ve donated. Caree even emailed me yesterday to ask why it seemed like people weren’t using the site like they were last week. The reason is because they’re not there merely to connect with other tea partiers. Again, that component is secondary.
I think we need to consider the folks that have donated their time and resources to this movement as well. Even as capitalist as most of us are, we’re not in this because we want to be part of a corporation. We’re expecting that TPN is set up as a necessary vehicle to organize rallies, pay for necessary things, and take donations. Again, the site is all secondary to this. I’m proud of the site, but I originally built the site as a means to an end: a way to make it possible to get all 95 counties with their information online. It was the only conceivable way that we could have good information online for that many different tea parties without me losing my mind trying to keep it up to date. The ability for people to sign up and connect was a great side benefit. It’s great to emphasize the site because I think it gives us an angle in the media that other groups don’t have, but we have to remember why people are part of this movement in the first place, both the rally goers and the volunteers.
That’s all without even mentioning the problems we’d have trying to get corporate sponsors, event insurance, etc., without being a non-profit.
The next morning Judson sent out an email to the group … to everyone except me. He told everyone to keep me out of the loop from then on out. The gag order only held for a few hours, and by the afternoon three fellow tea party leaders told me what had happened. One lady confessed that it had her in knots all day. She knew it wasn’t right, and she had deep reservations about being a for-profit as well. Her challenge to Judson on the same issue was met with charges that she was working in cahoots with me to undue all Judson’s work.
With such a clear act of ill will, my mind was made up. I wouldn’t intentionally damage Tea Party Nation’s site, but I had to leave. In doing so, I had to let people know why I was leaving and be up front about the circumstances. I felt like I had a certain responsibility to these generous contributors in encouraging their donations, regardless that I did so without knowing Judson’s plans. If he was going to continue to accept donations for a for-profit corporation, then people needed to know where their donations were going. The night of April 24th, I sent the donors my resignation letter.
Generous TPN Donor,
This will be the last email that I send as webmaster of Tea Party Nation. This has been a hard week, and today I’ve had to make one of the most difficult decisions of my life.
Like you, I’ve become increasingly frustrated with the big spending nanny state that Washington seems intent on forcing upon us. For so long I’ve thought that I could do nothing to stop it. With the tea party movement springing up in February of this year, it began to look like all that was changing. I contacted Judson Phillips, the organizer of the rally, to see how I could lend my services. As a web design and development professional, naturally I started to think of ways that I could utilize those skills for the good of the movement.
For the second tea party, the idea came about to have a tea party in every one of the 95 counties in Tennessee, no matter how small any single one of them were. I developed a website using an existing social network platform to enable each of the county leaders to post information about their respective tea parties on the site. This would allow us to have an up-to-date listing of all the tea parties in Tennessee. I knew that the national organization had become overwhelmed with the task of updating information about each individual tea party. My intent was to use the website as a tool to avoid this same problem for Tennessee since we were quite understaffed. I always intended for the social networking capability, while intriguing and worthy of discussion, to come second to the effective broadcast of quick, relevant information about the tea parties.
I also assumed and have pushed for Tea Party Nation to be set up as a non-profit organization with the express purpose of advancing the goals of the tea party movement and putting pressure on our elected officials.
Unfortunately, this week it has come to my attention that Tea Party Nation has recently been incorporated as a for-profit organization, and the primary vision seems to be that of making the website a strong, conservative social network.
In no way do I take exception with Judson’s vision for a strong, conservative social network, but I did not sign up with this movement to help create a for-profit corporation. I wish Judson the best and hope he is blessed with many fine endeavors in the future. However, I certainly take strong exception with building a corporation using the altruistic contributions of hundreds of volunteers, donors, corporate sponsors, and vocal, public champions of the tea party movement. I believe that you gave generously of your time and money because you assumed, like I did, that this was a non-profit effort meant to plan and pay for rallies and advance the goals of the tea party. For this very reason, I cannot continue to be involved with Tea Party Nation.
When I assumed the organization would be a non-profit, I pushed to collect donations via the ChipIn on the website. I apologize to you and fault myself for not doing my due diligence to discover the manner in which Tea Party Nation was to be set up. As a donor, you deserve to know how the money you’ve donated is spent. The little over $800 I have received from your donations for my work with the website has not yet been spent, and it will be donated to a legitimate non-profit set up to advance the goals of the tea party.
Do not let this discourage your involvement with the movement! I beg you, please continue being involved. And if you’re a fan of Tea Party Nation, by all means, please continue to utilize it however you see fit.
As far as my future with the movement… I am not sure where I will go from here. I am still just as passionate about the cause as I was when I first joined the movement, and I will continue to fight for limited government, free markets, and individual liberty!
