Former Tea Party Patriots leader describes group’s internal turmoil

Tea Party Patriots co-founder Mark Meckler told The Daily Caller that he resigned his leadership position with the grassroots organization last week out of frustration with how money is being spent and how closely the group has aligned itself with Republicans.

Tea Party Patriots (TPP) officials say they’re a coalition of more than 3,400 local tea party groups made up of more than 15 million members.

In an interview, Meckler — a well-known figure in the movement — cited, as an example, how Tea Party Patriots spent $250,000 to sponsor the Southern Republican Leadership Conference presidential debate in South Carolina this year.

“That bothered me on a lot of levels,” he said.

In an email obtained by TheDC, Meckler told the group’s board of directors last week that the expenditure was “a colossal waste, which served to foster the narrative that TPP is a tool of the Republican Party, while providing minimal [public relations] value at best.”

Speaking by phone from California this week, Meckler said he fought against spending the money on the GOP debate during the conference in Charleston for several reasons, including a poll that says 40 percent of people who self-identify as part of the tea party movement do not consider themselves Republicans.

“What happens when you sponsor a Republican debate and you try to explain to your friends who are Democratic tea partiers or independents that we’re not Republican? It doesn’t fly anymore,” he said.

He also made the case that $250,000 could have been better spent to further the tea party cause. (RELATED: Full coverage of the tea party movement

“I can’t even describe to you how much good that amount of money can do on the ground across the country,” Meckler said, suggesting that giving 25 local tea parties $10,000 would have been a better use of those funds.

TheDC first reported Meckler’s departure from the organization on Friday.

Meckler said he has also been at odds with the leadership of the organization “for many, many months” over how it is being run.

“It felt like it had become much more a top down organization,” he said, suggesting that the coordinators were not keeping with its mission of being led by the grassroots.

Meckler said the group has raised millions since its founding, and yet “very little of that money flows through to local chapters.”

He also said the decision to spend the $250,000 during the Southern Republican Leadership Conference was made by the board against his protests. “I’ve been making the argument against the big spending for a long time,” he said.

Meckler said his fellow co-founder and national coordinator, Jenny Beth Martin, felt differently than he did on these issues. As recently as just more than a week ago, the duo were doing TV appearances together to promote their book, and Meckler said there isn’t bad blood between them.