DON'T TREAD ON ME - Tea Party Truths
When the second wave of (originally organized in
2006/2007) Tea Parties and related liberty groups popped up in 2009 it was
every group for themselves. It took a little while for networking between
various groups to get going. Everyone was looking for and trying to create hubs
where organizers could make plans together as far as dates on events and what
was helping their group or just for therapy purposes - because being an
organizer is a lot more stressful than it may sound.
Of course, I have to make room for the fact that there are different types of organizers too... I
don't want to speak FOR anyone but I have seen a LOT.
Different types of organizers:
1. those Out to make a name for themselves or posturing for a
higher position somewhere
2. the Republican astroturf (there's just no nice
way to say it - it exists)
3. the Totally clueless (most of which have either
allowed their groups to be co opted by the republicans or have lost all their
members due to a lack of substance)
4. Those who think they get the big picture
5. Then there are those of us who are still committed to
nonpartisanship and focus on actually educating people - encouraging them to
research, educate themselves and spread the word to others.
For us, it's not about rallies or who's group is the biggest... we work on a local level within our
communities ignoring the established top down organizations on the state and
national levels because they don't KNOW our community. They have no personal
relationships with these people. They just want numbers.
It's kind of funny that those of us who focus on education - we didn't jump into these positions
intentionally. It was either accidental or thrown at us. We had no idea where
this would lead or the responsibility we were being saddled with. It's a lot to
take on... especially when you never asked for it. But everything happens for a
So having that background on the behind the scenes of liberty
groups, here are a few more details you probably didn't know...
"Tea Party Patriots" established themselves as THE site for organizers to try to
connect... but the leadership there wouldn't let us have eachothers contact
information - oh and they wanted the contact information for everyone on our
local group lists. Unfortunately for the movement, there were those who handed
over the private information of others and allowed their groups to be coopted.
Unfortunately for Tea Party Patriots, there are those of us who didn't and the
truth is getting out.
Tea Party Patriots Investigated: "They Use You and Abuse You"
Zuma/Manny Crisostomo. Monday, Feb 14, 2011
Pricey political consultants, constant fundraising, fame-seeking leaders: A grassroots
group cozies up to the DC establishment and alienates the activists who put it
on the map. Part 1 of 3.
— By Stephanie Mencimer
Two years ago, Tea Party Patriots got its start as a scrappy, ground-up conservative organization. Its rowdy activists demanded more transparency and less business-as-usual in the
nation's capital, and they worked hard to elect candidates who they believed
wouldn't succumb to the ways of Washington. But it didn't take long for the
grassroots tea party organization to embrace the DC establishment—and some of
its more questionable practices.
Lately, Tea Party Patriots (TPP) has started to resemble the Beltway lobbying operations its members have denounced.
The [national] group's leaders have cozied up to political insiders implicated in the Jack
Abramoff lobbying scandal and have paid themselves significant salaries. TPP
accepted the use of a private jet and a large donation of anonymous cash right
before a key election, and its top officials have refused to discuss how the
money was spent. And recently, the group has hired several big-time fundraising
and public relations firms that work for the who's who of the Republican
political class, including some of the GOP's most secretive campaign
As TPP's leaders entrench themselves in Washington, local
activists the group represents have accused them of exploiting the grassroots
for their own fame and fortune while failing to deliver any meaningful
political results. "Tea Party Patriots? I can't attribute one victory to them
at all," says Laura Boatright, a former TPP regional coordinator in Southern
California who has become an outspoken critic. "Where's the success with what
they've done with all this money? My view is that it's just a career plan" for
its national leaders—namely Jenny Beth Martin, who in 2010 was named by Time as
one of the 100 most influential people in the world, and Mark Meckler, now a
regular commentator on Fox News. (Meckler and Martin did not respond to a
request to comment for this story.)
In August, TPP inked a contract with MDS
Communications, an Arizona-based phone fundraising firm that counts as clients
the Republican National Committee and most of the GOP's congressional campaign
organizations. MDS even handled the telephone fundraising for the Bush-Cheney
reelection campaign. The firm specializes in working with the GOP's evangelical
foot soldiers, including the National Right to Life Committee, Concerned Women
for America, and the Family Research Council. It has been heavily involved in
anti-gay marriage activities, once donating its services to help raise more
than $7 million for Arizona's Proposition 102, which created a state ban on gay
"Tea Party Patriots? I can't attribute one victory to them at
all," says Laura Boatright, a former TPP regional coordinator.
