The Tea Party Goes Mainstream

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The organizers of the National Tea Party Convention today announced that they will be forming a 501(c)4 corporation and related political action committee (PAC) to raise money to support 15-20 candidates for Congress or the Senate in the 2010 elections. “I have long said that the Tea Party movement doesn’t endorse candidates, candidates endorse it,” Judson Phillips, the convention’s main organizer told reporters. “But there are exceptions and this new entity will be completely separate from the Tea Party movement.”

Phillips said he would not be affiliated with the newly incorporated firm, Ensuring Liberty, but the convention’s spokesman Mark Skoda, a Tea Party activist from Memphis, said he’s been asked to be Ensuring Liberty’s president. Skoda would not say if he’d accepted the role and refused to name four others who have been asked to be on the board, though he did promise unprecedented transparency. He said the new group will seek small dollar donations but will also accept corporate money. They have not yet decided if they will take money from registered lobbyists. “This was created as an outlet for donors interested in giving money and time,” Skoda said. Ensuring Liberty (already in my head I’m confusing it with Operation Enduring Freedom) would support “conservative candidates” and would help “counter the fragmentation that exists today,” he added.

Skoda has said repeatedly the last two days that he does not support forming a third political party, but when asked by Fox News if he speaks for all convention attendees – many of whom have said they would like to see that happen – Skoda said he was only speaking on behalf of himself and Ensuring Freedom. “We are not attempting to replace the RNC. We are not attempting to co-opt the RNC,” Skoda said.

Phillips was asked if he agreed with former Colorado Rep. Tom Tancredo’s statements last night that Obama voter’s would likely fail a civics test and that a McCain presidency would’ve been as bad or worse than both Bush presidencies (“Thank God McCain didn’t win,” bemoaned Tancredo to cheers). Phillips made a lawyerly case about why Tancredo was entitled to his own opinions on Obama voters but wholeheartedly endorsed Tancredo’s McCain thesis. “McCain would’ve been a disaster,” Phillips said.