I’m sure you will have comments for me. You deserve the right to speak your mind here, and so I encourage you to send me a note – regardless of the tone – by replying to this email or clicking this link. I fully expect my inbox to be filled tomorrow, and while I will not be able to respond to every letter, I promise I will read every single one.
You deserve my personal apology for the role I’ve unwittingly played in leading you to donate to what you believed was a charitable cause. I assure you it was not intentional, and I pray you’ll accept my apology.
Former Webmaster of Tea Party Nation
The fallout was swift, with Judson publicly alleging that I’d crashed the server, stolen “his” website, and committed fraud. In reality, the website was down for exactly 8 minutes (with an “under maintenance” placeholder page) while I sent the resignation email and removed the ChipIn boxes from the website. His misunderstanding of simple web technology didn’t stop him from threatening to call the TBI, FBI, and Metro Police to have me arrested for crashing “his” website.
In the weeks and months that followed, Judson routinely threatened me with a whole battery of civil charges enclosed in the most pathetic of lawyer-speak. (No wonder he hates practicing law.) No doubt this very blog post will elicit a fresh wave of threats from a lawyer who seems determined to violate the Rules of Professional Conduct.
Those of us who had volunteered many hours of our time? Not a one appreciated Judson building his dream on our volunteer labor, especially since the critical opinion voiced by a few of us was rewarded with public slander and libel. Every single one of the members from the tea party planning group broke away from Judson following my resignation letter. We would later re-group as the revived Tennessee Tea Party.
There’s a lot behind the formation of Tea Party Nation that needs to be understood by well-meaning activists for liberty and establishment political operatives alike. Why am I just now writing about this? It’s become clear to me that Judson and his for-profit Tea Party Nation Corporation are at the forefront of the GOP’s process of hijacking the tea party movement. What began as cries for true liberty and a public showing of frustration with the big government policies of both Democrats and Republicans has now been co-opted by mainstream Republican demagogues determined to use this as their 2010 election platform. I was approached by one of my fellow liberty-loving friends who reminded me that fraud, corruption, and deceit like this exists in Government because good men who are fully aware never stand up and say anything. How can I honestly object to this same behavior in my Government and demand they clean up Washington when I am unwilling to risk the personal and political injury it takes to expose the fraud, corruption, and deceit to which I am privy?
Yet I am not alone in decrying the corruption from the inside, and I think it speaks volumes about the intentions of many of us within the tea party movement. Tea party activist Mark Meckler rightly calls the convention a “usurpation of a grassroots movement.” “This convention is $550 dollars,” said Robin Stublen, a volunteer with Tea Party Patriots. “How grassroots is that?” In a scathing post yesterday evening, Erick Erickson, founder and blogger at RedState, comments, “Charging people $500.00 plus the costs of travel and lodging to go to a ‘National Tea Party Convention’ run by a for profit group no one has ever heard of sounds as credible as an email from Nigeria promising me a million bucks if I fork over my bank account number.” Erickson said he was urged to speak out after a flood of emails arrived in his inbox that asked him, “if you won’t say it, who will?”
I will. So will another former Tea Party Nation insider, Anthony Shreeve.
Shreeve is a local tea party organizer in East Tennessee who was tapped by Judson to be involved in the Tea Party Nation “steering committee” following the split with all members of the original planning committee. (The steering committee was Judson’s cosmetic solution to a problem he soon faced after the split: people began to publicly question Tea Party Nation given his sole ownership and decision-making power. The steering committee allowed Tea Party Nation to appear as if it were operating like a non-profit, though the formation of the steering committee is suspect enough. One of the initial steering committee members told me that Judson created it, named the members, and announced the committee without first discussing with each member if they would like to serve, without pay, as a steering committee member. Their active role in steering the direction of Tea Party Nation was wholly insignificant.)
Shreeve recently resigned from the steering committee due to (surprise!) a disagreement over finances. He has since publicly taken Judson to task for the outrageous ticket prices. In an interview with Politico, he said, “[Sarah Palin] thinks she’s coming to endorse the Tea Party movement, but most Tea Party people won’t be there because they can’t afford it… The Tea Party movement is a grassroots movement; it’s not a business.” Indeed! I suspect Shreeve discovered just how much Judson’s ostensibly cooperative, grass-roots behavior—like setting up a largely ceremonial steering committee for a for-profit corporation—was more presentation than procedure. Shreeve later told Nashville Scene’s Pith in the Wind, “I’m just being honest with you. This is not a tea party event. It’s a fundraiser.” Shreeve says even he doesn’t know what happens to the revenue generated by Tea Party Nation’s operations, and he was a steering committee member up until November!
