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Why Is Sarah Palin Associating with the For-Profit Tea Party Nation?

Questions are swirling around Palin's decision to speak at a venue where ordinary tea party activists will be priced out.

by
Melissa Clouthier

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January 14, 2010 - 12:00 am
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The tea party movement has matured enough that it has formed offshoots. Different tea party leaders had one set of ideas in this town, state, and even the country, and another set of tea party leaders had another set of ideas. Some groups are focusing on grooming candidates. Some are focusing on exposing corruption. And, with time, things are bound to change even more. The movement is young. It is still evolving.

Unfortunately, some of the players seem self-interested rather than country-interested. A good libertarian would say self-interest is country-interest. And I might agree … to a point. However, the tea party movement generally has not been a for-profit venture most places until now with the upcoming Tea Party Nation Convention in Tennessee, and many local and national organizers and local grassroots activists are distancing themselves from this movement.

Nashville-based tea party activist Kevin Smith explains why they might want to distance themselves:

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.

A for-profit tea party group? Why? To what end? There are downsides. Paying taxes on money that could be spent for activist purposes makes no sense. The lack of transparency in a for-profit group causes donors to be concerned, too, and would seem to be an inhibition to growth. There is much more at the link. I recommend that you read Mr. Smith’s entire account.

When I started fishing around last week, talking to different tea party organizers (some who had split from others, even), the response was universal. First, no one wanted to talk on the record for fear of enraging the Palinistas. Second, no one had good things to say about Judson Phillips of Tea Party Nation, if they knew him at all.

One source told me: “I think [fill-in-the-blank] person is involved.” I’d contact that person, who would deny involvement and then give me another name. The cycle continued. I talked to people in Nashville. I talked to people associated with grassroots training. No one could say a good word about Judson’s outfit. And no one wanted to say anything on the record.

Glenn Reynolds, a Tennessee resident, says, “Well, I had planned to cover the Tea Party convention in Nashville next month for PJTV, but nobody’s responded to my emails, and now I hear it’ll be closed to the press. Oh, well. People want to know what I think about this event; so far, not that much. We’ll see.” Not exactly a ringing endorsement from a local guy and tea party champion.

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