Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele is meeting with 50 Tea Party activists in Washington, DC today, but there's some dissent over whether these people are actually legitimate tea partiers.
"We don't have any idea who these 50 people are," said Robin Stublen, who runs the Punta Gorda Tea Party in Punta Gorda, Florida. "Last night on a national conference call [organized by the national group Tea Party Patriots] with over 100 people on it, let's say the reception was not good."
Another leader from Florida sent a letter to Steele last week insisting that the Tea Partiers who sought his audience were in fact impostors, unconnected to the movement.
Some of the criticism hints at a central facet of the Tea Party movement: it's decentralized. Things tend to happen via word of mouth, and segments of the movement aren't necessarily aware of what's going on in other segments. Some of it, meanwhile, hints at an ongoing power struggle over who gets to be considered part of the real "Tea Party" movement.
Today's meeting is reportedly being organized by Karin Hoffman, founder of DC Works For Us, and she's been referred to as a South Florida Tea Party leader in news reports. But Everett Wilkinson, who leads the group that is officially called the South Florida Tea Party, questions whether she's actually connected to the movement.
Wilkinson protests not only her meeting with Steele, but the fact that she's being referred to in the press as a "South Florida Tea Party leader"--a mantle which, he insists, belongs to his group alone.
Wilkinson sent the following letter to Steele last week, protesting the meeting and insisting that Hoffman is not part of the Tea Party movement:
Mr. Michael Steele
Republican National Committee
310 First Street, SE
Washington, DC 20003
Dear Mr. Steele:
I am the Florida State Coordinator for Tea Party Patriots. You can verify my name and title by going to teapartypatriots.org - Florida or by searching "Everett Wilkinson Tea Party" on Google. Please feel free to add additional news sources such as "foxnews" "politico" or "newsmax" on your Google search to further verify.
An individual, Karin Hoffman, has been representing herself as a tea party/grassroots leader and set up a meeting Chairman Steele for the 16th. Karin Hoffman has website called "DCWorksForUs.com" and group of approximately 120 people that meet in Coral Springs, FL. Let this serve as a notice that she is not part of the tea party movement and is misleading/misrepresenting herself to you as a tea party leader.
This is a free country and I am not telling you to meet with anyone. However, if the RNC, Mr. Steele, or Mrs. Hoffman represents this as a "tea party meeting" I will be forced to make statements to the press and public denying such claims. This would not be the first time I had to fight to keep the tea party from being "hijacked." Please feel free to contact the RGA, Gov. Sandford or Perry regarding an earlier incident (http://newsmax.com/Newsfront/tea-parties-perry-sanford/2009/05/14/id/330122). We will not allow our movement to be "hijacked" by any individual or political party.
I am a registered Republican, but feel firmly that the tea party movement needs to be kept outside of the Republican Party. Please help us by not involving the GOP in the tea party. Together we can take America back!
Please feel free to contact Jenny Beth Martin ([email address]) or Mark Meckler ([email address]) if you would like to have another meeting with the tea party movement.
National Leadership Council - Tea Party Patriots
Florida State Coordinator - Tea Party Party Patriots
Chairman - South Florida Tea Party
Wilkinson received the following response from the RNC, stating that Steele had been notified of his letter:
From: Info Services Temp <email@example.com>
Date: Thu, Feb 11, 2010 at 5:36 PM
Subject: Thank you for your thoughts and comments
To: Everett Wilkinson <[email address]>
Thank you for contacting the Republican National Committee. We certainly
appreciated your email, and will include your thoughts in our report to
the Chairman. Please do not hesitate to contact us in the future with
any of your thoughts, opinions or observations.
Office of Constituent Services
Republican National Committee