TEA PARTY POWER™
Marsha W. Blackburn;
BRIEF BIO for this "TEA PARTY CONSERVATIVE CHAMPION!"
Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn; Coming into her own in National Politics:
20. Sal Russo, chief strategist, Tea Party Express
Russo is nothing like the typical political outsiders of the Tea Party movement. He got his start as an aide for Ronald Reagan and is a well-known Republican strategist with his own political consulting firm, which has caused other Tea Party organisations to question his loyalties to a movement that has tried to distance itself from the Washington establishment.
The Tea Party Express raised over $5 million through early August, about $3 million of which went directly to Russo’s firm, which Russo claims is all going towards advertising and other expenses. Regardless, the Tea Party Express is now the biggest independent supporter of Tea Party candidates and has spent thousands on ads in support of candidates such as Scott Brown, who caused the biggest upset for decades by winning Edward Kennedy’s old Senate seat in Massachusetts, Sharron Angle, and Christine O’Donnell.
19. Joe Miller, Republican candidate for Senate in Alaska
Few places has the fundraising power of the Tea Party been more evident that in the Alaska Senatorial race, where the Tea Party Express committed some $550,000 to ensuring Joe Miller’s election. Miller, 43, a Yale-educated former state magistrate and federal judge, has promoted reduced government intervention and spending. Such “constitutionally conservative” positions have attracted him the endorsement of Sarah Palin and former Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee.
* Top 20 Tea Partiers: 10-1 13 Oct 2010 * Krystal Ball: we all have racy pics 12 Oct 2010
Lisa Murkowski, Miller’s Republican opponent and incumbent for the seat, withdrew from the race after losing the primary, despite her $1 million campaign war chest. Since then, Murkowski has resubmitted her name for the general election as a write-in candidate. This may appear to offer little threat to Miller’s double digit lead in the polls, but his success in the general election is not assured. His challenge will be to retain his voting base of Tea Party members while wooing moderate Republicans and independents who might defect to Murkowski.
18. Mark Skoda
Skoda’s background is in business, but before becoming a successful radio host for the Memphis Tea Party Live show, he lived and worked in Europe and Asia as the managing director for US-based package shipping companies. After his time abroad, Skoda returned stateside to settle in Germantown, TN where he founded and chaired the Memphis Tea Party. With interviews on FOX, CNN, MSNBC, the Glen Beck show and talk radio stations everwhere, Skoda is one of the most ubiquitous Tea Party figures.
Memphis Tea Party Live attracted such a wide audience that Skoda was asked to be media director for the Tea Party’s National Convention in early February of 2010. Skoda’s influence catapulted the convention to nationwide media attention when he invited news networks to cover the convention, and booked high flying Tea Party members like Andrew Breitbart, the conservative media giant, to speak. Skoda still broadcasts and blogs daily but his most recent work involved promoting a new documentary: “Conservative Women - Fire From the Heartland” which premiered on 22 September.
17. Ken Buck, senate candidate for Colorado
Ken Buck has held many titles over the course of his career, including truck driver, ranch hand, high school football coach, school janitor, chief of the criminal division for the Colorado US Attorney’s Office, and prosecutor for the Department of Justice; he is currently the Weld County District Attorney. Buck scored a narrow victory in the Republican primary after a heated battle with establishment-backed candidate Jane Norton, in which he became known for his foul language and his assertion that he should win against his female opponent because he “doesn’t wear high heels”. Obviously he is not completely on the same page as Sarah Palin.
The race for the Senate in Colorado is shaping up to be typical of many in the 2010 elections, with Buck running against a Democrat struggling to defend his support of healthcare reform and the stimulus package. Buck has promised voters that he will never vote for a measure that would increase taxes if he wins the election in November.
16. Mark Williams, former chairman of the Tea Party Express
His dismissal for a series of insulting and racist remarks put a spotlight on the whole movement’s potential Achilles heel. A California radio host, Williams described Barack Obama as an “Indonesian Muslim turned welfare thug”, and said Muslims worshipped a “terrorist Monkey God”.
His fate was sealed by a supposedly satirical letter to Abraham Lincoln written in the voice of slaves. "We Coloreds have taken a vote and decided that we don't cotton to that whole emancipation thing. Freedom means having to work for real, think for ourselves, and take consequences along with the rewards,” it read.
He went on to say blacks don't want taxes cut because "how will we Colored People ever get a wide screen TV in every room if non-coloreds get to keep what they earn?"
The Tea Party Federation, an umbrella group, called the letter "clearly offensive" and kicked out the Express. Soon Williams left the organisation he represented. The onslaught of media attention put Tea Party Express-backed candidates in an awkward position, but he may in fact have done the movement a favour. The controversy in the summer of 2010 was early enough to allow the movement to denounce racism well before the midterms and keep a watchful eye on similar outbursts from anyone else in future.