The MDS deal with TPP is anything but cheap. Documents filed with the Colorado secretary of
state indicate that MDS will keep at least 70 percent of the money it
raises—nearly $3 out of every $4. In 2005, California's attorney general
released a report (PDF) showing that MDS was among a number of fundraising
companies that returned less than 15 percent of what they raised to some of the
charities they worked for. Out of more than $585,000 MDS pulled in for the
Concerned Women for America, for instance, not a dime went back to the
nonprofit group, according to the report.
TPP's leaders negotiated a similar deal with Capitol Resources, the most formidable GOP phone fundraising operation in the presidential bellwether state of Iowa. Corporate filings show
the company will keep 75 percent of the money it raises hitting up tea partiers
The firm's owner, Nicole Schlinger, is a longtime GOP operative. She was the finance director of the Iowa Republican Party in the late 1990s, and she directed Mitt Romney's victorious 2007 Iowa presidential straw poll campaign. Schlinger also served as the original president and sole
board member of the American Future Fund, an outside expenditure group that
spent millions from anonymous donors during the 2010 midterms attacking
Democratic candidates. (Earlier this month, the watchdog group Citizens for
Responsibility and Ethics in Washington asked the IRS to investigate the group
for allegedly violating its tax-exempt status.)
Rounding out TPP's new stable of political consultants is the Richard Norman Company, a Virginia-based direct-mail fundraising and PR firm. Norman, like the other firms on TPP's
payroll, represents some of the country's most prominent GOP players, including
the political action committee of former uber-lobbyist and current Mississippi
Gov. Haley Barbour.
TPP has long insisted that it wants to avoid divisive
social issues like abortion to focus on the core values of fiscal
responsibility and limited government. But in hiring the Norman firm (and MDS,
too), it has joined the ranks of a long list of evangelical organizations
affiliated with the far-right wing that are represented by the
Norman clients include the Foundation for Moral Law, the group
founded by the defrocked Alabama Supreme Court judge Roy Moore, who was kicked
out of office for his refusal to remove a Ten Commandments sculpture from his
courtroom. Also on the firm's client roster are several anti-immigration
groups, including the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps. Norman even represents a
group headed by birther Gary Kreep.
Next page: Activists feel like
fundraising marks-not partners in a movement.
TPP's new coterie of consultants and fundraisers may put the group in a new league politically—but they have sparked bitter complaints by affiliated tea party groups, whose
members are tired of being hounded for money. Some see TPP morphing into the
very type of slick, DC-centric special interest group they have been fighting
In an interview with Congress.com last month, TPP's Martin tried to
play down such notions. "Any possible solutions that we come up with,
especially policy related, we're going to go back to the local coordinators and
say, 'Do you agree with this?'" she said.
Rank-and-file tea partiers aren't buying it. Last month, Jeanie Backus Coates, then the New Mexico state coordinator for TPP, sent out an urgent email to her grassroots compatriots
warning that TPP was using telemarketers to raise money from local activists.
In a January 13 email, she wrote:
The Tea Party Patriots national website
clearly states that 100% of the funds raised go to furthering OUR efforts.
Well, I guess that's true AFTER paying out salaries, consultants,
telemarketers, attorneys, etc...
And yes, Jenny Beth and [coordinator] Mark
Meckler hired a consultant without most of us even knowing about it and now
that consultant has encouraged and those two have decided to start soliciting
donations from our own local tea party participants so that they can pay
themselves, their consultant, their telemarketers, and their
Coates was particularly angered because the national TPP leaders
have relentlessly pressured local affiliates to turn over their valuable
membership contact lists to the national organization, which the group is now
using to sic telemarketers on tea partiers.
The list controversy dates back
to September, when TPP announced that it had received a $1 million grant from
an anonymous donor to conduct get out the vote work before the midterm
elections. The money was distributed to local tea party groups, but initially
only on the condition that they turn over their membership lists to the
national organization, a move that raised suspicions that TPP intended to sell
this valuable data. (Fueling these suspicions was the fact that Meckler works
for a lead-generation company that provides email contacts to companies often
considered to be pyramid schemes.)
"They make it seem like they help local groups. None of that money ever goes back to local groups."
Now, activists are furious to discover that TPP is leveraging those lists to mine
tea partiers for money that will fund such things as Meckler and Martin's
salaries, a winter conference in Phoenix, and of course, the high-priced
Disgruntled former TPP volunteers and activists say
that rather than partners in a movement, they have increasingly come to feel
like fundraising marks. TPP's fundraising appeals, they say, can be quite
One sent out recently by TPP's Martin pleads with "patriots" to
donate to pay for sound-stage equipment, event security, travel expenses for
speakers, and other tea party rally trappings. She promises that the money will
fund the group's efforts to meet with local tea party groups and "to give them
the advice, direction, and the logistical support they need to get off the
ground." Respondents can return a form pre-addressed to Martin that reads,
"Dear Jenny Beth, Thank you for sacrificing your former way of life to fight
for our liberty and for the core values and principles our great nation was
Some tea partiers point out that Martin's "way of life" has
improved considerably since she started making a reported $6,000 a month as
TPP's national coordinator. Before she became a tea party star, she was working
as a maid, scrubbing toilets for Atlanta suburbanites after her husband's
company went belly up.
Cindy Chafian, the co-coordinator of California's
Chino Hills Tea Party in California, used to donate monthly to TPP. She has
since grown disillusioned with the group and its leaders. Far from helping
local activists like her, Chafian says, TPP's fundraising efforts are actually
diverting resources from the local groups that need them. "They make it seem
like they help local groups," she says. "None of that money ever goes back to
TPP's nonstop fundraising efforts have reached the point
where the group's weekly conference calls with activists have turned into
little more than telethons, says the organization's former Georgia state
coordinator, Joy McGraw. And, far from bolstering local groups, the national
organization has left them holding the bag for bills they incur advancing the
movement. Such was the case with McGraw, who says she arranged an event
attended by Martin and Meckler that featured GOP talking head Dick Morris.
McGraw says Martin had her deal with all the logistics for the event, even
signing contracts for catering and other expenses, but refused to let her
handle any of the money raised to pay for it, including through ticket sales.
When the $5,000 catering bill came due, the national coordinators refused to
pay, she says. When creditors began to come after her, McGraw was forced to
raise money from fellow activists to pay off the debt.
"Tea Party Patriots
don't really do anything for the local groups," she says."There are a lot of
frustrated people. There are a lot of other people in the country who've done
events and have gotten screwed over. We are all volunteers. We do not get paid
like [Martin] does. They don't say, 'Thank you.' They use you and abuse
The money TPP has raised is significant, and the hiring of
professional fundraisers should only help matters. According to a financial
statement filed with the Colorado secretary of state, TPP raised $538,009
between June 1, 2009, and May 31, 2010. It would later receive the $1 million
donation. Given the amount of cash that has sloshed through TPP's coffers in
the past two years, much of it from individual grassroots donors, many
activists have begun to wonder how it's been spent by an organization that
doesn't even have an office. Yet TPP has proven virtually inscrutable, and its
leaders have refused to answer the question: Where's all the money
TOMORROW: TPP says it's a nonprofit political charity. "News to us,"
says the IRS.
**Update 2/14/10 Mother Jones asked a tea party spokesman to
comment on this story last week but did not get a response. After the story was
published, Debbie Dooley, a TPP national coordinator in Georgia, emailed Mother
Jones disputing McGraw's account of events, saying that McGraw approached TPP
about doing the event with Dick Morris and offered to sign a contract pledging
to handle all the expenses and debt from the event, in exchange for taking a 15
percent cut of any profits, with the rest going to the Atlanta Tea
Tea Party Patriots Investigated: Don’t
Ask, Don’t Tell
Zuma/Pete Marovich. Tue, Feb 15, 2011
nation's largest tea party group wants your money. Just don't inquire about
where it's going. Part 2 of 3.
— By Stephanie Mencimer
largest tea party group, Tea Party Patriots, made a name for itself through
raucous protests demanding more government transparency and fiscal
responsibility. But the high standards of transparency and financial restraint
that TPP's leaders expect from the Obama administration don't seem to apply to
their own organization, a Mother Jones investigation has found.
have used dodgy accounting tricks to avoid publicly disclosing financial
information. They've refused to share this information with the group's
members. Tea partiers who've tried to pierce the veil of secrecy have found
themselves threatened with lawsuits or shut out of the organization entirely.
