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Category: Tea Party

The Tea Party and Corporate Personhood

Posted by – 2/1/10

Whoa.

Late into this morning (which was really only just a few hours ago), a friend and I were discussing the recent Supreme Court case Citizens United v. FEC which brought us to the topic of Corporate Personhood. “But Kevin,” you ask. “How could you even go to sleep after something that exciting?” I know. But it gets even better.

The thrust of our conversation ended in an agreement that the tradition of Corporate Personhood in America was patently ridiculous, extra-Constitutional, and destructive. It wasn’t that corporations should enjoy no protections, we concluded. We both felt that the idea of a corporation being treated like a human person, though, afforded a corporation undue advantages over individuals and even smaller companies. Besides, the legal precedent for it was shaky at best.

Then I wake up to this: Post Politics: Tea partiers should reject ‘corporate personhood’

It was actually a court reporter who, in an attempt to summarize the case Santa Clara County vs. Southern Pacific Railroad, coined the term. Author Thom Hartmann explains in Common Dreams: “In writing up the case’s headnote — a commentary that has no precedential status — the Court’s reporter, a former railroad president named J.C. Bancroft Davis, opened the headnote with the sentence: ‘The defendant corporations are persons within the intent of the clause in section 1 of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, which forbids a state to deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.’ ”

[...]

No one is saying corporations should have no expectations of legal protection, but to assert they deserve the rights of human beings is absurd.

A corporation cannot long for a woman or love his children. A corporation cannot feel pain or remorse and doesn’t have to die. Corporations clearly are not persons in any sense of the word. If we are all truly “endowed by our Creator” with certain rights, there can be no rights for corporations.

[...]

Corporations don’t seek to influence the government to promote a libertarian utopia. They get involved with government to gain a competitive edge, either through regulation or subsidy. All the corporate money in our politics does not go to secure a free market, despite what some on the anti-corporate left will tell you. The very last thing big corporations want is a fair or free market. Big Business plays politics to secure its position and keep the little guy out.

Like I said, whoa.

I’ve never even had a discussion on Corporate Personhood before last night. I’m at this very moment checking my home for Kleinheider’s bugs.

He makes a great point in that last paragraph. A distrust in Big Government can, if one is unprincipled, lead to an inordinate trust in Big Business. Yet Big Business does not seek to play fair. It seeks to win, and will do so using whatever advantage it can get that increases the bottom line. I’ll write to expand on this later, but considering a corporation to be a person brings with it a whole slew of issues, among them that it puts corporations in a position to crowd out smaller competition and buy politicians from the local sheriff to the President himself.

I’m with Kleinheider on this, and it’s definitely an issue that crosses political lines (though that alone is never reason enough to earn my support). Tea Parties should reject the long-standing tradition of corporate personhood.

ALA's Eric Odom on Tea Party Nation Organizers: They Don't Know What's Going On & Haven't From Day One

Posted by – 1/31/10

No need for comment.

Watch this Convention: "You shall know them by their fruits."

Posted by – 1/31/10

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.

Reps Blackburn and Bachmann pull out of the TPN Convention

Posted by – 1/28/10

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.

TPN Violates Labor Laws: "We don't ask anything from our members" … Except Uncompensated Labor

Posted by – 1/26/10

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…

National Tea Party Convention loses a third sponsor

Posted by – 1/25/10

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?

Focus on Fiscal Conservatism

Posted by – 1/25/10

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.

Another Tea Partier in Tennessee Comments on the Convention

Posted by – 1/25/10

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.

Moynihan is a founder of Sumner United for Responsible Government, and, as he notes above, one of the original observers of the fallout last year after Tennessee Tea Party split with Judson.

A breath of fresh air to the Tea Party in Tennessee

Posted by – 1/24/10

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.

Another former TPN member comes forward: Boycott National Tea Party Convention

Posted by – 1/18/10

screenshot-2010-01-18-at-35429-pm

Looks like another former member of the Tea Party Nation has come forward, this time calling for a boycott. Like so many others, Shane Brooks was banned from Tea Party Nation’s website for offering an opposing viewpoint, and today yesterday he published a very revealing exchange with Sherry Phillips, wife of Tea Party Nation President Judson Phillips.

Portions of note from Sherry:

Your membership was suspended yesterday based on your threats toward TPN (TPN is in my “crosshairs”) and encouraging TPN members to move to another site (GOOOH).

Judson was disappointed that we had to suspend you as he said you contributed a lot of great information to TPN and our instant survivalist group.

Portions of note from Shane:

It seems that any personal attacks on members are usually addressed handled very quickly by TPN so long as the one attacked is on message w/TPN.

[...]

Then Pam Farmsworth came in and deleted my comments that had no personal attacks, swear words or anything that violated TPN policy but rather a passionate defense of my arguments and myself … The discussions have become so butchered and edited that it looks like your members arguing with themselves for no reason, it’s pathetic.

[...]

TPN claims to have open and thoughtful debates and an exchange of ideas. However, if you have the opinion that it is too late to save a deaf GOP and favor the 3rd party idea or anything other than your belief in the GOP, then it is open season to allow your members to ridicule, belittle and offer up scathing sarcasm disguised as a rebuttal. There is no real honest debate on this and several other issues at TPN. It appears to be tow the TPN line or be quiet, have your post removed and be banned.

Instead of quenching the thirst for freedom, the TPN leadership is attempting to squash members’ attempt at freedom. To be honest, I’m not at all surprised. I personally experienced this kind of “freedom” of thought and opinion displayed by the Tea Party Nation leadership beginning the day Judson announced he was the sole owner of Tea Party Nation.

Brooks also released this video calling for tea partiers to boycott the upcoming National Tea Party Convention.