(Full disclosure: I am a member of the Tea Party Patriots’ support staff.)
On Monday, the Daily Caller published, “The Tea Party needs more transparency” by William Temple. Mr. Temple’s article is a breathless indictment of the $1 million donation recently received by Tea Party Patriots.
Mr. Temple bemoans backroom, intra-tea party bickering and divisiveness while in the same breath charging, without proof, that there is something suspicious about Tea Party Patriots receiving such a large donation.
He questions the size of the donation as well as the exclusivity of the donation, asking:
Why was it all given to Tea Party Patriots, and none to Tea Party Nation, Tea Party Express, Freedom Works, Unite in Action, or any of the other large or small Tea Party organizations, all desperate for contributions, and with them, national prominence. (Who is desperate for national prominence, Mr. Temple?)
In what universe does a donor, when questioned as to why he/she or they gave to one organization and not another, have to justify the decision to anyone? There is nothing nefarious in deciding to donate exclusively to one organization. The donor wanted the funds used in a particular way and determined that Tea Party Patriots was the best organization to execute that plan.
Nor does the decision to donate exclusively to TPP somehow diminish or denigrate other organizations involved in the tea party movement. The tea party movement is not composed of homogenous groups, despite the mainstream media’s best efforts to paint it that way.
I do not know the identity of the donor, but I am reasonably sure the decision to donate specifically to Tea Party Patriots was made after careful, independent study of all the tea party organizations.
Mr. Temple then proceeds to use what would normally be legitimate questions about the grant process to insinuate possible corruption:
Excuse me, which Tea Parties and which get-out-the-vote operations? How can this money be used, and will there be a “transparent” accounting following the election, revealing where it went and who received it? How much will be applied as “administrative costs?”
Allow me to clear up some things for Mr. Temple and then we can all go back to the business of taking out the garbage this November.
Mr. Temple asked if there were strings attached, and honestly, yes, there are two.
The first string stipulates that the grants must go directly to local tea party groups to help them leverage their already existing efforts. These efforts include recruiting for local groups, education and non-partisan, values-based get-out-the-vote efforts. The second string stipulates that the money must not be used for any candidates or their campaigns. All but $10,000 of the money will go to the local groups that are awarded a grant. That $10,000 will be used to administer the grants.
As with grants or scholarships of all kinds, there is an application process in place to make certain (as best we can) that the groups applying for the money are legitimate, grassroots tea party groups. The focus will be on groups that, through experience, TPP knows to be already working and effective.
We did our best to put together a process that is not only transparent and equitable, but one that also allows us to measure and assess outcomes. More than anything else, we want to ensure the accountability and integrity of the grant process so that money is not misused.
The most egregious accusation leveled by Mr. Temple is the one that implies that Tea Party Patriots national coordinator and support teams are not helping individual tea party groups, but are instead trying to “coalesce power for themselves.” He suggests that we treat ourselves like VIPs while demanding sacrifices from members and does not supply any evidence in support of that entirely empty claim. For this, I think Mr. Temple owes Tea Party Patriots an apology.
This response is not meant to chill legitimate criticism or banish people who have questions. In fact, Matt Lewis wrote an article recently on this very subject. Mr. Lewis posited that conservatives and tea partiers must be able to look inward and constructively criticize when it is warranted. We do not need to become another movement or group that refuses to acknowledge and correct our weaknesses and mistakes, confusing conviction with hubris.
Lastly, neither the coordinators nor members of Tea Party Patriots have ever concerned themselves with status or visibility. We are committed to our three core principles of fiscal responsibility, constitutionally limited government, and free markets. And though Mr. Temple’s article was unnecessarily salacious, we will continue to fight the same fight for liberty.