And the group has tried to buy the silence of former employees and
disillusioned board members, offering sums as high as $20,000 to sign
confidentiality agreements. (National TPP coordinators did not respond to
requests for comment for this story.)
TPP has proven highly adept at raising
money, and it has hired a team of high-priced PR consultants and GOP-connected
direct-mail and telemarketing firms to give the group even more fundraising
firepower. Yet it has failed to complete the simple bookkeeping chores required
of a well-managed charitable organization.
TPP claims it is a 501(c)(4)
entity. That means the group does not pay taxes, but donations to the group
aren't tax-deductible. Yet despite raising millions of dollars since its
founding in February 2009, TPP has not even applied to the IRS for such
official status, according to a TPP spokesman. And the IRS confirms that it has
not filed paperwork that would reveal basic information about its
"You'd think they'd lead by example, you'd think they'd open their
books and not hide behind their tax status."
The IRS allows nonprofits
like TPP to bill themselves as tax-exempt before they’ve received official
approval, but they are still required to file tax forms—what are known as
990s—publicly disclosing how much money they've raised, how much top staff
members are paid, and generally how its funds are spent. One glance at a 990
can often distinguish a bad nonprofit from a good one by showing how much the
group invested in actual program expenses, as opposed to administrative costs
like salaries and other overhead.
TPP first ratified its bylaws in February
2009 and was incorporated in Woodstock, Georgia, that June, self-identifying as
a 501(c)(4). Under standard charitable organizational practices, TPP would have
filed a 990 last April or (with an IRS extension) by November 15, 2010. It
didn't. Instead, Randy Lewis, a spokesman for the group, says that TPP has
declared a May 31 end to its fiscal year. This means that under IRS rules, TPP
won't have to file its first tax form for the 2009 tax year until April 15,
2011, more than two years after its inception.
There's nothing illegal about
what TPP is doing—but it's certainly not the action of an outfit that welcomes
public scrutiny. Marcus Owens, a DC tax lawyer with the firm of Caplin &
Drysdale, who served for 10 years as the director of the Exempt Organizations
Division of the IRS, says that shifting the tax year is an old trick used by
political groups to delay disclosure. He noted that the IRS has said that one
of its goals this year is to crack down on this type of foot-dragging by
charities in light of all the anonymous money flooding the political
TPP's opaque operations have raised the suspicions of some tea
partiers who have accused the group's leaders of hypocrisy—preaching
transparency and preventing it at the same time. "You'd think they'd lead by
example, you'd think they'd open their books and not hide behind their tax
status," says Laura Boatright, a former TPP regional coordinator in southern
California who's become one of the group's loudest critics.
While TPP hasn't
deployed its significant resources to get its books in order, many smaller tea
party groups it counts as affiliates have. At least one—the North Houston Tea
Party Patriots—has posted its financial information on its website for anyone
to see. "All over the country, small tea party groups are playing by the
rules," says Florida tea party activist Robin Stublen, who served as a TPP
state coordinator before becoming disenchanted with their lack of transparency.
"If [TPP] hasn't filed their taxes, quite frankly, that's outrageous."
the Tea Party Express, which TPP national coordinator Mark Meckler has derided
as an Astroturf group because it's run by a handful of California political
consultants, has been more transparent than TPP. Tea Party Express, a political
action committee, has come under fire for raising significant funds from tea
partiers that went back to the consulting firm that organized it. But one
reason activists were able to criticize the organization is that it had
reported its expenditures to the Federal Election Commission, as required by
Next page: “They were eating like kings and queens on donated
TPP's opacity has left local organizers and even some former
staffers in the dark about what's happened to the millions of dollars the group
has raised over the past two years. This has fueled suspicions about how
Meckler and fellow national coordinator Jenny Beth Martin are spending the
money—and whether they are exploiting the tea party movement for personal gain.
Martin said last summer that she was making $6,000 a month for her work. But
activists have been unable to officially confirm her salary or Meckler's. Asked
late last year by Mother Jones, Meckler refused to say how much he's being
paid, though such information is legally required to be disclosed on a
charity's tax forms.
