From The Caucus at The New York Times:
Even before the Tea Party’s $549-a-head convention next week, some of the movement’s biggest champions are partied out.
Representatives Michele Bachmann, Republican of Minnesota, and Marsha Blackburn, Republican of Tennessee, two Tea Party heroines, have canceled their appearances at the National Tea Party Convention, which begins next Thursday in Nashville, Tenn.
Their withdrawals are the latest in a string of setbacks for the event, billed as a historic coming together of newly vocal anti-big-government activists. Major conservative groups and commentators have bagged their plans to attend the convention, questioning the motives of the organization running it, Tea Party Nation, and the event’s potential ties to the Republican establishment.
Acting on recommendations of the Congressional Committee on Standards, the two congresswomen withdrew today, citing concerns about where exactly the money – -and, organizers say the sold-out convention will generate a lot – -will go after the last tea cup has been tipped.
The “Tea Party Nation’s for-profit status has put many of his speakers in an awkward position,” Ms. Blackburn said in a statement after calling the convention’s organizer, Judson Phillips, a Tennessee lawyer. Ms. Blackburn, however, was quick to confirm her ties to the cause, adding, “I remain encouraged by the outpouring of energy from constitutionally minded grassroots organizations in Tennessee and around America. These groups are not made up of Republicans or Democrats but everyday Americans who are concerned about their freedom.”
In particular, criticism of the $100,000 speaking fee reportedly going to Sarah Palin, the former Alaska governor, and the pricey tickets, has left the convention without any elected officials on its speakers’ list with less than a week before the three-day event.
Ms. Blackburn was scheduled to introduce Ms. Palin next Saturday, and will be replaced by Andrew Breitbart, a conservative political commentator.
What’s worse, some conservative activists are calling Ms. Palin to pull out and others are demanding refunds on already purchased tickets, the liberal magazine Mother Jones reports.
From Hot Dish Politics at the Star Tribune:
[Bachmann, the] he Minnesota Republican, who has become something of a heroine of the Tea Party movement, decided Thursday morning that she is cancelling her appearance at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel next Friday, where she was scheduled to be a breakfast speaker.
Bachmann’s office cited the same concerns that other Tea Party activists have voiced about the first-of-its-kind national gathering: namely, the for-profit model of organizer Judson Phillips, a self-described “small town lawyer” with a history of financial problems.
Phillips has announced that the $549-a-head convention featuring Sarah Palin is sold out. But Tea Party critics and allies alike have been asking questions about what Phillips plans to do with the money. Concrete answers have been in short supply, and in the end it looked like too big a risk for any public office holder.
Both Blackburn and Bachmann sought legal guidance in recent days from lawyers in the House Ethics Committee. According to Dziok, they got “conflicting advice.”
That was enough to put on the brakes.
No word yet on Palin’s plans, but as a former government official, she may not face the same legal questions.
Unlike Palin, who is reportedly getting a $100,000 speaking fee, Dziok said Bachmann was not getting any money for her speech.
Update: In a formal statement, Bachmann’s office made clear that her decision doesn’t mean she’s turning her back on her Tea Party supporters:
“Some will want to portray her withdrawal as a repudiation of the Tea Party Movement, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Congresswoman Bachmann remains encouraged by all Americans, regardless of political party, who are concerned about this nation’s future and dwindling prosperity, and continues to be inspired their passion.”
My take? Bachmann and Blackburn don’t give a damn about ethics. They wouldn’t recognize ethics if ethics kicked them in the ass. I think they’re thinking Hey! We had this batshit-crazy act down pat for years, and then Princess Sarah comes along, gets paid big bucks for a book and to work for Fox News and now for speeches, even a hundred thou for this rinky-dink operation, and we get bupkes! What’s a girl gotta do to make some bucks in this town?