Posted by: Ann Corcoran | October 4, 2010

Maryland’s Tea Party minefield…

….can grassroots activists avoid being co-opted by ruling class Republicans?  I think so!

Readers, don’t get your hopes up by my title!  I don’t have the silver bullet that one might use to keep Tea Partiers safe from the depredations of the establishment MD GOP or those ‘moderate’ Republicans who are seeking to take over Tea Partiers anywhere and everywhere they can.  I’m simply going to throw out some bits of information that might help grassroots Tea Partiers in the Old Line State not die in traversing the minefield.

Is the co-opting already happening in Virginia?

Richard Falknor writing at Blue Ridge Forum suggests that, yes, some of the leaders of some Virginia Tea Party groups may be co-opting the grassroots.  He draws attention to the organizer of the upcoming Virginia convention, Jamie Radtke, as a George Allen fan and former employee who may be helping maneuver her old boss into the best position for another run for higher office while more conservative, Del. Bob Marshall, is relegated to the back seat at this weekend convention in Richmond.   Read all about it here.

Is it too late in Maryland? 

Did the Maryland GOP and specifically Bob Ehrlich already divide and conquer Maryland Tea Party-minded conservatives?

It’s not too late but some inroads have been made.

I have some firsthand experience.  Let me just use the Hagerstown Tea Party, my local Tea Party as an example.  Very early on, Republican moderate Robert Ehrlich (by his own admission no Tea Party fan) came to Hagerstown and lined up support for his yet-to-be-announced campaign for Governor.  One of those he lined up was Neil Parrott, without a doubt the sparkplug of the Hagerstown Tea Party, its originator and still its leader (a decent and well-intentioned conservative whom I support).  Parrott is running for the delegate seat vacated by Chris Shank who recently won the MD Senate seat for this area.  Shank, an avowed conservative, beat RINO Don Munson in a hotly contested primary.

All three, Parrott, Shank and Munson claimed to be Bob Ehrlich supporters and assumed they could win their races on Ehrlich coattails, so when more conservative Brian Murphy entered the picture (actually long time readers know that Murphy was in the picture before Bob Ehrlich), the Tea Party-minded people and the Hagerstown Tea Party especially were effectively neutered by their ‘leader’s’ early support of Ehrlich and were convinced by the MD GOP claim that only a ‘moderate’ could win in Maryland.

From what I hear this same thing happened elsewhere in Maryland with other Tea Parties. 

Beware Americans for Prosperity (Maryland)!

I don’t have the smoking gun on this, but I do believe AFP, a well-funded organization, was set up early to help corral the Tea Party energy in Maryland and steer it to the goals of the establishment Republican Party, establishment candidates and to the gubernatorial campaign of Robert Ehrlich.  

Don’t get me wrong.  If you are a firm believer in the Republican insider notion that Republicans should only focus on fiscal matters and not sully themselves with immigration, national security (particularly Islamic extremism) or social issues, then AFP is for you.   I think the majority of Tea Party activists in the US and Maryland do not want to be kept within that AFP fiscal-issues-only corral. 

Readers should take a minute to have a look at the national AFP’s Form 990 from 2008.  This is a $7.5 million organization whose chairman of the board is David Koch (remember I said it was good, here, to have the Koch brothers money on the conservative side since the Left has the likes of George Soros).   This is not a gathering of independent-minded grassroots folks and just because they bring some money to our side, we don’t need to follow them in lock step.

In a recent column in the Washington Post entitled, ‘Empty chairs at Maryland Tea Party?’ where Post bloggers contend that the Maryland Tea Party is not as strong as Tea Partiers in the surrounding states of Delaware and Virginia, they say this about AFP:

Dave Schwartz, director of the Maryland chapter of Americans for Prosperity, which claims 25,000 in-state members, recently told The Washington Examiner that he thinks the Tea Party is strong in Maryland, and that primary results showed the strength of the conservative element within state politics.

