With a Friend Like Gary

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Nov. 29 2010 9:29 AM

With a Friend Like Gary

When I attended the Virginia Tea Party Patriots convention , I attended most of a panel put on by Gary Aldrich. He wasn't the first 1990s conservative celebrity I'd seen reintroducing himself to Tea Partiers; his presence and his promotion for his Patrick Henry Society didn't seem like a big deal.

Ken Vogel went digging and asked what the movement thought of the partially discredited author of Unlimited Access re-branding himself as a Tea Party statesman. His effort to become a player, after years running what could fairly be described as a podunk think tank, is pretty transparent.

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After the election, Aldrich and "a number of different groups" approached Liberty Central about renting or buying its assets, merging or otherwise collaborating, said Liberty Central board member Leonard Leo.

Leo called Liberty Central’s list of activists, which numbers 150,000 and could be a powerful fundraising tool, "a really valuable grass-roots networking resource." And he said Aldrich’s group was particularly interested in the fact that Liberty Central is registered as a 501(c)(4) under the tax code, which allows it to engage directly in partisan politics, which the Patrick Henry Center is barred from doing by virtue of its registration under section 501(c)(3) of the code.

Two separate sources told POLITICO that Liberty Central essentially put itself on the block because it is struggling financially under the weight of high overhead, despite an early $550,000 infusion from two big grants revealed by POLITICO .

Of course, if the John Birch Society -- another presence at the VTPP convention -- can get a toehold in the movement, I don't see why Aldrich can't.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter.