Tea party activists are set to gather next month at the National Tea Party Convention in Nashville, TN with the goal of “bringing the Tea Party Movement leaders together from around the nation.” However, infighting among tea party activist and leaders has already cast a shadow on the inaugural teabagger gala. Much of the controversy surrounds convention “brainchild” Judson Phillips, a Tennessee lawyer who controls the for-profit corporation Tea Party Nation, because of his intention to make money off of the event:
“I’m not a socialist. I don’t begrudge people trying to make money, but that’s not what the tea party is about,” said Antonio Hinton of the Knoxville Tea Party. “That convention has nothing to do with the tea party movement, as far as I’m concerned.”
“I think it is a great con of people making money off the passions of others,” RedState’s Erick Erickson told the Washington Independent recently. A Nashville-based tea party activist called Phillips’ Tea Party Nation “dishonest” and that it is “hijacking the tea party movement.” And Politico reported last week that three major sponsors have withdrawn support because of “the convention’s unusual finances.” Other groups followed suit:
American Majority, a leading training outfit for tea party organizers, canceled two planned sessions at the convention and withdrew its sponsorship after learning about the convention’s for-profit structure and the criticisms of Phillips.
“Who is this guy? What are his motivations? And what gives him the credibility to try to step in and insert himself as a leader of the movement?” Ned Ryun, president of American Majority, said he started wondering of Phillips.
Besides the issue of Phillips “money making venture,” other tea party activist have balked at the convention’s cost and the fact that Tea Party Nation is paying Sarah Palin $100,000 to attend — a fee that Phillips would not confirm or deny in a recent radio interview. “When I’ve talked to our members, they’ve said this is entirely too expensive,” said Jenny Beth Martin, the national coordinator of Tea Party Patriots. It “smells scammy,” Erickson said, adding, “A $500+ per person fee to a for-profit organization run by people most people have never heard of is neither populist nor accessible for many tea party activists.”
At the same time, Politico adds that some tea party activists are considering staging protests outside the National Tea Party Convention. “It would really look bad for tea parties to be out there protesting the tea party,” said former Tea Party Nation member Anthony Shreeve.
On Friday, Fox News’ Bret Baier reported on the tea party activist infighting over the national convention.
,The New York Times reports that the National Precinct Alliance announced yesterday that it will no longer participate in the convention. National director Philip Glass said he was concerned that the Tea Party Nation was “profiteering” and exploiting the tea party movement.