Sunday, February 27, 2011

Has The Tea Party Patriots Gone Too Mainstream?

I just finished reading a three-part series on The Tea Party Patriots. The premise of the series is that they are being investigated. Although, from what I can gather from the articles it was simply them doing the investigations and CREW also requesting an investigation. It is no real secret that CREW is a left leaning organization that only talks about the worst of the worst when it comes to democrats yet will ask for investigations of republicans based on virtually nothing. The publication writing this series is Mother Jones. Not exactly a fair and balanced entity when it comes to The Tea Party and the principles on which it was founded on.

But, the series did raise some very interesting questions about TPP. You may remember that TPP was given a million dollar donation shortly before the mid-term elections to help with the get out the vote efforts. Jenny Beth Martin, the head of TPP had said in quite a few interviews after the donation became public said that money would be filtered down to the local groups in order to help with the efforts.

The writer has found many local group heads that have said that never happened, although it was promised. It also has interviewed a few former leaders within the organization that have some serious issues with Jenny Beth Martin and Mark Meckler. In most cases the money from the donations came with the price tag of turning over the lists of the local groups. Some of the leaders and coordinators of the local groups have voiced some serious concerns with the fundraising groups that they have decided to align themselves with and the contracts that they have signed. By turning over the local lists, the names have been given to these high level fundraising groups, which has raised the hackles of some local coordinators and just plain members.

Having been in the fundraising field for more than a decade I can tell you first hand that there are many groups out there that have terrible reputations and keep a much larger percentage for themselves then what is needed in order to still be a profitable business. It seems that many of the fundraisers that they are using are very cozy with the GOP establishment. Not that is not necessarily in and of itself a bad thing, but it could give an impression that isn't going to be favorable to many of the grassroots activists.

The MDS deal with TPP is anything but cheap. Documents filed with the Colorado secretary of state indicate that MDS will keep at least 70 percent of the money it raises—nearly $3 out of every $4. In 2005, California's attorney general released a report (PDF) showing that MDS was among a number of fundraising companies that returned less than 15 percent of what they raised to some of the charities they worked for. Out of more than $585,000 MDS pulled in for the Concerned Women for America, for instance, not a dime went back to the nonprofit group, according to the report

Jenny Beth Martin is making a salary of $6,000 per month and it also seems has an expense account that pays for her travels across the country. For this amount of money it would seem that many of these tea party groups are a little unhappy with how they have handled their non-profit status. They have filed for 501 (C)4 status. This is basically a lobbying group. They can participate in elections and work for specific candidates but that work is not tax deductible. The upside to using this status is that they are under no legal obligation to release donor information. Which for an organization that has such media scrutiny it allows people to feel that they can give money without their names being released to a sometimes hostile media, the problem is that even people within the organization can't find out information on the donor lists. An organization that has called for transparency has chosen one of the least transparent ways of dealing with its finances.

This has led many grassroots activists to question the motives of some involved. TPP is also getting a reputation of dismissing any local group that questions anything about the finances of the group. Jenny Beth's husband is also involved in the group and he has a trouble background when it comes to finances and has had some serious issues with the IRS which was in part of what destroyed his business. It is very hard to say if his business failed due to any other reason other than the economy going south several years ago. Heavens knows that many businesses went belly up over the past three years through no fault of the owners. But some grassroots activists are asking why would someone who has a background of not paying his taxes is involved with an organization that has yet to file any IRS disclosure forms. It has made some leery.

Mother Jones has also found some former paid employees who were offered great sums of money in return for signing non disclosure agreements. Obviously they refused the $20,000 payments and have spoken to members of the press with their concerns with how the money is being used. Some feel that Martin and Meckel are more interested in making money and fame for themselves then they are in the true message of The Tea Party.

It is very likely that in a movement of political novices that egos get bruised and just plain personalities have gotten in the way and have caused misunderstandings. But it is possible that some or maybe even all of what Mother Jones is saying is true. My recommendation would be for people to give at the more local level and keep on eye on the people who are in charge. The Tea Party has potential to become a powerful force in the next presidential election. It also has the potential to be hi-jacked by people who are looking to take advantage of people who are just interested in helping their country and are sincerely worried about the direction we are taking. Just remember if something doesn't feel right, ask questions. Transparency within The Tea Party movement shouldn't be any different than what we are asking of our government officials. There are some Tea Party groups who are living up to these standards, one has gone as far as to keep it financial records online for anyone to see. If we are going to give our money to these groups, we should be expecting them to live by the practices that they are preaching.



Deekaman said...

Based on what I am seeing in my local TEA Parties, it HAS become more mainstream. Example, a couple Wisconsin-Milwaukee students posted on Facebook for an impromptu rally in Madison to support Scott Walker. As I reposted, local TP'ers said, "Well, gee we haven't heard about this." So much for "grassroots". Command and Control will lose people like me.

Just a conservative girl said...

Here are comments from a facebook friends that I found interesting:

Jenny Beth Martin, the head of TPP had said in quite a few interviews after the donation became public said that money would be filtered down to the local groups in order to help with the efforts."

This NEVER happened. Our group sent in a... request for aid and never recieved a reply. We sent in a second request and it, likewise, was never responded to. Our small group desparately needed assistance, in whatever form, to aid in publicity and recruitement, but we never heard anything back from TPP. We were all initially encouraged by Jenny Beth Martin's words, but were quickly disappointed. It certainly detracted from the group's morale and even resulted in several folks dropping out altogether.

never really get much from TPP anymore. They have summits but do not seem to be rallying people? I also filled out their survey in great detail and included my name/number. I had spoken to Jennybeth personally at the convention last fall and told her ATP would like to be of help since we are so close to the capitol. Also, I spoke to Diane in Pa, emailed her, to get in on the weekly nat'l tpp con calls, never heard back from them. Strange.

Opus #6 said...

We must keep an eye on everybody, it seems. Our job will never be done.

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