15. Michael Leahy, blogger
Author of the forthcoming book “The Ideological Origins of the Tea Party Movement” and co-founder of the Nationwide Tea Party Coalition, Michael Leahy had a role in the coordination of the first round of Tea Party protests in 2009. Leahy hosts two programmes on Pajamas TV, The Tea Party Coalition Show and TCOT. Leahy is the publisher and managing editor of The TCOT Report, which publishes breaking news reported by conservatives from a list he created on Twitter called Top Conservatives on Twitter. Leahy calls himself a grassroots new media strategist and blogs about conservative issues.
In 2009, Leahy established The Bill of Federalism Web site to support the efforts of Georgetown University Professor Randy Barnett in submitting ten amendments that would “restore balance between state and federal power as well as the original meaning of the Constitution,” according to an article Barnett wrote for Forbes.com.
14. Judson and Sherry Phillips, founders of the Tea Party Nation
Controversy seems to follow the couple behind the for-profit Tea Party Nation, whose activities have highlighted the potential for factionalism in the broader movement.
Their company organised the controversial National Tea Party Convention held in February 2010 in Nashville, which came under fire for high ticket prices, the selling of sponsorships, Sarah Palin’s $100,000 speaking fee, and the fact that Judson Phillips intended to turn a profit.
They lost the support of a few major sponsors as well as two key speakers, Michele Bachmann and Marsha Blackburn. The convention was, however, something of a milestone, drawing the strongest national and international media coverage of the phenomenon at that point.
Many other Tea Party groups have criticised the company for contradicting the “regular Joe” character of the movement and have accused the Phillipses of hijacking a popular process for personal gain. Tea Party Nation has gone on to form a political action committee, headed by Mark Skoda, to raise money for political candidates. But it cancelled a second proposed convention in Las Vegas, to the immense relief of local groups, which saw it as just another opportunity for making money.
13. Jim DeMint, Republican senator for South Carolina
Senator for South Carolina since 2005, Jim DeMint is one of the few personalities inside the beltway that Tea Party members seem to like. Also, unlike most other Congressmembers, DeMint has made an effort to acknowledge the Tea Party movement, so much so that he is considered by some to be its representative in Congress. His seat in the senate, up for reelection in November, is one of the safest in the country especially after this summer’s felony allegations against his competitor from the Democratic Party, Alvin Greene.
While his frequent praise of the Tea Party has won him nationwide support from its members, DeMint has alienated his own party colleagues on Capitol Hill having aggravated what was already a divisive primary season for the GOP. Rumours are circulating that DeMint may be considering a run for the Mitch McConnell’s role as Senate Minority Leader; the Senator currently plans to retire in 2016.
12. Rand Paul
The Tea party-backed ophthalmologist running for Kentucky’s Senate seat is a convinced libertarian who believes in minimal government. He fell into the media trap of stating that he might not have voted for the Civil Rights Act of 1964 because private businesses should not be regulated by government. While this may have been true to his libertarian principles, it could have been catastrophic politically. Paul’s medical qualifications have been called into question by opponents, who revealed he is not certified by the American Board of Medical Specialties and is instead certified by a rival board that he helped create.
Paul is the son of Texas congressman and former presidential candidate Ron Paul. He will face Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway in the November elections; Paul is currently ahead in opinion polls.
11. David Koch, industrial magnate
Known in New York City for his philanthropy, having given millions to causes such as the American Museum of Natural History and Lincoln Center’s New York State Theater, Koch co-owns Koch Industries with his brother. It is ranked by Forbes as the second-largest private company in the United States. But in Washington, Koch is known for channeling money and influence to support a staunchly conservative agenda and his repeated attacks on Obama administration policies.
Koch is the founder of the non-profit organisations, Americans for Prosperity and the Americans for Prosperity Foundation, which have close ties to the Tea Party movement and have run ads targeting Democratic candidates around the country. A self-proclaimed Libertarian, he denies any personal connection with the movement, but has praised various aspects of it.
10. Christine O’Donnell, Republican candidate for Senate in Delaware
A marketing consultant and Tea-party backed candidate for the US Senate, Christine O’Donnell burst onto the national political scene after her stunning victory over nine-term Representative Mike Castle in Delaware’s primary on September 14. The victory came after endorsements from Sarah Palin and the Tea Party Express and was a major shock to the Republican establishment. Over the past few weeks, O’Donnell has been relentlessly scrutinised for her controversial beliefs about sex and religion, which have largely been revealed through clips from various television shows she appeared on in the 1990s, and for her chaotic financial affairs. O’Donnell faced a near-foreclosure on her mortgage and a dispute with Farleigh Dickinson University for not paying college expenses. Previously a campaigner against masturbation, O’Donnell once said: "Evolution is a myth, and even Darwin himself acknowledged that.” She opposed cloning by saying: “American scientific companies are cross-breeding humans and animals and coming up with mice with fully functioning human brains.
