This morning at the National Press Club, leaders from the Tea Party Patriots, an umbrella group that helps coordinate Tea Party chapters around the country, held a press conference to celebrate the results of the election last night. During the press conference, Tea Party Patriots officers Mark Meckler and Jenny Beth Martin announced a “40 year plan” to shift America’s educational system, fiscal priorities, culture, and values.
ThinkProgress attended the presser and asked the Tea Party leaders about some of their top priorities, namely taxes and repealing President Obama’s reforms. Presented with the fact that some of the most profitable American corporations in the world, like ExxonMobil and Bank of America, paid essentially zero corporate income taxes in 2009, we asked Meckler if he believed corporations are indeed “taxed enough already?” Meckler responded that he still believed in a tax-cutting agenda, and suggested that corporations even deserve a tax holiday. Similarly, we asked Martin about Rep. Eric Cantor’s (R-VA) pledge last night to defund the historic financial regulatory reform passed by President Obama to shore up Wall Street. She said she had “no idea” what to think about that, and said her 280,000 strong membership had never substantially commented to her about Obama’s Wall Street reforms:
TP: I know they say the “tea” stands for “taxed enough already.” Last year in 2009, ExxonMobil paid nothing in corporate income taxes. Some of the most profitable corporations like Bank of America also paid nothing, Google paid I believe 2%. Do you believe those are appropriate tax rates?
MECKLER: You know I can’t address tax rates, but what I can tell you is that the American people will respond to things like that. [...] We’ve been suggesting a corporate tax holiday to allow these companies to come in and create jobs. [...]
TP: Last night, Congressman Eric Cantor — possibly incoming Majority Leader — said that one of the first things Republicans should do with their new Tea Party-backed majority is to defund financial regulatory reform. What do you think about that?
MARTIN: I have no idea. [...] I can’t speak personally about how I feel about it. My job is to reflect the grassroots. [...]
TP: Have you heard a lot of feedback about Wall Street reform? How do your members feel about that?
MARTIN: We’ve had a little bit of feedback on that, we haven’t had a lot. We’re bringing in policy experts to come in to talk to them about various positions. I have heard, and have had people ask about having someone come in and talk about Wall Street reform. I believe that’s one of the things we’re going to add to our list of topics.
The “Tea Party” leaders’ lack of concrete ideas on financial reform, and their defense of untaxed international corporations, might seem to violate the ideals of the actual Boston Tea Party, which was a protest against the East India Trading company and its use of the British government to retain a monopolistic, undemocratic control over the American colonies.
However, considering the true political drivers of the Tea Party Patriots, their support of the wealthy elite makes perfect sense. For instance, the Tea Party Patriots listserv, which helped orchestrate many of the anti-health reform protests last year, is managed by staffers from FreedomWorks — the corporate front group run by longtime business lobbyist Dick Armey. Many of the talking points and speakers used by the Tea Party Patriots are provided by corporate front groups like Americans for Prosperity, a front for oil and hedge fund billionaires David and Charles Koch. Free training seminars and online tutorials for grassroots organizing were provided to the Tea Party Patriots by the Leadership Institute, which is funded by the Koch family as well as by other corporate interests, like the DeVos family of the pyramid-scheme company Amway. A mysterious donor even granted Tea Party Patriots with an additional $1 million for increased election-season outreach.
In fact, much of the Tea Party Patriot’s press conference was eclipsed by an announcement by Colin Hanna, leader of the front group “Let Freedom Ring” (funded by John Templeton Jr., an heir to a large Wall Street fortune). Hanna announced that his group had secretly worked with the Tea Party Patriots to place an unprecedented number of “poll watchers” in key precincts around the country to guard against voter fraud (view the handout here).