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

Many sources are worried about Sarah Palin attaching herself to a disrespected tea party group. They also are worried about saying such a thing out loud.

A couple days ago, Erick Erickson said what many people were thinking:

That’s not to say it is in every case. I have much good to say about groups like Tea Party Patriots, but I think this national tea party convention smells scammy.

Let me be blunt: 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.

I am led to believe a number of the sponsors who lent their names early on have grown wary of the event. That lines up with what I am hearing.

The tea party movement was always about the unorganized masses of concerned, passionate Americans uniting together with a common voice to protest the direction of the country. From that passion, others have sought to make money off the tea party movement. Some have done it for good. Many have not. And more and more we are seeing some people rise up to claim the mantle of “leader” of the tea party movement. Many of us who have been around for a while just want to know who the heck these so called leaders are.

I have a couple of concerns. By attaching herself to this for-profit outfit, Sarah Palin undermines her standing with her very constituents. Many tea party folks are shaking their heads after being the same people to hold up signs supporting Palin. Why not donate time at the Tax Day Tea Party? Why associate with a guy with questionable tea party cred?

And these questions beg a bigger question: Who is giving Sarah Palin advice on these matters? Certainly, it does not seem that people tied into the grassroots organizations are being sought for advice.

Sarah Palin said on Bill O'Reilly's show, regarding this engagement, that controversy seems to swirl around her. Indeed, it does. She also said that she wouldn't be making money from the engagement, a sum rumored to be $125,000, but that the money would go to (presumably) her PAC and would help fund conservative candidates. That's all to the good. Still, I can't help but imagine that participating in the Tax Day Tea Party being planned in D.C. on April 15 or some other non-profit event around the country would have been more in the keeping with the spirit of the movement.

A couple sources, again off the record, reported that the Tea Party Nation organizers will probably go deeply in debt because of event costs and the speaking fee. The $500+ price tag to attend such an event could put off the very people who might be interested in smaller government, cutting taxes, and sending a message to an elite, out-of-touch government. The price tag alone seems out of touch.

On the other hand, channeling activist money into PACs to support candidates that reflect tea party values is not a bad thing. And it could be a positive outcome from this event.

Finally, the Tennessee event was chosen, it would seem, in lieu of an older school event like CPAC. The rationale for avoiding CPAC was the D.C. insiderish ways of the founder David Keene. The only problem with that thinking is that few CPAC attendees even know David Keene, and while he's associated with the American Conservative Union, he hardly represents CPAC. Thousands of people will be there -- most have participated in the tea party events and love Sarah Palin. It will be a gathering of conservatives from around the country and would be a rocking first outreach to conservative activists -- especially young conservative activists, CPAC's main constituency. Rush Limbaugh spoke there last year to great success. CPAC has always been newsmaking one way or another.

Still and all, the activist groups are bound to change and be changed by the energy and new people involved in the tea party movement. So things will change again. And where Sarah Palin goes, a new path gets blazed. Maybe this Tea Party Nation shindig will be a new model for fueling fledgling conservative movements. Certainly many of the people attending will not know  the machinations behind the scenes. They will simply enjoy hearing brave conservatives like Michelle Bachman and Sarah Palin speak.

In the meantime, many activists are concerned that those claiming to represent the tea party movement will damage its integrity. They also worry for the harm Sarah Palin's future might absorb by being associated with a less-than-reputable representative of the movement.