O’Donnell, who bears a physical and ideological resemblance to Sarah Palin, has recently announced that she will not give any more interviews to national media outlets, citing their opposition to her campaign. Trailing badly in the polls, she recently unveiled one of the more extraordinary political ads of modern times, beginning the 30-second message by stating: “I am not a witch.”
9. Sharron Angle, Republican candidate for Senate in Nevada
Her bid to oust the Senator Harry Reid, the Democratic majority leader, is one of the most watched midterm races. Victory would not only be hugely symbolic but could make the difference between the Republicans winning and losing a Senate majority.
* Top 20 people in the Tea Party: 20-11 12 Oct 2010
Though her right-wing credentials have never been questioned, her state of mind and suitability for the Senate have been, and frequently. She embodies the wackiness that critics of the Tea Party say is common among some of its followers.
Reid’s campaign has exploited a litany of Angle controversial comments and gaffes, including calling for the abolition of the Department of Education, and raising the spectre of “Second Amendment remedies” and “taking out Harry Reid” if Congress continued on its current course. She also came close to mocking parents with autistic children and said pregnant teenage rape victims were in a “making lemons into lemonade” situation.
It took some time for Angle to secure the endorsement of Sarah Palin and other Tea Party leaders in a race that pundits have said would be an easy win for a stronger Republican candidate. A 61-year-old grandmother of 10, like many Tea Party candidates she has emerged from a modest background of school board member and state assemblyman. She won a crowded primary thanks largely to the help of the Tea Party Express, who might be regretting their decision now.
8. Glenn Beck, Fox News host
Glenn Beck, 45, is arguably the heart and soul of the Tea Party movement. He began his broadcasting career as a DJ in Washington state at the age of 13. Since then he has become a multi-media giant as the host for both the nationally syndicated Glenn Beck Program (radio) and The Glenn Beck Show (TV). His other titles include author of six New York Times bestsellers, CEO of Mercury Radio Arts, and most recently, rally coordinator after the successful Restoring Honor Rally on 28 August 2010.
Raised as a Roman Catholic, Beck converted to Mormonism after struggling through addiction and divorce. Beck’s frequently religious rhetoric tends to alienate some Tea Party members who see the movement as a secular one. His huge audience and ability to galvanise conservatives has led to Beck being touted as a possible vice-presidential candidate with Sarah Palin - the conservative “dream ticket”. Beck's ambitions seem limitless but he has ruled out running on a White House ticket. He continues to promote the 912 Project, an organisation he founded in March 2009. Once accused Obama of being racist, saying: “This president I think has exposed himself over and over again as a guy who has a deep-seated hatred for white people or the white culture....I'm not saying he doesn't like white people, I'm saying he has a problem. This guy is, I believe, a racist.”
7. Michele Bachmann, founder of the Congressional Tea Party caucus
Bachmann ranks second only to Sarah Palin in the ranks of staunchly conservative, anti-abortion women with large families and a knack for publicity who have stormed the national political stage in the past couple of years. Like Palin, she has drawn plenty of liberal scorn, not least for calling Barack Obama “un-American” during the 2008 campaign.
The 54-year-old former tax lawyer was at the forefront of Republican opposition to healthcare reform, an issue that drove Tea Party protests forward. By establishing a Tea Party caucus within the House Republican conference, she succeeded in giving the movement more institutional legitimacy and in merging the Republican and Tea Parties under a single banner,
It was a bold move that won her staunch support from Tea Party members - not to mention their large campaign donations. She will face off against state senator Tarryl Lynn Clark on Nov 2.
6. Thomas Rhodes, chairman of Club for Growth
Chairman of the Club for Growth, a pro-business network, and president of the conservative National Review magazine. Worked for Goldman Sachs, serving as the corporation’s vice-chairman from 1982-1985. In his 18 years at the investment and securities firm, Rhodes was a convinced fiscal conservative.
Under his chairmanship, the Club for Growth has been among the biggest spenders in a record-breaking year for campaign donations. In preparation for the 2010 midterm elections, the Club for Growth reportedly plans to spend $24 million on conservative campaigns. One of the primary goals of the Club is to move away from the extensive Republican spending that characterised the Bush era, an intention that points to a schism between fiscally conservative groups, like the Tea Party, and the GOP.
