Posted Tuesday, Sept. 21, 2010, at 10:26 AM
Tea Party Patriots, the umbrella group that was one of the first to try and get some national cohesion for the Tea Party movement, has announced a $1 million grant program, funded by an anonymous, to build up local Tea Party groups. Local groups -- 2,800 are eligible -- will fill out grants and the money will head out the door by October 4.
"This particular fund is intended to be applied for and spent by the election," said TPP's Mark Meckler, who announced the grant alongside Jenny Beth Martin. "The people who get the grants are required to spend them by election day."
The source of the grant itself wasn't revealed in a press conference on Tuesday, where former Congressman Ernie Istook and also joined the group as a policy adviser. He called the cash infusion "fertilizer for the grassroots."
"If you have a lawn," said Istook, "you water it, you tend to it, you weed it. That's what's happening here. And it is unique. I can't think of anything quite like it happening before."
Most of the questions for Martin and Meckler centered on how exactly Tea Party activists could collect this money and campaign without explicitly endorsing candidates. Tea Party Patriots, unlike the Tea Party Express PAC, wouldn't endorse anyone. And the local groups weren't supposed to endorse one candidate and trash another, even as they got out the vote for the candidates they liked.
"What we're doing is what our 2,800 local groups on the ground have been asking us to do," said Martin. "We're not taking advantage of a loophole. What we're making sure is that we support the local organizers on the ground."
Several Tea Party activists showed up for the announcement. Diana Reimer, a Tea Party leader in the Philadelphia area who's helped found eight Tea Party groups, said she hadn't decided whether or not to apply for a grant;.
"I probably will," said Reimer. "We've put out a lot of dollars, from our own pockets, to fund our events. But figuring out how to help a candidate without endorsing a candidate -- that's tricky. I haven't read the rules and regulations yet." She said that she spent Monday visiting Senate offices and lobbying against the DREAM Act; that wasn't the kind of activity that would fall under the grant, but campaign activity was.