"You are taking money out of the pockets of local
groups and spending it on what? Rallies, hotels, airplanes so Mark and Jenny
Beth can fly around and talk to potential donors? It's
To local tea party activists, Meckler and Martin appear
to be living large (even as they churn out op-eds bashing Republicans for not
doing enough to cut the budget). They did little to dispel such notions in
October, when the pair jetted across the country in a private plane to whip up
the tea party faithful ahead of the midterms. Recently, they launched their own
slick personal websites highlighting their tea party leadership and media
appearances—sites that are separate from the national group's website and have
all the trappings of the work of image consultants.
"They're acting just
like the regular GOP does," say Joy McGraw, a former Georgia state coordinator
for TPP who spent some time in DC with its national leaders. "They received a
million in donations; they flew around in a private jet. Every time they stayed
in DC, they stayed in the Hyatt. They were eating like kings and queens on
TPP's honchos don't take kindly to questions about how they
are spending the group's money, either, as California tea partier Cindy Chafian
discovered the hard way. During one of the group's weekly webinars last fall,
Chafian, the co-coordinator of the Chino Hills Tea Party, asked some pointed
questions about why the group wasn't more forthcoming about how it spent the $1
million donation. Afterwards, her tea party group was deleted from the TPP
website and she was blocked from further calls. She subsequently sent a letter
to TPP's board raising her concerns. In it, she wrote:
When I think of what
a LOCAL GROUP could do with that money it really makes me angry. There are many
groups who are struggling just to keep their heads above water; your
organization should be encouraging them to keep their money local. Instead you
are taking money out of the pockets of local groups and spending it on what?
Rallies, hotels, airplanes so Mark and Jenny Beth can fly around and talk to
potential donors? It's ridiculous. TPP relies on DONATIONS from it's members to
survive…for you to waste that money is completely unacceptable.
she was threatened with a lawsuit by one of the board members, Debbie Dooley,
who in an email called her allegations slanderous and said, "I can tell you
that if you go public with these lies, I will obtain an attorney personally for
myself and seek legal action against you. You are way off base and I am glad
you are no longer associated with TPP." Dooley did not responded to questions
from Mother Jones.
Scott Boston, TPP's onetime national education
coordinator, says he, too, pressed for answers about the group's finances—and
was pushed out of the group as a result. Boston says he was offered a severance
package that was contingent on signing a nondisclosure agreement. He declined
Rob Gaudet, TPP's former chief technology officer who created the
group's website as well as many of its related software applications, was also
forced out of the organization last fall. (TPP says he refused to follow orders
about server management; Gaudet says he was ousted for criticizing the top
leadership and its management.) TPP offered him $20,000 to keep quiet, he says.
Like Boston, he declined.
"Any time anybody asks about the money, you're
immediately labeled as a problem or an adversary," says Boatright, the southern
California tea partier. "They act like you're a troublemaker just for
Tea Party Patriots Investigated: The
group put a failed businessman who owes big money to the IRS in charge of its
— By Stephanie Mencimer Wnd, Feb 16, 2011
The finances of the
nation's largest tea party group have increasingly become a subject of
concern—and outrage—to conservative activists. Some question whether donations
to the organization, Tea Party Patriots, have gone to advance the movement, or
just the careers and jet-setting lifestyles of its leaders. What they don't
know is that the group has had a man with an unusual background managing its
money: He was sanctioned by the IRS several years ago for failing to pay
hundreds of thousands of dollars in payroll taxes related to a failed business
that pushed him into bankruptcy. He also happens to be married to one of the
For a group that has demanded financial accountability and
transparency from the Obama administration, Tea Party Patriots (TPP) has not
embraced those principles in its own business affairs. It has been highly
secretive about its finances, and the organization's leaders have dealt harshly
with activists and employees who've pressed for answers on how donor money has
Meanwhile, the group has failed to file a timely tax return
indicating how much money it has raised and what, generally, it spent it
on—including how much it's paying its top staffers. And despite identifying
itself for nearly two years as a tax-exempt nonprofit organization, the group
has neglected to actually apply to the IRS for such status.
"I couldn't get
paid without contacting Lee Martin."
Former TPP insiders say the
organization's finances have largely been managed by Lee Martin, who's
identified in some corporate filings as the group's assistant treasurer. He's
better known to tea partiers as the husband of Jenny Beth Martin, a cofounder
of TPP and one of the faces of the tea party movement.
