July 19th, 2010
12:06 PM ET
12 years ago

What's the Tea Party Express?

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/07/19/art.tpesign0719.gi.jpg caption="The Tea Party Express has become a major player in Republican politics."]
Washington (CNN) - The National Tea Party Federation, which seeks to represent the Tea Party political movement around the country, has expelled the Tea Party Express because of an inflammatory blog post its leader, Mark Williams, wrote last week responding to criticism from the NAACP.

Williams' blog post satirized a fictional letter from what he called "Colored People" to President Abraham Lincoln.

Even before this current controversy, the group was criticized by some within the Tea Party movement for being run by Republican consultants and for trying to influence GOP primaries far from its base in Sacramento, California.

CNN Deputy Political Director Paul Steinhauser sums up the Tea Party Express and its place in the larger Tea Party movement:

High profile: The Tea Party Express is one of the best-known groups in the movement because of its three high-profile bus caravans and rallies. Sarah Palin spoke at the beginning of its third caravan, which began in Searchlight, Nevada, and its next-to-the-last stop in Boston, Massachusetts, before it ended with a Tax Day rally in Washington.

Political impact: The Tea Party Express has become a major player in Republican politics, spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on ads for Republican Senate candidate Scott Brown in Massachusetts who upset Democrat Martha Coakley to fill the late Sen. Ted Kennedy's seat.

More recently, the organization helped little-known Sharron Angle win the Republican primary in Nevada to face Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, endorsing her and spending about a half-million dollars on ads for her. The organization says it plans to spend more to help her get elected.

The group also targeted incumbent Sen. Bob Bennett in Utah for his vote on the Troubled Assets Recovery Program and helped defeat his bid for a fourth term. It then backed underdog Mike Lee's successful primary campaign and Lee now appears to be a shoo-in to win the general election in November and join
the Senate next year.

Political action: The group runs the "Our Country Deserves Better PAC-Tea Party Express.org" political action committee, which was formed in 2008 to help raise money to oppose presidential candidate Barack Obama. It was created by Republican political consultant Joe Wierzbicki, who appears to have come up with the original Tea Party Express cross-country caravan.

What's next?: The Tea Party Express is targeting GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski in Alaska and has endorsed her little-know primary challenger Joe Miller. It plans a Monday event to announce its support.

soundoff (78 Responses)
  1. KLK

    Ever notice how the slower traffic always keeps right?

    July 19, 2010 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  2. Debbie from Arizona

    The Tea Party, like the rest of the Republican Party can't seem to decide exactly what they believe. Personally, I hope they keep fighting with each other. The more they move to the extreme right, the less chance the majority of America will support them. Since I am of the Democratic persuasion, I think this is a great thing for our country.

    July 19, 2010 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  3. Steph

    You are the company you keep. Anyone who palls around with Mark Williams is no better than he is. That letter was offensive on so many levels!

    July 19, 2010 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  4. Cody

    It is group of close-minded extremists who, like other similar groups in American history, raise their ugly heads when they feel that their stake in the status quo is threatened. They are reactionay haters who are trying to pass themselves off as "patriots". They will soon pass from the scene.

    July 19, 2010 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  5. felicia

    a bunch of racist pigs

    July 19, 2010 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  6. hal

    If this is what they want to do....all the power to them.

    July 19, 2010 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  7. David

    Everyone needs to understand that the Tea party is being hijacked by the neo-con Republicans (the ones represented by Cheney/Rush/Beck/Palin). These are the GOP sellouts to the military-industrial complex.

    July 19, 2010 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  8. Living in America

    Excuse me. Even if the Democrats lost the Kennedy seat to Scott Brown President Obama still got his health care reform bill passed. So it goes to show that he was not as important as he thought he was. He always look as if he is getting ready to cry about something each time I see him. How are they going to organize a campaign when they can't even organize themselves.

    July 19, 2010 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  9. GL

    What is next for them is the beginning to an end of this racist group.

    July 19, 2010 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  10. Jeff

    Love the Tea Party signs. One could read it as Vote the Tea Party Out. Gotta love that message!!!

    July 19, 2010 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  11. Jimmy

    Anyone painting over their faces with makeup while holding up Racist Effigies is a threat to the fabric & moral standing of this country. To blast an elected President because of his race only shows that the laws that were fought & died for during the 60's Civil Rights movement must continue to refortify itself to protect the interest of those that don't have the means to protect themselves from repression. Why one race, that holds the cards in this economy, has to sucumb to ignorance of accepting this country on the basis of freedom for all, not just one race.

    The Tea Party has followers painting their faces so no to be seen by television camers or photographers to a national audience. They learned from the 1960's, that once you become a public portrait of hate, your future is marked forever. Tea Party activists are cowards and will eventually implode from within.

    July 19, 2010 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  12. Texas Doc

    A leopard can't change his spots. You can call it whatever you like, but anything remotely related to the Tea Party is inherently racist and could even be construed as domestic terrorism. Any of which has no place in 21st Century American politics. The Tea Party is an abomination and reflects the ugly side of American culture/politics. The world already had a Nazi party, we don't need another one.

    July 19, 2010 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  13. nowar

    i am a white, middle-income working man who sees the tea party for what it is....a racist, elitist organization. they have strayed from their initial roots to become a media tool for the republican party. what a shame, and shame on those who let the hate build and who subscribe to it, within this movement. they rallied in my city, but only in the most affluent community....again.

    drill, baby, drill.

    July 19, 2010 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  14. carrie

    When you see people walking around with racist signs and see people interviewed on local TV say racist things ....its pretty clear who is a racist or what group promotes it , when the express came through my town many kooks turned out with racist signs and were applauded! So my conclusion was that they promoted and condoned racism . And I wanted no part of it!


    July 19, 2010 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  15. hwy9

    I love it when a group funded by the GOP actually ends up eating the GOP.

    July 19, 2010 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  16. Tayo

    So, what next?

    July 19, 2010 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  17. rdepontb

    The more of its members' money Tea Party Express spends on fringe issues and candidates with little chance of survival, the better it is for their opponents, be they Democrats or incumbent Republicans. Go ahead–spend yourselves even sillier!

    July 19, 2010 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  18. George Guadiane - Austerlitz, NY

    "What's the Tea Party Express?"
    A bunch of (mostly) disenfranchised tin foil hat wearing birthers with little to no understanding of the constitution or government, in general.

    July 19, 2010 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  19. dAvid, CA

    What's the Tea Party?

    A cynical attempt by the GOP at rebranding and rebuilding their image as a party of grassroots Washington outsiders.

    July 19, 2010 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  20. Jilli

    Who are they? they're loud mouthed republicans being lead by their noses by lobbyists and big money industry folks who will screw them at every opportunity. They're morons.

    They have nothing positive to offer. No solutions, just complaints.

    You can have the whole brain dead lot of them.

    July 19, 2010 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  21. Don

    I don't think that treating other groups of people like dirt is the way to go; what comes around may smack you really hard! Let's all do away with racism, discrimination, and hatred; maybe, we can truly act like family! Is that all that hard to understand? Stop stratifying and treat your neighbors with respect, love, and dignity-despite religion, race, sex, financial status, education, and other history. We are all better than that; America doesn't have to lag behind other countries in that respect!

    July 19, 2010 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  22. Rob Johnson

    The sign pictured in the graphic for this story offers one hint who the Tea Party Express is.

    "Just Vote Them Out!" it reads. Don't think about the issues, don't ask yourself if we are better off with loons like Sharron Angle in charge, just vote them out. That is the level of intellectual discourse you are hearing from the Tea Party.

    Anger over the status quo, however legitimate, does not in itself consitute a coherent political philosophy.

    July 19, 2010 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  23. Ron in california

    The Tea party needs to get back to it's roots. We've got to counter the assualt on our country by the left wing. Bring America back to the center where the vast majority of Americans are politically. America is now on a very slippery slope to becoming a second rate country instead of the world's only superpower. Obama and the Dems are wrong headed in most of the things they are doing. While the country wasn't perfect before Obama and the current Congress, it was at least still moving forward. The current Administrations move to collectiveism is counter to America's ideal of individual freedom to excel or fail based upon your own energy and initiaitive. Vote them out in November.

    July 19, 2010 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  24. Henry Miller, Libertarian

    The Republican Party of 2010 has drifted–or has been dragged–a long way from its roots. Once upon a time, the party really did stand for fiscal restraint , respect for the rights of individuals, and a foreign policy the objective of which was the defence of the country rather than the waging of ideological warfare.

    The modern Republican Party has repudiated all three of those principles and, it looks to me, like, to a large extent, the Tea Parties represent the effort of a lot of (former) Republicans to drag the party back to common sense. That's why, in addition to the expected targeting the profligates of the Democratic Party, the Tea Parties target with equal enthusiasm "Republicans" who've betrayed the original Republican principle of fiscal restraint.

    July 19, 2010 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  25. Don

    Good move. I believe that the Tea Party movement actually has some good talking-points, but they seldom get heard, b/c of the infiltration of rank racisist remarks such as those espoused by Mr. Williams. In effect, he is denying freedom of speech to the Tea Party movement by injecting race-baiting, and if the movement wants its talking points to be heard by the broader populace, it has no alternative but to divorce itself from racism and bigotry–unless, of course, that IS their message. In that case, they don't deserve to be taken seriously, and all of their ideas, including some of their legitimate ones, will be relegated to the dust-bin of history.

    July 19, 2010 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
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