The “modern” tea party movement is about two and a half years old now. Many who recently became tea party activists are unfamiliar with how it all got started. A big segment of America only views the mainstream media’s version of how it all went down.
This is a topic close to us here at LibertyNews.com. On a more personal level, as a blogger this topic hits home because I was there on day one of the modern movement and I’ve watched the movement unfold every day since.
Before we get to the “Tea Party Conspirators,” let’s go back a bit and look at what really happened. The following is a rough timeline of the 2009 events as they unfolded.
February 19th, 2009: Rick Santelli, an MSNBC editor at the time, called for a “Chicago Tea Party” in a rant aired live on national TV. That evening a group called the “DontGo Movement” sent out an email to several thousand subscribers suggesting such an event actually occur. Other activists began doing the same.
February 20th, 2009: DontGo Movement, Smart Girl Politics, TCOT (top conservatives on twitter) and a handful of regular folks began to host conference calls to discuss a coalition of planners.
February 21-26, 2009: The loose knit coalition planned events in 42 cities, all scheduled for February 27th, 2009. The 42 city event was known as the “Nationwide Chicago Tea Party” and there were no plans at the time to do anything beyond those initial events.
February 27th, 2009: The Nationwide Chicago Tea Party kicked off with some 30,000 Americans attending a rally.
February 28th, 2009: At around 9:00 AM on Saturday, February 28th, 2009, the website www.TaxDayTeaParty.com was launched with a target rally date of April 15th, 2009. The original coalition rejoined to co-organize the April 15th effort.
March 4th, 2009: Michelle Malkin begins heavily promoting the effort and joins as a coalition partner. You can listen to a March 4th Internet radio show with Michelle Malkin by click here.
March 5th to April 14th, 2009: Websites, blogs, wikis (we still have the original planning wiki) and social media networks were used to coordinate the nationwide planning of the Tax Day Tea Party.
Watch the below Fox News clip to see the type of conversations happening a few days before the Historic event.
April 15th, 2009: More than 850 cities were host to a tea party rally. It’s estimated that more than 1,000,000 Americans networked and rallied that day.
Now there is MUCH more that went into this and there is no way we could list everyone involved here. This timeline is accurate and documented in a private wiki that more than 500 organizers used in 2009.
The point is the tea party movement was extraordinarilyÂ spontaneousÂ and 100% grassroots. The Koch Brothers were in no way involved in the very core coalition, nor were any other “national groups” outside of logistical assistance here and there.
Yet, according to the mainstream media (much of it anyway), the Koch Brothers and otherÂ billionairesÂ bankrolled and plotted out the entire movement!
Where did this narrative come from? Big Journalism blows the top off a HUGE tea party conspiracy propped up by two hack “journalists” and fed to the media over the past two and a half years. I highly recommend you read the full piece here.
Ames and co-author Yasha Levine launched the conspiracy theoryâ€“and its twin themes of drug abuse and gay sexâ€“with aÂ blog postÂ (now removed) at Playboy.com in February 2009, entitled: â€œBackstabber: Is Rick Santelli High on Koch?â€ TheyÂ publishedÂ almost exactly the same article at their own site, exiledonline.com, as â€œExposing the Rightwing PR Machine: Is CNBCâ€™s Rick Santelli Sucking Koch?â€
Ames and Levine alleged that Santelliâ€™s famous â€œrant heard around the worldâ€ that inspired the Tea Party movement â€œwas not at all spontaneous as his alleged fans claim, but rather it was a carefully-planned triggerâ€ for an â€œanti-Obama campaign.â€ That campaign, they claimed, had been planned for months before the 2008 election, and funded by â€œthe Koch family, the multibilllionaire owners of the largest private corporation in America, and funders of scores of rightwing thinktanks and advocacy groups.â€
On the same day as Santelliâ€™s rant, February 19, another site called Officialchicagoteaparty.com went live. This site was registered to Eric Odom, who turned out to be a veteran Republican new media operative specializing in imitation-grassroots PR campaigns. Last summer, Odom organized a twitter-led campaign centered around DontGo.com to pressure Congress and Nancy Pelosi to pass the offshore oil drilling bill, something that would greatly benefit Koch Industries, a major player in oil and gas. Now, six months later,Â Odomâ€™s DontGo movementÂ was resurrected to play a central role in promoting the â€œtea partyâ€ movement.
