No need for comment.
ALA's Eric Odom on Tea Party Nation Organizers: They Don't Know What's Going On & Haven't From Day One
Brooks Bayne writes a scathing review of the National Tea Party Convention scandal. He’s quite right in noting how there are no known and respected Tea Party activists involved with this convention.
The problem is, as I’ve stated many times on Twitter, the Tea Party wasn’t involved with this convention. There may have been a couple local Tea Party folks participating, but none of the real players in the movement were involved. If you’re asking how I have the inside skinny on all this, then you haven’t been paying attention to the movement over the last year.
This “convention” was about one guy, attorney Judson Phillips, and, in my opinion, his attempt at personal gain. What was he thinking? Just because Phillips was the guy who reviewed Michael Leahy’s ridiculous lawsuit filing (not ridiculous that it was filed, it needed to be. much of the substance of it, however, was ridiculous. I question Phillips’ capacity as an attorney if he greenlit that filing) against some Internet trolls last year, he’s suddenly part of the movement? Uh…I don’t think so.
He ends his post with this:
“You shall know them by their fruits.”
I suppose that’s the best way to approach this convention at this point– focus extra scrutiny on what comes out of this convention and where the money goes afterward.
Is the convention still going to happen? I certainly hope so. A lot of good, well-meaning people paid a lot of money just to hear Palin speak. I personally think that’s a giant waste of $549 plus travel expenses, but regardless, it would be much worse if this whole thing shut down and left the Phillipses walking away with a cool $300,000 in non-refundable ticket sales.
Mostly, I expect we’ll see a lot of really underwhelmed convention goers. And since I’ve personally experienced Judson’s ineptitude in event planning — for a man who merely showed up at the eleventh hour to the Tax Day Tea Party rallies in Nashville and Franklin last year, he sure has some C.O. Jones to take credit for it all — I wouldn’t be surprised if we start seeing complaints coming from convention goers themselves once this weekend gets started.
In another blow to the National Tea Party Convention, The Tea Party Express has now announced that they will no longer support the event. This comes after several waves of event sponsors and speakers pulled their support.
Phillips still claims the event is planned to provide training, networking, and inspirational speeches, but the ability to make good on that promise appears less and less likely with several speakers pulling out along with two of the sponsors who were to provide training dropping their support.
On a personal note, I should mention this: while Mr. Phillips has claimed that the press isn’t asking him for comment, absolutely every single one of the reporters I’ve spoken to has expressed frustration in their inability to get in contact with Mr. Phillips despite repeated attempts.
Judson can continue to use his tried excuse of “blame the liberals” all he wants, but he’s brought this debacle on himself. His zeal for personal gain unchecked by prudence has led him to all sorts of negligence, not the least of which includes an egregious violation of labor laws.
I suppose we’ll continue to watch this implosion to see how it all shakes down. His choices may well prove detrimental to the tea party movement, though I pray Americans see this for what it is: a movement with the purest of intentions attempting to oust the cancer that resides within. Perhaps Mr. Phillips will think about the gravity of his actions next time he attempts to assume the helm of something so much larger than himself.
From Post Politics, Blackburn’s out! Claude Chafin, her spokesman, released this statement:
After consulting with the Committee on Standards, Congressman Blackburn has decided not to participate in the Tea Party Nation Convention next week. Standards advised Congressman Blackburn not to participate in the event due to uncertainty about how any proceeds from the event may be used. Convention organizers have not been clear about how those funds will be put to use. We have every indication that any profit could be put to work to advance grass roots causes and some of those uses could make the Congressman’s participation improper after the fact.
And Blackburn herself had this to say:
“I spoke to Judson Phillips this morning and let him know that I could not participate in the convention. I told him frankly that Tea Party Nation’s for-profit status has put many of his speakers in an awkward position. I remain encouraged by the outpouring of energy from constitutionally minded grassroots organizations in Tennessee and around America. These groups are not made up of Republicans or Democrats but everyday Americans who are concerned about their freedom. They know that out-of-control spending and the expansion of government ultimately limits that freedom. I share their concerns and look forward to working with them in the future.”
Only a short time later, news broke that Rep. Bachmann pulled out for the same reasons:
Due to conflicting advice on whether Congresswoman Bachmann’s participation in the upcoming Tea Party Nation Convention would be in line with the Committee on Standards, Congresswoman Bachmann has decided not to participate in the event. There is uncertainty about how any proceeds from the event may be used, and we must err on the side of caution. Some will want to portray her withdrawal as a repudiation of the Tea Party Movement, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Congresswoman Bachmann remains encouraged by all Americans, regardless of political party, who are concerned about this nation’s future and dwindling prosperity, and continues to be inspired their passion.
