Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Tea Partiers: Show us the money

Thanks to the original Boston Tea Party in 1773--when revolutionary patriots dumped English tea into the Boston Harbor rather than pay the tax-- the US became a country of coffee drinkers. "Taxation without representation," was the battle cry to rally the colonialists against the English monarchy. Civil unrest continued for two years after the Tea Party until the Revolutionary War began in 1775.

What will come of the current Tea Party movement, which started as a corporate media-inspired publicity stunt on Tax Day 2009?

Whether they realize the historical significance of the original anti-tax Tea Party movement, a smattering of disgruntled voters across the country identify with the idea that they are being taxed, but the government does not represent them. On some level I agree that what is best for the American people is often lost once lobbyists get involved in legislation. I believe that our state and federal governments are controlled by multi-national corporations--not the people-- and that this trend toward corporatism could get worse, thanks to the Supreme Court's recent ruling.

We all know that campaigns are run with money. How is the Tea Party funded? According to National Public Radio, the national Tea Party is setting up a fund raising structure. The party is forming the Ensuring Liberty Corp., a tax-exempt 501(c)(4) and the Ensuring Liberty Political Action Committee.

Ironically, Tea Party organizer Mark Sokda told the attendees at the recent Tea Party convention that the fundraising would be totally transparent, but according to NPR, 501(c)(4) organizations like the Ensuring Liberty Corp. "can raise as much money as it can get-- no limits-- from wealthy donors and from corporations. And there's no disclosure."

This does not sound transparent; it sounds ominous. Multi-national corporations have a history of funding conservative organizations with warm-and-fuzzy names like Americans for Prosperity and FreedomWorks. Will the Tea Party become a mechanism for corporations to further control government? After all, the Tea Party's original event was heavily promoted by the country's most conservative corporate media outlet.

On the local level, the Tucson Tea Party's very sophisticated website rails against the Democratic-controlled City Council on the main page, but the "about" page focuses on anger over the corporate bailouts and gives no information about their funding.

Ironically, the big corporations that received these bailouts may be secretly funding the "grassroots" Tea Party movement in the future.

This article originally appeared in my Progressive Examiner column.

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