The Tea Party convention slated to begin in Nashville Thursday has drawn a lot of criticism, both from within and without the Tea Party movement, but Sarah Palin still plans to keynote the event--and, in an op-ed published this morning in USA Today, she explained why.
Palin stressed that: 1) she was drawn to the movement by its grassroots vision, 2) the organic and often disparate nature of the movement means disputes are bound to arise, 3) she believes the Tea Party convention offers a valuable thing--a chance for activists to connect, 4) that she made a commitment and she'll honor it, and 5) that she's not going to benefit financially.
"As with all grassroots efforts, the nature of this movement means that sometimes the debates are loud and the organization is messier than that of a polished, controlled machine. Legitimate disagreements take place about tone and tactics. That's OK, because this movement is about bigger things than politics or organizers," Palin wrote.
Some of those disagreements have caused sponsors to pull out from the event. Reps. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) and Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) effectively left Palin stranded as the only marquee name on the event, allegedly because of conflicting information they received from the House ethics committee (according to convention organizers).
Much of the criticism surrounding the event has focused on Palin's speaking fee--rumored, and not publicly denied, to be $100,000--which, along with $549 ticket prices for the weekend event, have turned off some activists.
She wrote in the op-ed, as she's indicated before, that she "will not benefit financially from speaking at this event...any compensation for my appearance will go right back to the cause." Presumably, the check will be written to her, and Palin can use that money however she sees fit--but contribution limits might make it difficult to spend the money politically.
She can only donate $5,000 per calendar year to any PAC, including her own, and she can only donate $2,400 to a federal-office-seeking candidate per election (primary and general each count as one); she could, however, spend the money independently on politically related endeavors, or give money to organizations that aren't filed as PACs with the Federal Election Commission.
Palin signed onto this convention early, and she's standing by the commitment, for better or worse. She also announced that she'll participate in two Tea Party events coming up this spring: the Searchlight, Nevada (Harry Reid's hometown) kickoff of the third Tea Party Express, a bus tour that has drawn criticism from the same segments of the Tea Party movement as has the convention, and a rally in Boston in May--meaning she'll try to cement her alliance with the movement that has supported her thus far.