WND founder Joseph Farah
In the wake of Scott Brown’s stunning victory for the U.S. Senate seat in Massachusetts, an energized national tea-party movement is in the final stages of mobilizing its first-ever convention targeting lawmakers deemed “tone-deaf” and unresponsive to Americans.
WND founder Joseph Farah will join former vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin as speaker at the first national tea party convention from Feb. 4 to Feb. 6 at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel in Nashville, Tenn.
Former Colorado Rep. Tom Tancredo also plans to attend. The event will feature prominent speakers such as WND columnist Judge Roy Moore and Phil Valentine, popular radio talk-show host and author of “The Conservative Handbook.”
The convention, hosted by Tea Party Nation, has been sold out, with a waiting list of approximately 500 people. However, some tickets to Palin’s Feb. 6 speech at an evening banquet are still available at the National Tea Party Convention website.
While the convention features a lineup of prominent speakers, the mainstream media have been buzzing with reports of canceled convention appearances by Reps. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota and Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee.
Bachmann and Blackburn said appearing at the convention might conflict with House ethics rules.
“Marsha was kind enough to call me this morning and reiterate her support for the convention,” Tea Party Nation President Judson Phillips said. “She said they had to run it back through the ethics committee, and the ethics committee would not sign off on it. Because of that, she could not come.”
According to reports, the lawmakers sought the advice of the House Ethics Committee and received “conflicting advice” based on the for-profit status of Tea Party Nation. Critics contend that the Tea Party Nation should have filed for nonprofit status. But Phillips said the nonprofit model would have meant the organization would rely almost entirely on regular donations to serve its mission.
“My personal opinion is that nonprofits are among the most abused structures out there,” he said. “We do not have a big office. We don’t send people out on trips. We don’t do anything like that. There are some nonprofits that have big offices, send people on trips, pay exorbitant salaries. Most of our folks are volunteers. We’ve compensated a few sales people with commissions, and that’s pretty much it.”
Phillips said the idea of sending out letters to supporters and telling them, “The world is ending, but for $50 we can put it off for a couple of weeks,” didn’t sit well with him.
“My vision for Tea Party Nation was to use the capitalist system to support our activities,” he said. “The whole idea of begging for bucks is absolutely repugnant to me. I’m not saying people who have nonprofits and seek donations are bad people or anything like that. I’m just saying, for our group, I don’t like it.”
Because Tea Party Nation is a for-profit entity, it will be required to pay taxes.
“As soon as we’re done with this, we have to see what kind of tax liability we have. We need to make sure we’re squared away on all of our taxes,” Phillips said. “Once that’s done, we’ve got a board of advisers, and we’re going to sit down with the board of advisers, start looking at the numbers and see what we can do to support various causes that we believe in.”
At that point Tea Party Nation’s accountant will determine whether there’s anything left to give. He said, if there are any funds left over, the board will ask, “What can we do to help the tea-party movement?”
“At this point, based on where we are, we’re going to be in the black, but it’s not going to be by a lot,” he said. “Ultimately, we ended up calling some of the numbers amazingly close.”
Gaylord Opryland Hotel in Nashville, Tenn.
For critics who suggest Phillips might turn a substantial profit on the convention, he had these words: “That’s not why I started this. It’s not true. I haven’t quit my day job, nor do I anticipate quitting my day job.”
He joked, “I think we’re going to have just enough to take a few of the volunteers out for a lunch on the dollar menu.”
As for Bachmann and Blackburn’s speaking slots, Phillips said he is already receiving numerous calls from potential speakers vying for the positions.
Meanwhile, some tea partiers have rejected Phillip’s efforts to solidify the movement with a convention.
“We, as conservatives, have a golden opportunity,” he said. “We’re really riled up right now. With the bickering in the tea-party movement, we may screw this up. If not work together, let’s at least not work against each other, and we can have control of the Senate and the House this year.”
Phillips said he has three main goals for the national convention:
- 1. Organizers plan to equip attendees with information, effective tools and techniques they can bring back to their groups.
2. The convention will help tea-party leaders from across the nation network and make connections with people in the movement.
3. The event is intended to provide some unity within the tea-party movement so leaders may work together toward a common goal.
“We’ve got to work together in 2010 because if we want to beat Obama, Pelosi and Reid this year, we cannot be divided,” Phillips said. “That’s the biggest thing I want to see come out of this convention – folks getting to know one another and working together, as opposed to some of the regrettable splits we’ve seen over the last few months.”
Phillips said the convention is an opportunity for grass-roots groups to unite because he believes the movement is set to explode this year.
He said, “I think the tea-party movement will be huge in this upcoming election.”
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