As of now, Palin is still scheduled to speak. For a quick background on this story, see this post at Post Politics.
Tea Party Nation’s Judson Phillips took to the Fox Business Network tonight to downplay concerns over his for-profit enterprise putting on an expensive convention that many assumed was being planned by a non-profit organization. When asked about these concerns, he responded with confidence:
We don’t ask anything from any of our 12,000 members. We don’t ask people to pay dues. We don’t ask for donations. We use the capitalist system to go ahead and fund this particular organization so we can use the resources to help advance this cause. What’s wrong with that?
Contrast that with this statement released by Tea Party Nation only 12 days ago (emphasis mine):
Tea Party Nation is a C-Corp. We do not focus on donations, and provide a service and network for like-minded conservatives and TEA Party leadership. TEA Party Nation is operated entirely by volunteers.
Tea Party Nation has an Advisory Board made up of nine (9) individuals who have been with Tea Party Nation since its formation. This Advisory Board is instrumental in greeting new members, moderating the site, putting out our newsletter and making the policies and decisions for Tea Party Nation.
I wonder if Judson would you say that these Advisory Board members are routinely contributing to the benefit of Tea Party Nation Corporation? I would guess so, considering he saw fit to mention them in this press release. Certainly Tea Party Nation has had more than just board members working for the organization (event planners, security at the rallies, the sound engineers, etc…), but since he so explicitly mentioned the Advisory Board in the sentence immediately following his declaration that Tea Party Nation is operated entirely by volunteers, we’ll keep our focus here. I’ve been told by former Advisory Board members that they were never compensated for their work with an hourly wage, a salary, or company stock.
Now pay attention; this should be pretty straight-forward…
Using entirely his own words, we now know that Tea Party Nation is violating the Fair Labor Standards Act by accepting volunteer labor for the benefit of a for-profit private sector enterprise. (It is important to note that according to the Fair Labor Standards Act Advisor, an employee is one who “follows the usual path of an employee.”)
So, Tea Party Nation asks nothing of its members… except free labor. More…
The national director of the National Precinct Alliance, Philip Glass, released a statement on Sunday night announcing that his organization would no longer support the convention.
We were under the impression that TPN was a non-profit organization like NPA, interested only in uniting and educating tea party activists on how to make a real difference in the political arena.
The entire NPA objective is to put the power of the precinct back in the hands of the people. Our organized effort to accomplish that goal is growing faster than we can keep up. So there is no benefit to wasting time and resources on meetings and conventions still hung up on defining the problem. It’s time for real action and real solutions. We are totally focused on the solutions.
The people will figure all of this stuff out on their own. National Precinct Alliance will continue to focus on putting the people in control of their own destiny. The people can take it from there.
Yet again, another organization was duped by Judson into thinking TPN is a non-profit. This clearly shows that Phillips is still not being forthright about the structure of his company. Sherry Phillips, Judson’s wife, even went so far as to tell Kate Zernike at the New York Times that TPN is a non-profit! Why on earth would she make such a statement when it is so easily contradicted with a glance at Tea Party Nation Corporation’s state filing?
From Freeman Hunt:
You want a big tent? It’s fiscal conservatism. The people are overwhelmingly in favor of it.
Embrace fiscal conservatism. Leave the rest to federalism.
It’s easy. It’s a no-brainer. It’s even Constitutional. People are sick of the spending, sick of the debt, sick of the bailouts, sick of the handouts, sick of the back room deals, sick of the taxpayer funded bribes, sick of the bureaucrats. They want unyielding, unapologetic fiscal conservatism.
That’s what I’ve been saying all along! If the tea parties want to remain a relevant, powerful political force, we need to make sure we don’t create a platform that tries to encompass ever political or cultural belief. If we focus our energies on a value as widely held as fiscal responsibility, we’ll have the willing ear and passionate support of the vast majority of the country. Leave all the rest of it (good, bad, or otherwise) for another movement to champion.
In an editorial for the Hendersonville Star News that was also published in the Tennessean this weekend, Matt Moynihan spoke up regarding his impressions of Judson and the National Tea Party Convention. I’d say his sentiment is pretty standard across the state. Given its brevity, I’ll just publish the whole thing below.
So, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the whole mess that graced the front page of the Sunday Tennessean with Judson Phillips, Tea Party Nation and his convention at the Gaylord Opryland next month.
I’ve probably got a perspective on this unlike most, because I was close to it from the beginning, though I’m thankful our Sumner County group was never tied to this group. Judson claims founder status of the Tea Party movement in Nashville. But he immediately tried to turn that into power and profit, so he broke off from Tennessee Tea Party and started what he hoped to be a for-profit national organization called Tea Party Nation. It’s never taken hold since there are dozens of other national organizations that operate similarly, but somehow he’s been tagged by liberals as some figurehead of the Tea Party movement.
Personally, I have not supported the Tea Party convention he’s holding. With a steep $549 price tag for admission, I don’t need someone else to tell me how to be a Tea Party activist, and I would imagine most in the movement feel the same. Though the story is damaging to Judson Phillips and his group, it will do nothing to deter the movement. Liberals will point and laugh nonetheless.
I was incredibly honored yesterday to be able to attend, as an observer, the Tennessee Tea Party Coalition Caucus where the vast majority of tea parties in Tennessee met to discuss and ratify a framework document that helps give a unified vision and voice to the groups. Each group sees itself as adamantly autonomous, which was evident from the discussions, but the caucus itself was formed with the understanding that a representative coalition would help define the tea parties’ collective goals. From the Framing Committee’s letter to tea parties across the state:
Following the example set by our forefathers so many years ago, the Tea Party movement must define its purposes, not only to guide our own actions, but more importantly, to articulate them to the world. We must develop a framework for organizing, focusing, and executing the power embodied in the WILL OF THE PEOPLE: those citizens who have risen, and those who will yet rise, to the challenges facing us.
And just to make the point extra clear:
This Coalition does not and will not impede the independence of any of the organizations that comprise the whole of the coalition. It is designed to enable its member organizations to become more effective individually, as well as part of the Coalition through enhanced Communication, Coordination, and Cooperation.
Honestly, I didn’t expect what I saw at this caucus. I figured I would see some ragamuffin tea party groups discussing their goals. I was completely floored when I took my seat in the gallery and saw a quorum of tea party groups in Tennessee represented in a civil, deliberative body following Robert’s Rules of Order as they debated the inclusion of specific clauses in the framing document. I mean, these were supposed to be “racist redneck teabaggers”! Yet, these delegates clearly took their roles and responsibilities seriously– to such a degree, in fact, that the entire section which enumerated this coalition’s specific objectives was held from ratification and recommended to the Steering Committee to be condensed and modified by member groups’ suggestions. That section will be resubmitted to the delegation for ratification at the next meeting.
I was stunned. Rather than hurriedly ratify large swaths of this framing document simply for the appearance of progress, this delegation opted to get it right. Congress, you could learn something here!
There were even a few tea party groups from South Carolina at the caucus observing. They wanted to see how this was done and take it back to their state in an effort to similarly give autonomous tea party groups in South Carolina a framework through which to communicate, coordinate, and cooperate.
On a personal note, it nearly brought me to tears to see this taking place with tea party groups in Tennessee especially in light of the scandal surrounding the National Tea Party Convention. That event was planned by one man and his powerless advisory council operating on his own paranoid whims without even so much as a mission statement for their for-profit company. The Coalition’s caucus alone was months in the planning, and clearly there was a lot of thought put in to making sure power was never concentrated into any single person. The Coalition’s recommended framing document final draft was incredibly well thought out, and the upcoming coalition convention will be open to all tea partiers in Tennessee: truly grassroots, and truly representative of the Tea Party in Tennessee.
Nothing I saw at the Caucus even mentioned Judson, Tea Party Nation, or the National Tea Party Convention, I want to make that clear. This coalition does not appear to be a direct response to Judson’s malfeasance. And yet, one cannot help but note the stark contrast between this coalition’s deliberate, transparent operation and the paranoid secrecy and gross mismanagement (and perhaps even criminal wrongdoing) surrounding Judson’s entire enterprise.
Tea Parties in Tennessee, this Coalition is exactly the sort of thing we need. If we want to communicate and coordinate, educate and train, and powerfully speak with one voice, it should be done through such a cooperative, transparent, and grassroots organization as the Tennessee Tea Party Coalition.
