According to the Las Vegas hotel that was supposed to play host to the second national tea party convention, the much-hyped event has been canceled. Organizers of the convention haven’t returned my calls, but grassroots tea party leaders I talked to today said that they haven’t heard a word about the convention in awhile — and Nevada leaders told me that if the event is canceled, good riddance.
If the convention really is off, the loss of the event will stand as the third high-profile tea party organizing fail in a month. With the election rapidly approaching, the failure of the LibertyXPO in DC this month, the second DC 9/12 rally and now the second convention suggest those that hope to leverage the movement for big, nationally-covered productions may have tapped out the tea party grassroots.
The evidence is certainly mounting that the convention — which was moved from its original July date to October 14 earlier this year — is officially not happening. First, Tea Party Nation, the controversial group that many tea partiers reject as a fake, has removed all reference to the event from its website (see a cached version of the page here to get a look at the convention’s former prominence on the site.) When I called the Mirage, the hotel where the convention was supposed to take place, the sales office told me the event was canceled last week.
Judson Phillips, Tea Party Nation spokesperson and the organizer of the event, didn’t answer his cell phone when I called. Mark Scuda, the Memphis, Tennessee tea party leader who helped organize the first convention in Nashville, told me he’s not involved in organizing the Vegas convention and didn’t know if it was happening or not.[TPM SLIDESHOW: Tea Partiers Storm DC For Second (And Smaller) 9/12 Rally]
Shelia Danish, head of a statewide Nevada Tea Party group that planned to boycott and publicly protest the convention over concerns with TPN’s legitimacy, told me that she “cannot find anything that says that convention is still on.”
Danish and her allies have already scared Phillips and the convention off once before, they say, and they said its possible the grassroots opposition to the convention in Nevada may have shut down the convention entirely this time. Sharron Angle, tea party megastar and Nevada’s Republican nominee for Senate, was listed as the keynote speaker when the Vegas convention was first announced. After pressure from Danish and other concerned tea partiers on the ground in Nevada, they say, Angle — presumably the biggest draw at the event — was reconsidering her speaking slot.
“Phillips knew we were planning another boycott and Sharron Angle’s camp was advised to pull out,” Danish told me.
Danish is not the first local activist to push back against national tea party organizers lately. The LibertyXPO, which was billed as the largest political organizing event in the movement’s history failed miserably when no one bothered to show up when it kicked off in DC Sept. 10. As Mother Jones‘ Stephanie Mencimer reported, “organizers were still begging for $40,000 to help pay for the event” as the XPO got underway. Two days later, marchers at the poorly-attended second 9/12 rally in DC went after Glenn Beck for using up tea party travel money on his Aug. 28 rally to himself.
Nevada tea party organizer Anthony Warren said that he will not mourn the loss of the Tea Party Nation convention if it is indeed canceled for good.
“Philips is the man who said he will ‘make a million dollars off the Tea Party.’ We object to him, his wife and any organization connected to him legally,” Warren said. He added that the cancellation of the event is “a very sad victory,” but “moral” one for tea partiers angry at Phillips and his profiteering.
“The money that would have ended-up in Philips pocket can now be used for better causes and candidates,” Warren said.