Last week, the Tea Party Patriots celebrated the third anniversary of the movement in a style familiar to revolutionists everywhere.
It conducted a purge.
Day-to-day control of the influential grassroots organization, according to the co-founder who says he was shoved to the side, is now in the hands of Jenny Beth Martin. She is a Cherokee County resident who – as the tea party movement began – had been reduced to cleaning her neighbors’ houses to earn money for her family.
The event, if not the outcome, was entirely predictable. Every world-stirring revolt — whether led by Washington, Napoleon or Mao — has had to wrestle with the same problem: How to stoke the idealistic fervor of a movement while adapting to the practical facts on the ground.
In the case of Tea Party Patriots, one of the largest such groups in the nation, the details remain scarce. Efforts to contact Martin have been unsuccessful. Most of the information comes from an email sent by TPP co-founder Mark Meckler to tea party followers in Georgia and across the country.
Meckler and Martin met in those heady days after CNBC reporter Rick Santelli’s famous rant on the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange on Feb. 19, 2009. She was a political activist in metro Atlanta. He was a lawyer in Sacramento.
They were just “two ordinary Americans who happened to have been around at the beginning,” Meckler wrote in a just-published book that he and Martin wrote. Together.
“Tea Party Patriots: The Second American Revolution,” (Henry Holt and Co., $25) hit the book stores on Valentines Day. The first sign of trouble between the co-authoring co-founders appeared the next day.
In a joint interview with Fox News’ Neil Cavuto, both expressed disgust at the House Republican acquiescence to an extension of the federal payroll tax break. The topic then shifted to the GOP presidential field. “Nobody is satisfied with the candidates out there right now. They’re all losers,” Martin said. Meckler just flashed a nervous smile.
Afterward, Meckler said he should have spoken up in disagreement, and declared himself “stunned” by his partner’s remarks. Martin later declared that she simply meant that she was “sick of the games in D.C. and sick of the posturing on behalf of the GOP as well as the Democrats.”
But a larger conflict apparently has its roots in the Tea Party Patriot’s biggest success – the House Republican takeover in 2010 and the ouster of Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
“[A]s we have raised more and more money, now into the many millions of dollars, only a very small and insignificant portion of those funds are directed to grassroots on the ground,” Meckler wrote in a resignation letter distributed to tea party groups. (A spokeswoman for Meckler confirmed the letter’s authenticity.)
“I have repeatedly expressed, over a long period of time, my discomfort with the way the financial affairs of TPP have been handled, and that I believe that TPP is fiscally irresponsible in the way that it spends and manages donor monies,” wrote Meckler – who held the position of treasurer within the organization.
He pointed specifically to $250,000 spent to sponsor a South Carolina debate of the GOP presidential candidates aired by CNN. The money “could have done an enormous amount of good if it had been distributed to local tea parties to help them with their ground games in 2012,” he declared.
“Instead, it was a colossal waste, which served to foster the narrative that TPP is a tool of the Republican party, while providing minimal PR value at best,” Meckler wrote.
In addition, the co-founder of the tea party organization pointed to the recent hiring of “former professional lobbyist” and Republican campaign operative Scott Crockett as one of its top executives. There is more than a hint of worry that the group Meckler helped build is on its way to becoming a mirror image of the politics-as-usual that the tea party movement has protested against.
Meckler said the governing board of Tea Party Patriots handed the reins to Martin back in November, after a “protracted” struggle. Meckler’s December arrest at LaGuardia Airport in New York, for the unlicensed possession of a handgun, probably didn’t help his case. (Meckler pleaded guilty in January to a non-criminal violation — the firearm was licensed in California, but not New York.)
Says the notice on the Tea Party Patriots’ website: “Mark Meckler’s resignation as an employee and from the Tea Party Patriots board follows months of discussions and good-faith differences on how best TPP can serve the Tea Party movement.”
Though there was no mention of it, it is safe to assume that the remainder of the book tour has been cancelled.
- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider