Anatomy of the Tea Party Movement: Tea Party Patriots

Produced by HuffPost's Eyes & Ears Citizen Journalism Unit

The Tea Party Patriots is a nationwide coalition of Tea Party groups, that is the de facto face of the movement.

The local groups it represents may include grassroots activists, but the coalition's backers and organizers are among the nation's most powerful strategists, operatives and financiers. TeaPartyPatriots.org lists two major heavyweights among its partners: FreedomWorks, helmed by former Republican House Majority Leader Dick Armey, and American Solutions for Winning the Future, a 527 group created by former Republican Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich. The American Liberty Alliance is another listed partner.

It makes sense that the American Liberty Alliance would support the Tea Party Patriots as well as American Solutions for Winning the Future. After all, the American Liberty Alliance is simply an outgrowth of the #DontGo movement, a right-wing online advocacy group that worked in conjunction with American Solutions for Winning the Future in 2008 to lobby in favor of off-shore oil drilling. Both #DontGo and American Liberty Alliance were founded by Eric Odom, an online activist and a self-proclaimed founder of the Tea Party movement. One of Odom's fellow Tea Party activists, Amy Kremer, is the founder of the Tea Party Patriots. Ironically, after involving herself in the rival Tea Party Express, Kremer was ousted from the Tea Party Patiorts, which considers the Tea Party Express to be an Astroturf group under the direction of Republican strategists.

The Tea Party Patriots' email listserv is managed by FreedomWorks staffer Tom Gaitens. This summer the listserv distributed a memo (pdf) from a group called Right Principles outlining the best practices for protesters to disrupt Congressional representatives' town hall meetings during the August recess. It included such advice as, "You need to rock the boat early in the Rep's presentation. Watch for an opportunity to yell something out and challenge the Rep's statements early," as well as, "The goal is to rattle him, get him off his prepared script and agenda."

The Tea Party Patriots listserv also distributed a spreadsheet containing a list of over 100 congressional town halls from late July into September. The list was released by Conservatives for Patients' Rights, a group run by Rick Scott, the ex-CEO of Columbia/HCA, the largest private operator of health care facilities in America. Under Scott's stewardship, Columbia/HCA committed extensive Medicare fraud by overbilling state and federal health plans. When caught, the company pleaded guilty and settled the case for $1.7 billion in fines, the largest health care fraud settlement in U.S. history.

American Solutions for Winning the Future is a 527 group that's been on the scene since 2007. Last year ASWF fought to expand offshore drilling with a campaign dubbed "Drill, Baby, Drill." The campaign was supported by members of Congress and Eric Odom, a Sam Adams Alliance staffer who publicized the movement on Twitter via the #DontGo hashtag as well as through a now-defunct website. Last year Gingrich and ASWF lobbied on behalf of the coal industry, advocating for tax breaks for coal companies. Such acts directly benefited Peabody Coal, the world's largest private-sector coal company, which has donated at least $500,000 to ASWF in 2008 and 2009.

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