Up until last month, Odom was officially listed as the â€œnew media coordinatorâ€ for the Sam Adams Alliance, a well-funded libertarian activist organization based in Chicago that was set up only recently. Samuel Adams the historical figure was famous for inspiring and leading the Boston Tea Partyâ€”so when the PR people from the Chicago-based Sam Adams Alliance abruptly leave in order to run Santelliâ€™s â€œChicago Tea Party,â€ you know it wasnâ€™t spontaneous. Odom certainly doesnâ€™t want people to know about the link: his name was scrubbed from the Sam Adams Alliance website recently, strongly suggesting that they wanted to cover their tracks. Thanks to google caching, you can see the SAAâ€™s before-afterÂ scrubbing.
Even the Sam Adamsâ€™ January 31 announcement that Odomâ€™s fake-grassroots group was â€œno longer sponsored by the Allianceâ€ was shortly afterwardsÂ scrubbed.
The first sentence presents red flag #1. I have no idea what Ames meant by “imitation-grassroots PR campaigns.” While I had done some political consulting, the extent of my web experience at the time was somewhat limited. I was pretty proficient with blogs and blog networks, but there is no evidence whatsoever that I’ve been a PR guy, or that I’ve set up any sort of fake PR campaign.
With regards to the DontGo Movement, that wasn’t “organized” by anyone. That whole things started as a simple Twitter hashtag (#dontgo) to help Rob Bluey, several bloggers and myself track conversations related to the Republican revolt happening over the energy crises.
We had NO idea that hashtag would explode into a full scale web campaign with some 10,000 people subscribing via email and national media headlines. As was the case with the modern tea party movement, the DontGo effort wasÂ literallyÂ as spontaneous as can be.
Did the DontGo play a central role in the tea party? Yes, but not in the way Ames presents it. The Dontgo Movement was never any sort of “organization” of any kind. It was more a network of activists and an email list. We did move towards eventually forming into some sort of organization, but never got that far.
On February 19th, 2009, I sent an email to the 10,000 subscribers suggesting we do what Rick Santelli had called for and host a Chicago Tea Party. Some of the core activists within the DontGo Movement volunteered to help coordinate the tea party and that was it!
Yes, I was “scrubbed” fromt the Sam Adams Â Alliance website. The reason is that I left the Sam Adams Alliance (my own decision) a few months earlier and was no longer a full time employee. That is a typical practice for any employer as far as I know. I still did some small contract work for SAA at the time all of this went down, but I was not an employee.
Furthermore, the Sam Adams Alliance gets WAY too much credit with tea party involvement in those early days. To set the record straight, the Sam Adams Alliance wanted NOTHING to do with the DontGo Movement back in 2008. Not only did the Sam Adams Alliance back away from DontGo, John Tsarpalas (President of SAA at the time) had actually called me into his office to rebuke me for being involved in such activity.
The Sam Adams Alliance actually went out of its way to avoid controversial efforts such as this. Yet, oddly, always came in after the fact to bask in theÂ unjustifiedÂ credit often wrongfully attributed to them.
With regards to the February 19th effort, John Tsarpalas called me a day or two after and screamed at me for getting involved in the tea party effort without giving him a heads up (remember I was doing contract work for them). This should be clear evidence the Sam Adams Alliance was NOT involved in the core organizing group of the 2009 effort.
Of course, SAA came along a few days later, after realizing there was good media to be had by being involved, and started to get involved. Tsarpalas even to this day pats himself on the back over the tea party movement, even though he originally distanced himself and rebuked my personal involvement.
Needless to say, the hit piece floated by Ames was 100% fabricated and contained no reality whatsover. Yet, its content was used to drive media narratives against the movement that still exist today.
Now you know where all the Koch Brothers nonsense comes from… and now you know how it all really began.
P.S. Amy Kremer, Michael Patrick Leahy, Teri Christoph, Stacy Mott and a handful of others are the true originators. Not any national entity orÂ wealthyÂ donors.