In an interview with NBC News, Judson gave a classic politician’s answer to my allegation that he used his wife’s personal PayPal account to accept donations in the days immediately following the April 15th “Tax Day Tea Party” in 2009.
“That’s completely false,” Phillips said. “There’s a PayPal account that goes for the corporation. The money goes into a corporate account that is held in the name of Tea Party Nation, Incorporated.”
He further elaborated in a Tennessean article published today.
PayPal payments were always directed to a Tea Party Nation bank account, not a personal account, he said.
Smith and others might have thought they were misdirected because his wife, who keeps records for the company, set up the account to send e-mail confirmations of transactions directly to her, Phillips said.
Nice little jab by Phillips, insinuating that a web professional misunderstands how PayPal works, but it seems like the more this guy opens his mouth, the worse things get for him.
This has become a hot-button topic with the press in recent days because co-mingling of personal funds with donated funds is never permissible. In every interview so far, he’s answering a different question than the one that’s been asked. My allegation was that he used his wife’s personal PayPal account in April 2009 to accept donations for Tea Party Nation. The PayPal account he claims he has always used for all ticket sales and donations wasn’t even set up until August 21, 2009– well after the donations that occurred in April. This lovely screenshot of the PayPal member information panel for Tea Party Nation’s business account proves it. (If you have a PayPal account, you can corroborate this yourself.)
I dug deeper today, and found something that I missed the first time around.
Below is a screenshot sent to me by someone who donated to Tea Party Nation on April 17th, 2009, during the time-frame that I allege Judson and his wife were funneling donations through her personal PayPal account. It’s an email received by this donor as a receipt for the donation. (Identifying information has been blacked out to protect the donor from retribution.) But look at the email address attached to the PayPal account…
The PayPal account that was being used to accept donations in April of 2009 for Tea Party Nation was, in fact, a PayPal account with an email address from Judson’s law practice. So was it her personal PayPal account? Or was it a PayPal account she administered on behalf of “Judson Phillips, Attorney at Law”? Given his comment that firstname.lastname@example.org‘s PayPal account was a business account with her email attached to it, perhaps the same is true of the PayPal account for email@example.com. Of course, one is no better than the other. Judson and his wife have a lot of explaining to do. (The description in the email above is auto-populated by ChipIn, the free service that was used to show a donation meter widget on the site. Given that I was the webmaster, I had set up this ChipIn account, thus why it shows my former TPN email address. As is stated on the ChipIn website, “Your contributors chip in via PayPal and the money goes directly into your PayPal account.” All donations went directly into the PayPal account owned by firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Throughout last week, even more questions regarding Judson’s financial dealings have come to light. It was reported Friday that Phillips filed personal bankruptcy in 1999 and has since had three federal tax leins against him for more than $22,000. RedState’s Erick Erickson smelled something fishy on Monday. Then following Melissa Clouthier’s explosive article uncovering Phillips’s desire to make a million dollars from the Tea Party movement, Erickson had some advice for Phillips.
Just as a “for instance,” were I still practicing law I’d advise clients to have their 501(c)(4) or 527 already set up before taking people’s money. Saying the organization will turn around and pour the collected money into an as of yet unformed 527 or 501(c)(4) is questionable, if only from a tax standpoint.
I haven’t practiced law in a few years, but this was the area in which I practiced. If the fact are as reported, there is something questionable going on.
Sure, people make mistakes in life, but sometimes those mistakes carry with you for years in the form of a lack of trust. A person in this position must take extra steps to prove that all financial dealings are above board and properly organized, yet even Judson’s behavior last week in print and on radio arouse suspicion.
So here’s the challenge, Judson. There are a lot of hard questions out there to which the convention attendees, your sponsors, the speakers, and certainly Sarah Palin deserve the answers. You called me a liar, so prove it. Tea Party Nation should immediately open its financial books for inspection with records dated from April 2009 to the present. Show the tea partiers that you’ve already set up the 527 that you claim will be receiving profits from the National Tea Party Convention. If there is truly nothing unethical going on here, then you’ve got nothing to hide. However, given the questions raised about your inability to properly handle finances in the past, it only seems right that you should take the extra effort to show funds aren’t being mismanaged this time. Sarah Palin — whose answer to the question of a speaking fee you foolishly refused to confirm — and the other speakers are trusting you with their political futures, and they deserve your honesty here.
Nothing wrong with transparency, openness, and fiscal responsibility, right? After all, it’s the very thing you claim to be demanding of government.