Tea Party Convention Apocalypse
Bad news for the first National Tea Party Convention: two of its biggest names are bailing out.
In another sign that controversy is taking a toll on next week’s National Tea Party Convention in Nashville, Tenn., two of its top attractions — Reps. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) and Michele Bachmann (R-Mars) — have decided to opt out of their prior plans to speak at the event.
The high-profile blows to the convention come as several sponsors have backed out and organizers are struggling to sell tickets to Sarah Palin’s keynote address amid controversy about the convention’s unusual finances.
As first reported by POLITICO, the convention is being run by a for-profit Tennessee corporation called Tea Party Nation, registered to a little-known Tennessee lawyer whose efforts to position himself as a national tea party leader have put him at odds with some state tea party activists. The lawyer, Judson Phillips, intended to turn a profit from the convention, with the stated goal of seeding a so-called 527 group that would air ads praising conservative candidates or criticizing their opponents, though he now concedes he’s hoping just to break even and has tabled the 527 idea.
Blackburn and Bachmann, tea party favorites along with Palin, cited the financing arrangement in announcing Thursday that they were pulling out.
Former Governor Sarah Palin is hanging in there, though.
Palin, who is being paid a $100,000 fee to speak at the convention, in a statement to POLITICO on Tuesday night said she remained committed to the event.
“This is about the people — the grass-roots’ activists whose core values demand a responsible government,” she said. “This is not about politics or organizers, it is about the soul of our blessed country.” She added that “any speaker’s fee will be contributed to the cause, and I will not be personally gaining from this.”
Politico’s Kenneth Vogel fact checks that claim immediately:
The only way Palin could donate her fee to conservative groups that get involved in federal elections would be to make dozens of $2,400 or $5,000 maximum contributions to candidates and political action committees, respectively. (She could make larger contributions to 527 groups, but those are barred from directly supporting or opposing candidacies.)