There are at least 30 tea-party affiliated groups in Maryland…

How did we come to the point where AFP is speaking for Maryland Tea Partiers? What 30 groups?  And, where did they get this 25,000 members number?  Back in June, AFP did a series of town hall meetings on fiscal issues facing Maryland.  I told you about the one in Hagerstown here and I suspect they asked established Tea Party groups for their e-mail lists (to announce the upcoming seminars) and thus generated the 25,000 figure from that.  The attendance at the Hagerstown event was sparse and the discussion was simply on fiscal issues—no mention of any of the other red meat issues that fire up Tea Partiers, such as immigration.

As a matter of fact, I began to have my misgivings back in January when AFP organized a “Tea Party” rally in Annapolis and invited consumate insider and open borders advocate Grover Norquist to speak, here.

And then there is Dave Schwartz, head of the Maryland Chapter of AFP which calls itself a Tea Party.  We know he came from the Ehrlich team.  Here, Annie Linskey writing at the Baltimore Sun tells us AFP can’t endorse candidates but its goals are “remarkably similar to Ehrlich’s.”

The state’s largest Tea Party organization, the 23,000-member Americans for Prosperity, is run by a former Ehrlich fundraiser, Dave Schwartz. The group is legally barred from endorsing politicians, so it has not officially weighed in on the governor’s race — or any other contest. But its message is remarkable similar to the one promoted by Ehrlich.

Now check out the very unflattering picture that Joe Steffen paints of Schwartz.  Even if only some of this is true,  does he sound like a Tea Party grassroots sort of guy to you?

If Maryland Tea Partiers are weaker than some other states, I contend its because some of us were corraled early by establishment Republicans associated with Americans for Prosperity among possibly others calling themselves Tea Parties.

So what do we do?

First and foremost, take a lesson from the American Revolution.  KEEP YOUR INDEPENDENCE!

From ‘Paul Revere’s Ride’ by David Hackett Fischer:

“The revolutionary movement in New England had many leaders, but no commander. Nobody was truly in charge.  This was a source of weakness in some ways.  The system was highly inefficient.  Its efforts were scattered and diffuse.  Individuals demanded a reason for acting, before they acted at all.  They wrangled incessantly in congress, conventions, committees and town meetings.  But by those clumsy processes, many autonomous New England minds were enlisted in a common effort—a source of energy, initiative, and intellectual strength for this popular movement.”

Back to our own revolution right here in Maryland.  Read Doug Bittinger’s comment to my post here and read Right Coast Girl here.   I don’t think they are ready to fall in line behind the establishment Republicans and ringleaders at AFP.

Attend the Maryland Society of Patriot’s meeting this Thursday (10/7) where I believe the organizers are still revolutionaries:

 It will be held in the Marilyn J Praisner Library’s large meeting room at 14910 Old Columbia Pike, Burtonsville, MD  20866 (Only 3 miles from MSOP Headquarters).  The meeting will begin at 7:30PM, doors will open at 7.

Contact Sam Hale  for more information.

Readers, this post got way too long so watch for Part II:  How not to be co-opted!  ***Update October 6th***  Here is Part II.

****Update October 5th:  Richard Falknor, writing at Blue Ridge Forum has some suggestions for what Bob Ehrlich can do to reach out to conservatives.****


  1. We ran into this Dave Schwartz from AFP at the Annapolis Rally in January 2010 as well. We were disappointed with most of the speakers (excepting Charles Lollar) and were really taken back when the AFP would not allow us to take American and Gadsden Flags into the square. They openly violated our 1st Amendment rights where the US Courts have upheld that holding a flag is an extension of our right to Free Speech. How can we expect them to support us when they do not even stand up for such basic Rights?

    • Karen, that is the first I’ve heard of this. I’d be interested to know how many of us they have among their supposed 25,000 members?

  2. I can’t speak about Mr. Schwartz’s character, but I can say that I’ve been to rallies at Lawyers Mall and the police don’t allow any flagpoles or such. I was asked to put the pole away, but keep my flag.

    Charles is what Maryland needs! We need more like him! Dump Steny!!!

  3. […] days ago in a post entitled, “Maryland’s Tea Party Minefield,” I raised the issue of whether Tea […]

  4. […] Here is what I said back on October 4th: […]

  5. […] warned readers way back in 2010, here and here, that so-called Tea Party groups like Freedom Works and Americans for Prosperity (both largely […]

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