5. Dick Armey, chairman of FreedomWorks
Former House majority leader, current chairman of the conservative non-profit FreedomWorks, and author of “Give Us Liberty: A Tea Party Manifesto”, Texan Dick Armey has become one of the most recognisable leaders of the Tea Party movement. Armey’s well-financed group FreedomWorks helped organise the first Tea Party tax day protests in 2009 and has helped organise many of the Tea Party rallies and protests against health care reform and government spending. FreedomWorks is known for their activist-training seminars in D.C.
But FreedomWorks has also been criticised for “astroturfing”, or grassroots organising that is actually planned by an organising committee, and Armey has faced accusations of using FreedomWorks as a front for corporate and lobbying interests. However, Armey has proven adept at channelling the energy of the Tea Party movement into a political force in the 2010 elections. By endorsing candidates alongside the Tea Party, FreedomWorks has helped candidates garner national attention and win over establishment-backed candidates.
4. Jenny Beth Martin, activist
Included in the 2010 TIME 100 list, Jenny Beth Martin was one of about 20 people on the conference call that kicked off the response to Rick Santelli’s rant. A co-founder and national coordinator of the Tea Party Patriots, the movement’s largest membership organisation, and the co-chair of the Atlanta Tea Party, she also writes a blog called Jen’s Genuine Life, in which she writes about her family and everyday life.
Martin is a self-proclaimed “volunteer addict” with a long history of community involvement. She has been outspoken in efforts to keep the Tea Party free of racist epithets in favour of a focus on the movement’s key principles of fiscal responsibility, a constitutionally limited government and free markets. Martin helped lead the movement’s march on Washington on September 12, 2009, a breakthrough moment with thousands converging on Capitol Hill.
3. Rick Santelli, presenter CNBC
His live diatribe on business network CNBC from the floor of the Chicago Board of Trade on Feb 19, 2009 was the spark that lit the fire. For five minutes Santelli lambasted the Obama administration’s plans to subsidise struggling homeowners. In a paean to hard-working middle America, he said: “How many of you people want to pay for your neighbour’s mortgage that has an extra bathroom and can’t pay their bills? Raise their hand. President Obama, are you listening?”
He concluded: “We’re thinking of having a Chicago Tea Party in July. All you capitalists that want to show up to Lake Michigan, I’m going to start organising.”
As the footage went viral on the Internet, people in fact started organising the first anti-tax protests in the next few days. Santelli found he had tapped into a latent fear and anger over spending, the stimulus as well as the handling of home foreclosures.
He has not developed any affiliation with any Tea Party groups, but has described the rant as “the best five minutes of my life”.
2. Sarah Palin, former governor of Alaska
Palin’s SarahPAC political action committee recently released an 80-second video that advertised her as the leader of the Tea Party, and gave a preview of what future campaign messages from the conservative celebrity might look like. Palin, 45, was elected as the first female and youngest ever governor of Alaska in 2006 having previously been mayor of Wasilla. Her term was dramatically interrupted when the Republican Party chose her to run with John McCain as a Vice Presidential candidate. When the pair lost to Obama in 2008, Palin returned to Alaska to resign from her role as governor.
Since then, Palin has been very busy. Last year she released her bestselling book Going Rogue: An American Life and has been in constant demand as a speaker for various Republican and Tea Party events. She was the keynote speaker at the first Tea Party Convention in Nashville, and drew attention for her alleged $100,000 appearance fee. She coined the term “death panels”, which helped galvanise conservative opposition to health care reform: "The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama's 'death panel' so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their 'level of productivity in society,' whether they are worthy of health care. Such a system is downright evil."
Conservative candidates for the November election have sought her endorsement for its ability to help struggling contestants secure substantial leads in the polls. Significant numbers of Tea partiers view Palin with suspicion, seeing her as a social conservative without coherent views about the economy and size of government. Some conservative opponents suggest she has exploited the Tea Party. Plain’s recent utterances suggest that a 2012 presidential run is becoming likely.
1. Amy Kremer, chairman of the Tea Party Express
Born and raised in Atlanta, Amy Kremer is a former airline stewardess who like other key grassroots organisers in the Tea Party is a political neophyte.
She found her feet as a political blogger during the 2008 presidential campaign, and a few days after the Rick Santelli rant took part in a conference call that organised the first nine simultaneous protests at the end of February 2009.
A founding member of Tea Party Patriots, she helped organise the waves of protests against healthcare reform the following summer at town hall meetings. It was then that Washington began to take notice of the movement.
In October 2009, Kremer defected from the TPP to join the Tea Party Express to focus her efforts on fiscal change rather than issues and to elect suitable candidates. She left with the passwords to the TPP website and email list, prompting a lawsuit by her former TPP colleagues. Currently chairman of the TPE, she spent months on the ground supporting Joe Miller and Christine O’Donnell in their surprise Republican primary victories.