Rus Thompson sent out a press release the other day that got picked up by some national media websites that printed it without any fact-checking.
His releases related to the Tea Party candidacy of Jack Davis. I am the Davis campaign counsel.
Suffice it to say, Rus and I must live in two different worlds because the world he describes is unrecognizable to me.
I will try to respond to each point he made with specific factual rebuttals.
Responding to Rus’s many misstatements of fact and half-truths is very tedious but it must be done and in the end, I believe this dialogue will greatly aid local tea party activists to understand the controversy.
I also believe that this discussion will convince many skeptics of the absolutely crucial importance of electing Jack Davis to Congress on the Tea Party line.
Since these issues were not resolved last year, they have continued to fester—so I am committed to discussing these issues to the satisfaction of any reasonable reader. The hacks and haters of course are not amendable to reason. Expect them to pop in and toss around lots of gratuitous personal attacks.
A quick note to the reader. I was involved in the tax revolt and the tea party movement from the very beginning. I attended the very first event of each movement. So you are getting a view of these movements from an eyewitness on many of these points.
First, Rollcall’s headline reads: “Tea Party Leaders Ask Davis to Exit N.Y. Special Election.”
Rus is a self-appointed leader. He has not been elected or appointed to any leadership position that I know of. He founded TEA New York without consulting anyone but his wife Jul and Carl Paladino to the best of my knowledge. In my opinion, he did so as a vehicle to run for the state senate against Antoine Thompson. (I will try to specify whenever I state an opinion that I cannot prove.) Why did he not simply continue to work under the auspices of Primary Challenge? Again, an opinion, it’s hard to have two compulsive office seekers under one roof.
To the best of my knowledge, NONE of the local tea party groups have formal bylaws or formal boards or formal members. I have advised the Tea Party Coalition to adopt formal bylaws but, being a bunch of volunteers, not hacks with lots of time on our hands, we have not gotten around to it yet.
Rus seems to imply that TEA New York has a board. Who’s on it? Who put them there? So many questions, so little time.
In the absence of a board that approved this press release, it was obviously only approved by Rus and Jul. If my wife and I issued a press release, would Roll Call print it?
So my point is this: Rus speaks for Rus and maybe Jul but the use of “I” in the press release makes me wonder even about that.
Roll Call reports that TEA New York is the largest tea party organization in Western New York. Really? How so? Unless they have bylaws that define “members”, then they have zero members. In the absence of formal members, the best way to judge size is by the turnout at their events.
As for TEA New York, their high water mark was a candidate’s night last year in Kenmore. They were riding high and had all the resources of the Paladino campaign at their disposal and even brought some alleged tea party honcho in from out of town. Now, judging from what one of the candidates told me and judging from photos of the event, there were, minus candidates and their staffs, about 100 people there. If you wish to contest my estimate, maybe you could finally release the votes at your convention! That’s right. The votes were never released. Some convention.
At one event last year, for Dave DiPietro in Wyoming County (much smaller than Erie), we had at least 250 people AND THEY PAID TO GET IN!
I could go on and discuss other events held in Wyoming, Ontario, Erie and Livingston counties but the point has been made. They do not draw bigger crowds than we do. Hell, we had 20 people at one quickly organized sign wave for Dave in Lancaster on Election Day during rush hour! That’s double the size of the core group of TEA NY.
I will admit that TEA NY has more meetings than we do. Where do they get the time? We meet less frequently but we DO things. We run candidates and promote the Pork Lawsuit for example. What have they accomplished with all those long, drawn-out meetings?
The headline of Rus’s press release is: “The TEA Party is NOT a 3rd Party for immediate release!”
First of all, TEA is a watered-down slogan I have never favored. “Tea Party” refers to the Boston Tea Party and invokes the spirit of the American Revolution. Why gild the lily?
What Jack Davis sought and obtained is a “Tea Party” line on the ballot, not a party. The only way to start a party in NY is to get 50,000 votes for governor.
Maybe that’s a fine legal point but you would think that Rus, who himself tried to form a new party last year, would know this. Funny that a guy who tried to start a new party last year (with a lame, losing name) is now accusing us of wanting to start a new party.
BTW Rus, whatever happened to your campaign for Comptroller? I recall you dropping in but not dropping out. Hmmmm.
That’s all for now. To be continued.
“I propose to fight it out on this line, if it takes all summer.”
In his press release, Rus writes:
Jack has been getting advice from Allen Coniglio and James Ostrowski who are members of a rogue tea party group that are determined to create a 3rd party. A little over a year ago they attempted to convince the TEA Party groups in Western New York that a 3rd party was needed and their Tea Party Coalition was the path. We all disagreed, and because of this and other unresolved conflict, we walked away wanting nothing to do with this.
This is false. First, Jack got no advice from Allen. Granted, this isn’t a critical point but it does show that Rus sometimes just makes stuff up. Second, the TPC is not a rogue group but that will require a fuller discussion later. What is totally false is that we are determined to create a third party through the TPC. Rus in fact was part of a group of candidates on the (badly-named) Taxpayer line last year that was an effort to create a new party. Nor was that non-existent fact the cause of the split in the movement. We did help Dave DiPietro run on the Tea Party line last year for state senate. That is not a party but an “independent body,” a line on the ballot. I advised Dave to use the term “Tea Party.” Dave’s Tea Party line got 20 times as many votes as Rus’s Taxpayer line on a percentage basis.
But it was never our intention that Dave run a third party race. We hoped he would win the primary and wanted him to get a second line to help him win in November. These decisions are made in July. The split happened several months before.
