Tea Party Leader Launches PAC To Back Small-Government Candidates

November 10, 2009 8:20 am

A leading Tea Party activist is launching a political action committee to back candidates who run on a limited-government platform — perhaps the most serious effort yet to to channel the Tea Partiers’ grassroots energy toward electoral politics.

Eric Odom, a conservative online organizer who played a key role in sparking the original Tea Party movement this spring, is unveiling Liberty First PAC. The goal, said Odom in an interview with TPMmuckraker, is to raise $1 million to defeat incumbents who supported health-care reform — which he called “very dangerous to the fabric of this country” — and to elect a new crop of lawmakers committed to small-government principles in 2010.Odom said that the PAC would soon get involved in a race that has already been mentioned as a likely focus of conservative grassroots energy — by endorsing the conservative Marco Rubio over the more moderate Charlie Crist in the GOP primary for Florida governor. And Odom added that had the PAC existed, it would have gotten involved in the recent NY-23 primary, in support of conservative Doug Hoffman.

Odom pointed to MoveOn.org, which had early success targeting key electoral contests as a model for Liberty First. And he suggested that Tea Partiers had erred by focusing only on mobilizing grassroots pressure, and not getting actively involved in elections until now. “We think the Tea Party movement has lacked the initiative to get involved in the campaign side of politics,” said Odom.

He doesn’t seem to be the only one who’s coming to that conclusion. Many of the Tea Partiers at the recent Capitol rally against health-care reform appeared to have their sights set on 2010. And a Tea Party activist has said he will challenge Rep. Pete Sessions, a GOP leader and no moderate, in a Republican primary next year. But Odom’s new PAC seems to be the most organized effort yet get the Tea Partiers into the electoral politics game.

Odom said the PAC would not support incumbents of either party, and had harsh words for the GOPers currently in Washington. “Republicans had eight years to step up to the plate and push through a conservative agenda,” he said. “Most of the Tea Party activists don’t see a difference between most of the Republicans and the Democrats.” He added that he hadn’t been in touch with the RNC or any organized Republican group in connection to the new PAC.

In a message announcing the launch of Liberty First PAC, which was subsequently posted on the Tea Party Patriots site, Odom wrote:

Our mission is simple. We refuse to help any incumbents, and we pledge to work towards defeating any incumbent who voted to support Nancy Pelosi’s dangerous healthcare bill.

Our goal is to:

a) Identify Patriot Candidates and help them run successful campaigns against power hungry politicians

b) Build a national educational media campaign to help the general electorate understand what our government is attempting to do to us.

Last February Odom played a central role in publicizing Rick Santelli’s famous rant online, and in organizing the first “Tax Day Tea Party” on Tax Day this year — another of which is planned for next April. He’s not involved with the Tea Party Patriots — the group that has provided much of the grassroots muscle for the Tea Party movement — though he said he’s friendly with TPP leaders.

Odom said his work on the Tax Day Tea Parties had given Liberty PAC a base of 40-50,000 supporters, from which it would seek to grow. In the 24 hours since it went live, the PAC’s website has taken in $10,000, and has pledges of another $60,000, he said.

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