Unknown to all but a
few tea partiers who have knowledge of TPP's internal dynamics, Martin has
taken a wide-ranging role in the organization, managing a range of payroll and
personnel issues. Former employees describe him as a financial gatekeeper of
sorts. "I couldn't get paid without contacting Lee Martin," says Scott Boston,
who worked for several months as the group's national education coordinator
before he was let go last fall.
Ex-TPP insiders familiar with Martin's role
at TPP say having him handle the group's bills poses a conflict of interest.
They also question the wisdom of placing a person with a dubious financial
track record in charge of managing the group's donated money—which, since the
group's founding in 2009, has totaled in the millions. Much of it arrives via
small online contributions that can create a bookkeeping nightmare.
Lee Martin does have experience running a business, things did not end well for
his company. For about eight years, Martin owned a Georgia temp company called
Indwell, which supplied non-English speaking temporary workers to local
businesses. The company went belly up in 2007, and Martin has blamed a former
business partner for contributing to its demise. But while running the company
on his own, Martin failed to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in payroll
Next page: “I can authorize $13,000 right away, “Lee Martin
By 2008, the company's collapse had forced the Martins to file for
bankruptcy. At the time, they were more than $1.4 million in debt. Of that,
they owed $510,000 to the IRS and more than $172,000 to Georgia's tax
authorities. The Martins eventually lost their home and twin Lincoln
Navigators. Before the tea party movement came along in early 2009, Jenny Beth
was working as a maid and Lee was fixing computers to make ends meet.
think it's a huge conflict of interest to be handling all that money when
you're in such dire straits."
While Jenny Beth took a high-profile role
in promoting the tea party movement—Time named her one of the 100 most
influential people in the world last year—Lee Martin worked behind the scenes
for the organization his wife helped found. Martin admits that he has done a
lot of "back office" and administrative work for TPP, but downplays his role
within the organization. "I'm taking care of our 7-year-old twins while my wife
runs around the country doing tea party stuff," he says. He portrays himself as
more paper push than treasurer, noting that he doesn't sign any checks or make
payments. He does confirm, however, that "if people want to get paid, the bill
goes through me for administrative purposes."
Lee Martin—who says he is not
paid for his TPP work—doesn't just handle money matters. He's also taken on the
role of a de facto human resources manager, as well. When TPP fired its chief
technology officer, Rob Gaudet, in October, it was Martin who wrote to him
offering a sizable payout to sign a nondisclosure agreement. "I can authorize
$13,000 right away in exchange for an agreement that basically says we will
part on good terms, support a smooth transition, and refrain from making
negative comments about each other," Martin wrote in an instant message.
Eventually, TPP offered him $20,000, Gaudet says, but he declined to sign the
Why did Martin get involved in this matter? "I used to work in
the human resources industry," he explains. "My history in that gave me
knowledge the group found useful."
Some tea party insiders, however, see
Martin's work for the group as an indication that it's relying on nepotism
rather than good management to run its affairs. In part, that's because Lee
Martin isn't the only relative of Jenny Beth who's involved in running TPP. Her
cousin, Kevin Mooneyhan, is a paid TPP employee.
Lee Martin says Mooneyhan,
once the operations coordinator for his defunct temp firm, is his wife's
right-hand man, and insists there is nothing improper about his hiring. "It
didn't have anything to do with the fact that he was a cousin," he says. "I
think [Jenny Beth] has about 30 cousins, he's the only one [working there], and
it's strictly because of his qualifications and not because he's a
Martin blames criticisms of him and TPP's leadership on
disgruntled employees and activists. "We've got a few people who along the way
just did not work out as team members," he says. "They're not happy about
having to be separated from the group." This sentiment is shared by some TPP
"Those speaking out against them, they are just sour
grapes," says Anthony Shreeve, a Tennessee state coordinator for TPP.
Laura Boatright, a onetime TPP regional coordinator in southern California,
says activists have good reason for concern about Lee Martin's role in the
group. She points in particular to the Martins' fragile financial condition. "I
think they should be worried, not only because of his prior record dealing with
finances and having a very successful business that went under, but I think
it's a huge conflict of interest to be handling all that money when you're in
such dire straits."
Many similar stories can be found doing your own research.
Don't be a sheeple - think for yourself!