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Wednesday, 07 April 2010 04:33

Will Michael Steele's Smarmy Fundraising Light the Fuse of the Tea Party's 'Money Bomb'?

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BUZZFLASH NEWS ANALYSIS
by Meg White

You'd think after being portrayed as at least tangentially involved in the intimidation and threats of violence against members of Congress over the healthcare bill, tea party organizers would tone down the rhetoric and try to make the practical first birthday of the movement less inflammatory than in recent weeks.

So what's their latest plan for fundraising over the Tax Day holiday? I kid you not, they're promoting a Great Patriot Money Bomb. Basically, a nonpartisan (really?) group of tea party activists have put together a list of bona fide tea party candidates (or as they call themselves "constitutional conservatives") and linked them all together on one fundraising page.

I suppose they're hoping this effort will be more successful than the Republican National Committee's campaign to set ablaze fire House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (though the campaign has raised a fat $1.5 million for the GOP, there's little doubt that Pelosi will retain her seat).

It does bear mention that Liberty Candidates' Photoshop abilities don't come close to the slick imagery of GOP.com surrounding Pelosi in flames -- a shocking number of candidate pictures are very shoddy cut-and-paste jobs of a candidate's photo on top of the American flag (as you can see from the few I've scattered into this piece). But the passion is all there.

The time period of the money bomb is from midnight on Tax Day to April 18 (the anniversary of Paul Revere's famous ride). The idea is for tea partiers who are all jazzed up following the April 15 protests to have a place to go spend their money other than the local Gadsden flag emporium. The site's creators are no doubt hoping that when protesters ask Tax Day tea party speakers what they can do to get involved, they are directed to this site. 

Questionable imagery aside, it's a very smart idea. Lesser-known liberal candidates have found grassroots fundraising success (and a certain amount of outside-the beltway street cred) online in ActBlue.com since back in 2004. And considering the RNC's apparent inability to move away from courting the bulging pockets of corporate executives with strip club outings, small-scale campaign contributions from the right have to go somewhere.

Candidates who wish to be considered for the fundraiser must abide by five principles:  individual liberty, constitutional government, sound money, free markets, and a noninterventionist foreign policy. On the campaign's website, this translates into the notion that the "recovery should be left to the free market," the federal government should not restrict personal liberty beyond what is explicitly laid out in the constitution, foreign policy should be limited to commerce, the Federal Reserve Bank should be dismantled, gun rights should be strengthened, and increased use of domestic oil, coal, gas and nuclear energy.

If you agree with the above, all you need in order to be considered is to say so in a short survey, have a website and a picture. (Oh and if you don't happen to have a website, the vice president of Liberty Candidates, Sally O'Boyle, would be happy to charge you to make one. She can also make you a logo and create your very own online store -- "your profit is low, but it's all yours," she notes.)

Though Liberty Candidates is attempting to make this a "nonpartisan clearinghouse" for tea party candidates, the ideological checklist sounds a lot like the Republican purity test proposed by the RNC late last year. While the Liberty Candidates' checklist is covered by the purity test, the GOP added in a few non-liberty items, such as retaining the defense of marriage act (don't think that one's in the Constitution, guys) and some decidedly interventionist plans in Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran and North Korea.

Liberty Candidates will have none of that. Indeed, on their front page the group posts something of a warning to the RNC:

It is critical that Liberty Candidates be separated from neo-con Republicans, "Tea-o-cons" and others who would attempt to hijack the Liberty Candidates movement!

Tea-o-cons, huh? That's a new one for me. Will elected constitutional conseratives be Tea-presentatives of the people? Could Marco Rubio become Florida's Tea-nator?

In all seriousness though, this might be the tea party's best chance at electoral legitimacy. The GOP seems intent on out-crazying the crazies, so Republicans are increasingly unable to claim the upper hand in restrain or sanity on the right. While they love the tea party's anger at the status quo, Republicans can't seem to grasp the importance of the tea party's pockets, perhaps because they're not as deep as the pockets they're used to reaching into.

But, when large crowds are necessary, the tea party and the GOP will always have their collective willingness to rely upon the vague suggestion of violence to unite them.

So while the mainstream media plays up Steele's follies as a coup for the Democratic Party, be wary that the tea party may be raising more than hell. After all, who needs lesbian-themed bondage clubs and Photoshopped flames when you've got the American flag (however pixelated) backing you?

BUZZFLASH NEWS ANALYSIS