Judson Phillips, the sole owner of Tea Party Nation Corporation, now promises to set up a 527 political organization through which profits from the upcoming National Tea Party Convention will be used to get involved with the campaigns of approved “tea party” candidates. Whoops! “Promise” might have been too strong a word here; Politico has him explaining that Tea Party Nation merely “hopes” to accomplish this. (I wonder if that’s anything like the promise he made to turn our little tea party group in Nashville into a non-profit?) I am confident that this supposed 527 will never be created if for only one reason: Judson says he’s going to create the 527 so that he can use profits from the National Tea Party Convention to get involved in campaigns, yet election laws detailing the activities of a 527 forbid its involvement in or coordination with campaigns.
Is there anything wrong with turning a profit in business? Absolutely not. Is there something wrong with getting patriotic Americans to volunteer their time and money to what they believed was a noble cause in order to provide start-up capital and labor for your entrepreneurial dream? I’d say so.
To be sure, I am not claiming the death of the tea party movement. It certainly provides a necessary oppositional force in our political environment. [Added: I want to make very clear that I am not disparaging members of Tea Party Nation. Certainly the vast majority of them are well-meaning patriots looking for a like-minded community in which to discuss their vision for America.] While a national convention for tea party activists may prove to be beneficial in some regard, there is simply no reason to require such a steep admittance fee. Should a tea partier have to prepare himself to pony up $1,000 or more for the multi-day event?
Some parts of the tea party movement have been taken over by the national Republican establishment. Some are being courted. Still, a vast number of tea party groups in America are truly operating on the grass-roots level. The true tea partiers in America still believe in and strive to achieve limited government, individual liberty, and free markets. The last thing we desire is to replace big government Democrats with big government Republicans who are equally as intent on trampling our liberties and invading our rights for merely different reasons than the Democrats.
“Left-wing politicians take away your liberty in the name of children and of fighting poverty, while right-wing politicians do it in the name of family values and fighting drugs. Either way, government gets bigger and you become less free.”
- Harry Browne
If you wanted to court the establishment-in-disguise, though, all you would have to do is charge $549 for your “grass-roots” conference. (It should be noted that the upcoming Campaign for Liberty Conference in Atlanta, sponsored by a liberty-minded non-profit political organization, costs only $65 to attend for arguably better education, training, and networking than the yet unproven National Tea Party Convention promises to deliver. For less than the cost of the National Tea Party Convention entrance fee, a C4L Conference attendee could additionally enjoy a breakfast question and answer with Ron Paul; a reception with Ron Paul, Lew Rockwell, and Tom Woods; a Saturday afternoon private briefing and lunch with Lew Rockwell; and a Saturday afternoon private briefing with Thomas DiLorenzo. Each of these men is highly regarded in his respective area of expertise.)
Opposition to this runaway Government does not need centralized, national leadership. We can best affect the coming political landscape by each of us concentrating our efforts on the local level. If we can regain the small-government mindset on the local and state level, at least we’ll have a formidable representative government ready to take on the next onerous, unconstitutional mandate from the federal government.
Local is key. Local is where we limited-government, free-market thinkers can have the greatest impact. My suggestion: where the national organizations are getting involved, follow the money.
I stand to gain nothing from publishing this. I’m no longer actively involved with the tea party group that was formed after the split with Tea Party Nation. My life caught up with me and forced me to focus on my own business, and it would be much easier to keep my mouth shut while this to continues so that I may live in relative peace. I certainly do not relish the opportunity to receive more threats from a man who enjoys more power and influence now than he did last summer. Yet just as I have before, I will do my best to withstand the angry proxy attacks by devotees who have not done their due diligence and know no better. (I encourage everyone to look deeper into the things written in this blog post!) I’m sure I will be seen as disparaging the tea party movement. Again, I reiterate that I am not tearing down the people that are passionate in the tea party nor the values they espouse. (To the contrary, I am upholding those very same values in this piece!) I will be seen as attacking something good within the movement, a man and his company who are increasingly seen as having the potential to pull this together into something worthwhile. Again, I cannot reiterate strongly enough that this is the cancer that can take this movement down if we let it. We are not just searching for something “good enough” to beat the current powers-that-be. We hold ourselves to a higher standard, and corruption from the inside will not be tolerated.
UPDATE II: I put out a challenge to Judson– Prove Me Wrong: Tea Party Nation, PayPal accounts, and a shady financial past
If you have any private questions for me, please send me a message using the form below. I can’t promise that every message will receive a reply, but I’ll do my best to read them all.