Posts Tagged Tea Party

Angela Giron, IRS Beneficiary

Well, what do we have here?

Colroado State Senator Angela Giron (D-Pueblo), facing a recall from voters in her district over her gun control votes in this year’s state legislature, has gotten considerably monetary help from outside sources in her bid to stay in office, the Pueblo Chieftain reports:

Giron, a Pueblo Democrat, is the target of a recall drive by Pueblo-area gun rights supporters and Republicans. Her defense campaign, called Puebloans for Angela, received a $35,000 contribution from the Sixteen Thirty Fund in Washington; a $20,000 contribution from a Denver organization called Citizens for Integrity; and a $15,000 contribution from a Denver group called Mainstream Colorado. (emphasis added – ed.)

The Sixteen Thirty Fund has been organized as a 501(c)4 since Feb. 16 of 2009 (we wonder how long it had to wait for IRS approval), according to its 2009 IRS Form 990, and its mission, as state on Page 2 of that documents is:

Sixteen Thirty Fund operates exclusively for the purpose of promoting social welfare, including, but not limited to, providing public education on and conducting advocacy regarding progressive policies.

The fund operated as a collector and distributor of over $3.3 million for various left-wing causes during 2009, including $52,000 to our very own Progress Now here in Colorado.  It won’t come as any surprise that most of those groups, including ones that are clearly political organizations, are also organized as 501(c)4s.

Now, I don’t have any problem with these or any other groups organizing as 501(c)4s, if the law allows that.  But it’s telling that Democrats have decided to turn the various IRS hearings into a trial of the tax law, one which they were perfectly happy to take full advantage of as long as the other side didn’t.  Having kept Tea Party, conservative, and libertarian groups on the sidelines through two election cycles, they can now afford to be outraged at unfair treatment, and call for a revision of the law.

And of course, there’s this, from Senate President John Morse, fighting his own recall battle:


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Anonymity Matters

During the IRS hearings, a recurring Democrat theme was that the IRS’s interpretation of 501(c)4 status, combined with the Citizens United ruling opened the door to political corruption by allowing – gasp! – anonymous political speech.  The argument, of course, is that you need to discount the speech based on the speaker.

This claim ignores the fact that there’s nothing inherently corrupt about anonymous speech, or in the Supreme Court’s interpretation, the anonymous funding of speech.  As many have pointed out, anonymous speech on substantive, even existential, political issues goes back to the founding days of the Republic.  The most famous example is the Federalist Papers, but even if you accept the notion that people didn’t know who Publius was the way that people today don’t know who Richard Bachman is, there are other contemporaneous examples.  Pauline Maier, in her fine survey of the Constitution’s ratification, Ratification, cites numerous anonymous anti-federalist writers, including a few that historians still haven’t been able to identify.

Unfortunately, for Democrats, a lack of anonymity is a feature, not a bug.  Via Instapundit, Kim Strassel’s column in today’s Wall Street Journal explains why:

In early August 2008, the New York Times trumpeted the creation of a left-wing group (a 501(c)4) called Accountable America. Founded by Obama supporter and liberal activist Tom Mattzie, the group—as the story explained—would start by sending “warning” letters to 10,000 GOP donors, “hoping to create a chilling effect that will dry up contributions.” The letters would alert “right-wing groups to a variety of potential dangers, including legal trouble, public exposure and watchdog groups digging through their lives.” As Mr. Mattzie told Mother Jones: “We’re going to put them at risk.” (emphasis added)

In an perfect example of blaming the victim, some Democrats would like to change the story from one of Democratic corruption of the IRS to the imaginary corruption of the political process by the Tea Party groups who found themselves on the wrong end of a partisan IRS proctological examination.

The Democrats argued that the sole purpose of claiming 501(c)4 status rather than forming a 527 was to keep donor lists secret.  There’s absolutely no evidence that this is true, but given Mattzie’s manifest intent to make Republican and conservative donors suffer personally for their political speech, could you blame conservative groups if it were?

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How Would You Sell The Tea Party?

Reading Malcolm Gladwell’s What the Dog Saw, I got to his essay, “True Colors: Hair Dye and the Hidden History of Postwar America.”  He argues that the difference between Clairol’s “Does She or Doesn’t She?” and L’Oreal’s “Because I’m Worth It,” is the difference between 1950s and 1970s feminism.  Moreover, even when the two product’s pitches had essentially merged (Gladwell was writing in 1999), their buyer’s different self-images lingered on.   Smart ad men know they’re selling more than a product, they’re selling an experience, or an image.  Sometimes, that image or dream ties into a larger social change or movement, and that that’s both a reflection and an agent of that change:

This notion of household products as psychological furniture is, when you think about it, a radical idea.  When we give an account of how we got to where we are, we’re inclined to credit the philosophical over the physical, and the products of art over the products of commerce…

“Because I’m worth it,” and “Does she or doesn’t she?” were powerful, then, precisely because they were commercials, for commercials come with products attached, and products offer something that songs and poems and political movements and radical ideologies do not, which is an immediate and affordable means of transformation.

Far from trivializing a political, social, or economic movement, commercialization can help make it personal and accessible, and therefore less threatening and more familiar.

We’ve seen a couple of Tea Party movies, one explicitly so, (Atlas Shrugged), and one implicitly (Robin Hood).  Thus far, I’m aware of only one commercial that implies a Tea Party presence, the Starbucks commercial with the angry old loner who yells at town halls, which would be a bit like L’Oreal selling “Because I’m worth it” using Nurse Ratchet or Gloria Steinem, who quickly became a caricature of herself.

It may be that we have to wait until the Tea Party sees more success, in winning hearts and minds if not yet national elections, before companies are willing to bet their products’ success on its messaging. But just as feminism succeeded in making the political personal (and more destructively, the personal political), and as environmentalism succeeded in making small actions and then products green, the Tea Party might get farther by doing something similar for its own themes.

It’s not wise to choose your political message based on the products it might sell, but certain themes will sell better than others.  We can search forever in the tall grass of social history to discover how much of feminism’s public appeal was based on opportunity, and how much drew from raging against The Patriarchy, but there’s no question that positive sells.  Ilon Specht may have been angry when she wrote, “Because I’m worth it,” but the slogan expresses liberation, not anger.

To be sure, it faces some hurdles in doing this.  If the theme is fiscal responsibility, most families already need to spend less than they make.  If it’s personal liberty, the government’s probably a tougher customer to disobeying rules, tougher than most companies. And to the extent that it dwells on what used to be, rather than what might be, its message is nostalgia, and the only products it will sell are baseball and Coca-Cola.  You want to get people to invite your ideas into their homes, you need to be relevant to how they’re living their lives today, and want to be living them tomorrow.

So, what products do you see as being right for capturing the Tea Party ethos, and allowing people to internalize it?  Which themes are best suited to commercialization?  And what messages should go in their commercials?  How would you write such a commercial?


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