WASHINGTON -- East Coast Democrats aren't the only ones annoyed by Arizona's official Tea Party license plates -- the Arizona Tea Party is too.
In a statement released Friday by a coalition of local Tea Party groups, the limited government advocates say the plates are exactly the kind of government overreach they oppose.
"The very foundation of the Tea Party Movement stresses the importance of less government, not more, and we will not compromise this principle to justify requests and acceptance of monies generated by a state governmental agency," the groups said.
The Arizona law charges $25 for the Tea Party plates, which bear the slogan "Don't Tread on Me." The law requires the state to give out $17 from each fee to Tea Party groups.
The statement did not single out the law's sponsor, state Sen. Don Shooter (R-Yuma), but it did say the measure was compromising the fundamental Constitutional principles the Tea Party groups hold at their core -- and prompting internal fights over the propriety of taking government-raised money.
"Arizona’s tea partiers understand, recognize, and fully appreciate that the bill was well-intentioned, but its unintentional consequences has created unnecessary divisiveness among Arizona Tea Parties, and have subjected Arizona Tea Parties to unfounded scrutiny questioning our commitment and adherence to the foundational principles of the Tea Party Movement," said Annette McHugh, Arizona State Coordinator for Tea Party Patriots. "We want less government, not more."
The groups' statement further adds:
The Arizona Tea Party Patriots Association with the support of the Tea Party Patriots, asserts opposition, in principle, to government involvement in fundraising for, and oversight of, local tea party organizations or other private entities. These actions put Tea Parties at great risk of becoming dependent upon government generated funds to promote and educate others of U.S. Constitutional laws and principles, as opposed to being self-reliant upon ourselves to generate money to promote and grow our memberships. Self-reliancy is the basis for Free Markets, another foundational principle of the Tea Party Movement. We remain committed to reigning in government—and oppose its' expansion in creating another agency, or voluntary Tea Party committee overseen by, and accountable to, the government.
News of the plates attracted some negative attention around the country, with New York Democratic Rep. Gary Ackerman even offering a bill to ban such license plate laws called the "License Plate Political Slush Fund Prevention Act."
It's not clear what will happen to the license plate program, which is now law. And while the Tea Party groups may spurn state government money, it's a decent bet many Tea Party supporters will get the plates for pickups.
"We like the plate but oppose government involvement,” said Vera Anderson, founder and leader of the Daisy Mountain Tea Party Patriots in Anthem, Ariz.