Party Foul! Tea Partiers Eat Their Own In Bitter Internal Feud

November 12, 2009 12:08 p.m.

The Tea Party movement is being ripped apart by bitter internal rancor, highlighted by a lawsuit against a former leader, vituperative name-calling, and charges of financial mismanagement and corruption.

As we told you this morning, board members for the Tea Party Patriots (TPP) this week filed suit against Amy Kremer, a former TPP leader who fell out with the group over her involvement with a rival Tea Party faction, the Tea Party Express. And on Tuesday, a judge granted a preliminary injunction, ordering Kremer to return control of the TPP websites to the board, and to stop representing herself as a TPP spokeswoman.But that’s just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the Tea Partiers’ internecine strife. Emails obtained by TPMmuckraker detail how a rogue faction of Tea Party Patriots is lashing out at the board for going ahead with the suit against Kremer, and challenging the board’s financial management, triggering a state of acrimony that appears serious enough to threaten the upstart movement’s ability to continue to mount an effective grassroots challenge to the Obama agenda — just days after the House passed the health-care-reform bill that the Tea Partiers view as socialism.

In an email to fellow TPPers sent Wednesday, Gerald Merits called the lawsuit “the single most insane act of self destruction I have witnessed since this country elected Obama,” and asked “how much donor money is being spent of (sic) suing Amy?”

For the rest of the day, the email list was consumed with charges and counter charges. In response to Merits, Josh Parker, a supporter of the board, wrote: “Amy created a situation where TPP couldn’t do anything BUT sue her, then she goes on with her poor me crap. She brings this on herself and all the rest of us.”

At the root of the dispute is the acrimony between TPP and the Tea Party Express, a newer group formed by a team of GOP consultants. Many TPPers sees TPE as inauthentic, calling it the “Astoturf Express,” and deriding it as a “Republican front organization.” But others — including Merits — have flirted with TPE, apparently out of frustration with the TPP’s sprawling structure and unwieldy decision-making process. On Wednesday, David McKalip, the Florida neurosurgeon and one-time Tea Party Patriot activist, who found himself in hot water after we published an email he sent showing President Obama as a witch doctor — addressed a Tea Party Express rally in Orlando.

In Wednesday’s email exchange, several other TPPers sided with Merits in raising concerns about the lawsuit. And one, Jack Staver, raised a separate charge against the board, suggesting that board members were being insufficiently transparent about the organization’s finances.

Wrote Staver:

How much money does TPP have? How much did we make in DC? Where are the financial statements? Do board members get paid and if so who? Who signs the checks? Where does our money go?

Merits echoed that theme. “Why are the financial records not public knowledge?” he asked. “Show me the money!”

Eventually a Tea Party Patriots loyalist couldn’t take it anymore. “Why are you intentionally trying to destroy this movement??” he demanded.

Charges of lax book-keeping — and worse — appear to be breaking out across the Tea Party movement. In a separate email written Wednesday and obtained by TPMmuckraker, Matt Perdue, the president of a San Antonio Tea Party group, ripped into the group’s treasurer, her husband, and their supporters for conducting a “mass redirection campaign,” apparently to line their own pockets using Tea Party donations.

“Where has all this money gone?” asks Perdue. “If there is nothing wrong going on, why has there not been one single piece of paper produced to back up why people got checks, some for $3,000, $7,400+, $4,000, $10,400+??? Where is the documentation? Why isn’t the cash deposited like it should be? Why did it take more than two weeks to deposit cash from the meetings?”

Meanwhile, other Tea Party factions are trying to distance themselves from the dispute between Kremer and TPP — and position themselves to benefit. Darla Dawald, the leader of the Patriotic Resistance, a far-right grassroots group, wrote in a message on the TPP email list that her organization has “not supported any lawsuit or fighting … but I felt obligated to inform our base what is happening so that you could make an educated decision about your support of the Group called the Tea Party Patriots.” Dawald has been a key participant in the bus tour organized by the Tea Party Express — an effort shunned by TPP.

And Eric Odom, the founder of the Tax Day Tea Party events, wrote in his own message that the acrimony “presents a dangerous situation for the movement as a whole,” and urged TPPers to return to “defeating the socialist thugs who seek to destroy our country, not fellow patriots who seek to stop them.” We reported that Odom this week launched a political action committee designed to channel Tea Party activism toward an electoral goal.

As Wednesday wore on, the TPP internal email list degenerated into name-calling, sarcasm, and personal attacks. “Jack, you REALLY look clueless right now,” Parker wrote to Staver at one point. Parker also ripped Merits for “your usual pissing and moaning without knowing nothing.” And Staver deemed Parker “not worthy of a response.”

Some TPPers expressed concern that the acrimony could damage the movement if exposed. “Daily Kos and other left wing interest groups are going to love running with this story,” wrote one.

Merits appeared to share that concern. “This will go public if we let it drag on long enough and if you don’t think this will have a chilling effect on all Tea Party movements raising funds you are living in a world of fairy dust and gingerbread houses,” he wrote. “Read my previous emails. If this goes on long enough, we all go down – NOT just TPP and TPE – ALL OF US.”

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