What happened to Rus’s candidacy for Comptroller? It just vanished without a trace like his candidates’ forum a few weeks ago. Well, it turns out that he never filed an acceptance! Everyone else on the Taxpayer line filed one but Rus. Why? I know why but let’s see if Rus can come clean on this.
So what did cause the split? First, let me say that the Coalition was never fully united in the first place. The split simply brought out in the open critical differences between our faction and theirs. I will get into that more later. The proximate cause of the split was their insistence that Boss Jim Domagalski, who had never to my knowledge asked for our endorsement, be considered for our endorsement along with Dave DiPietro and Lenny Roberto. The underlying facts here are somewhat complicated and convoluted, but that was the basic disagreement. From the beginning, DiPietro and Roberto both expressed an interest in the race. Dave was a great candidate and hardcore tea party activist. Roberto was a terrible candidate who spent much of the tea party year of 2009 in a truly bizarre effort to abolish New York state government through a privately-held election of some sort.
Yet, Rus and Jul wanted Domagalski considered for the endorsement. While the idea was totally absurd, they were free to advocate for Domagalski at a scheduled conference call (two members were out of town). Instead, they simply left the Coalition (that they never truly embraced in the first place.)
There’s lots of confusion about a possible Coalition convention and why it was not held. The convention was my idea but I couldn’t make it work in the short time available. Various candidates expressed concerns about who would be able to vote and I was never able to develop a plan to make sure that only bona fide tea party supporters could vote but hacks and interlopers could not. Also, we had a shortage of candidates not a surplus. The only race where we had more than one potential candidate was the Volker seat (DiPietro and Roberto). At a Coalition meeting, it was agreed that the board itself would endorse after giving Dave and Lenny a full hearing. After Lenny dropped out to run against Higgins, it should have been a no-brainer to endorse our own member and fried DiPietro over a political boss but Rus and Jul and their group made a huge ruckus over this. That’s what the split was all about. It was not about third parties.
For many reasons, the alleged convention held by Tea New York last year was not a convention along the lines of the one I first proposed in January, 2010. For example, it was not open to all tea party activists. More about that later.
That’s all for now. Stay tuned for Part 3.
Part 3 (March 30).
I have already demonstrated that Rus speaks only for himself. No one has provided any evidence to the contrary. Now he has alleged, without any proof, that “thousands” of tea party groups have stated their opposition to using a “tea party” line on the ballot. First, the movement is decentralized so what groups elsewhere have decided is not binding on WNY. Second, NY is a very tough ballot access state so what groups do in other states is not really relevant.
How to get on the ballot and which party lines to use and whether to use an independent line are not matters of principle but matters of strategy and tactics. We saw last year that Rus’s Taxpayer line did very poorly but the DiPietro “Tea Party” line did extremely well (half of a percent to 11%). So long as the term is used honestly, there is no legal or ethical problem with using the term “Tea Party” for a line on the ballot. It’s good strategy.
Now, I can see why the GOP hates the name. The Tea Party movement EXISTS because of the failure of the GOP to fulfill its promises for 50 years to shrink government. The GOP is terrified of the TP movement and have actively tried to co-opt it, corrupt it, or divide and conquer it. So, it’s no surprise that operatives with close ties to the GOP object to the use of the term “Tea Party” for an independent line.
Let’s talk strategy again. It’s poor strategy to foreclose in advance any of the tools that might be at your disposal. Your opponents love it when you do that. Also, the GOP loves it when Republicans say, in effect, “No matter how badly you treat me, I will never leave you.” I think that’s called “enabling.”
BTW, Rus talks about “splitting the line,” presumably meaning the Republican line. But Rus is a Democrat. Go figure.
Part 4–April 2.
Now let’s talk about that mysterious amalgam of five groups that make up the TEA New York Coalition.
Last year, Rus said that TEA New York “represents five tea party groups in WNY.” He mentioned TEA New York, Niagara Patriots, Buffalo 912, Grand Island Patriots, and “members of Primary Challenge.” “We all encompass a couple of thousand people.” At that meeting, there were no more than 100-125 tea party activists.
Just in case one might think he was referring to that particular candidates’ night, he recently used almost the same language on WBEN: “TEA New York . . . is an all-encompassing of five different groups.”
Is that true? Frankly, I couldn’t care less if Primary Challenge, about which more later, somehow voted to cede its role to TEA New York. Nor do I care about Grand Island Patriots, the apparently tiny group headed by TEA GOP operative Mike Madigan. He refuses to answer any questions about GIP.
So let’s talk about Buffalo 912 and Niagara Patriots. Neither organization endorses candidates. So how in the world could they be part of an explicitly political coalition called TEA New York? I spoke with a veteran “member” of Niagara Patriots asked him if his group ever voted to enter a coalition with TEA New York and Primary Challenge. He said “No.”
As for Buffalo 912, I, myself, am a “member” although I have only attended one or two events. I recently reviewed most of the emails the group ever sent out and recall nothing about a proposed marriage with TEA New York. I sent an inquiry to the coordinator of Buffalo 912 to find out if her group has somehow joined a coalition with a political action committee. I will post her response when it is received. UPDATE: Laura Yingling of Buffalo 912 writes: “The Tea New York board makes decisions only for Tea New York.”
At the same meeting last year, Rus said “I am not the leader of the tea party. There’s no spokesman for the tea party.” Recently, on WBEN, he said, “I’m the spokesman for the people in the tea party.”
The mysterious amalgam of groups is once again having a candidate’s forum next week, so, once again, I have to ask, when are they going to release the votes from last June?
There are so many other issues from the recent media interviews but let’s end it here for now. I’ve a got a Final Four to watch.
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