Last weekend, delegates from sixteen Tea Party groups and six related conservative groups met in Red Bank, New Jersey. When the meeting ended, the delegates had formed something new: a Tea Party Congress. The new Congress will not stop at unifying New Jersey Tea Party groups. They call themselves the American Tea Party Congress and seek to take the concept nationwide.
Tea Party Congress takes on new meaning
The American Tea Party Congress will have executive and “legislative” branches. The “legislature” will be a board of representatives from each group that takes part in it. But no officer of any group may become a representative until he resigns his office(s). The Tea Party Congress will vest its executive power in a Chairman, a Director, and other officers. Those officers will serve at the pleasure of the board of representatives.
Why a Tea Party Congress?
Delegates to the New Jersey Tea Party Summit pose for a group portrait. Photo courtesy Gene Hoyas (seated).
A search for “Tea Party Congress” today will turn up articles like this one describing Tea Party members in Congress, or Members of Congress who sympathize with the Tea Party. A true “Tea Party Congress” is new. No formal organization calling itself “The Tea Party” exists or existed.
Editor’s note: CNAV wishes to reply to a persistent canard that the Koch Brothers are the founders and principal financiers of the Tea Party, and that they have CNAV and other Tea Party organs (and organizations) on their payroll. CNAV accepts no remuneration from Charles or David Koch, nor has it asked for any, nor have either of the Koch Brothers offered any. Charles Koch and his brother David did not found the Tea Party. If anything, they came late to the game, and for one reason only: because the Tea Party takes certain political and philosophical positions that Charles and David Koch happen to share. Thus they sympathize with Tea Party members and groups, but they do not give them orders. If they or any other unifying group did give such orders, they might have avoided certain misunderstandings that have, from time to time, set Tea Party groups at odds with one another.
Gene Hoyas, founder of Bulldog Pundit, saw the problem. In the June 5 New Jersey primary, conservative newcomer David Larsen lost his primary bid to unseat Rep. Leonard Lance (R-NJ-7). Hoyas wrote then that “movement conservatism…died” in New Jersey on that day. Hoyas feared that a group of opportunists would deceive Tea Party activists into supporting them and becoming a part of the Republican machine. Such an outcome would not reform the Republican Party or the government. Hoyas first expressed that fear nine months earlier.
A week later, a member of this rival camp answered Hoyas. That answer carried a good-sounding headline: “How the Tea Party Can Win in New Jersey.” In fact the author insulted most Tea Party activists in New Jersey, accused many of them of trying to pretend they were God (or angels), and in general threatened to make them irrelevant. The article made Gene Hoyas irate. He proposed then that all Tea Party groups unite, coordinate, and thus stand up to such threats. A few days later, he published details of a charter for a new unifying group. He called it the Conservative Tea Party Congress.
On July 14, what became the charter meeting of the new group took place. At that meeting, the representatives decided to call themselves the American Tea Party Congress.
Earlier efforts to unify
A united Tea Party has been a dream of Tea Party activists almost since Rick Santelli of CNBC made his famous rant about a repeat of the Boston Tea Party. But in New Jersey, the campaign by one so-called activist, Jeffrey M. Weingarten, left a sour taste in many mouths. Weingarten helped organize the first Tea Party rally on April 15, 2009, in Morristown, New Jersey. A month later, a leadership dispute broke out when other members of the Morristown group learned that Weingarten had an illicit-drug record. Shortly afterward, he vanished. Witnesses at the time accused him of absconding with the group’s funds. Thus began a legal war that rages to this day. But Weingarten also set up a Web site that pretended to speak for all Tea Party activists in New Jersey. Several Tea Party officers emphatically said that he did not speak for them.
New Jersey’s Tea Party groups did not share in the triumphs of Tea Party groups in other States in the Election of 2010. Perhaps on that account, no one has heard from Jeffrey M. Weingarten again for many months. (He insinuated himself into the 2010 Anna Little campaign in New Jersey’s Sixth District. He might have drawn on himself part of the blame for her loss. Anna Little now has a rematch with Rep. Frank J. Pallone, Jr., D-NJ-6.) But the Weingarten Affair made most New Jersey Tea Party people refuse categorically to follow any self-appointed leaders.
Thus far, Tea Party activists in New Jersey have received Gene Hoyas’ American Tea Party Congress much better. The group will convene again to make their charter final. The lessons of the Weingarten Affair will teach them to build an organization that no one man can take over. (Among other things, Hoyas proposed that the board take no action except by a super-majority vote.) But the latest attacks on Tea Party groups clearly prompted them to become a unified force that will take no orders from anyone. Not Jeff Weingarten; not Charles or David Koch; not the Republican National Committee. Nobody.