At a Glance
Headquarters: Woodlake, Texas
Online Members: 6,987
Notable: The group is run by leaders of the anti-immigrant vigilante group, the Minuteman Project.
The 1776 Tea Party, also known as TeaParty.org, is the one national faction most directly connected to the Minuteman Project and the anti-immigrant movement. Its corporate headquarters are in Woodlake, Texas, north of Houston area, where a Texas Certificate of Formation Nonprofit Corporation was filed in February 2009. Its staff positions are situated in California. The 1776 Tea Party describes itself as “a Christian political organization that will bridge the gap of all parties, in particular Democratic and Republican Parties. It will welcome all peoples and ideological perspectives, with the intent to streamline government and adhere to the Constitutional Rights addressed in the U.S. Constitution, and by God above.”
The organization’s platform includes points on immigration issues as well as taxes and federal budgets: “Illegal Aliens Are Here illegally. Pro-Domestic Employment Is Indispensable.... Gun Ownership Is Sacred. Government Must Be Downsized. National Budget Must Be Balanced. Deficit Spending Will End. Bail-out And Stimulus Plans Are Illegal. ... English As Core Language Is Required. Traditional Family Values Are Encouraged. Common Sense Constitutional Conservative Self -Governance.”
With 6,987 online members, as of August 1, 2010,the 1776 Tea Party is the smallest of the national Tea Party factions. Its membership is lightly dispersed around the country, with no more than 30 members in any city. The top ten cities for 1776 Tea Party membership include: Las Vegas, Nevada; Houston, Texas; Phoenix, Arizona; New York, New York; Jacksonville, Florida; Austin, Texas; Denver, Colorado; Mesa, Arizona; Henderson, Nevada; and Miami, Florida. Of all the factions, it is the most male dominated, with 66% of the online membership identifying as male, 27% female, and 6% choosing not to self-identify.
The 1776 Tea Party has adopted a deliberately confrontational posture. One of its leaders argued, “Most of the other TP’s [Tea Parties] are afraid to make such a powerful stand. We tell the world we have Core Beliefs! We don’t step on toes, we step on necks!...“
The organization’s founding president is Dale Robertson, a former Naval officer who served with the Marines. According to Mr. Robertson, “We can do this the easy way or the hard way. If the Republican Party or the Democrat Party does not turn Conservative, and soon, then it will leave the Tea Party no choice but to take them over and clean house.” In seeming furtherance of that goal, the 1776 Tea Party website solicited money to use on campaigns. They called it a “Tea Party Money Bomb.”
On February 27, 2009, Robertson attended a Tea Party event in Houston with a sign reading “Congress = Slaveowner, Taxpayer = Niggar.” He’s also sent out racist fundraising emails depicting President Obama as a pimp. Robertson also has a history of promoting anti-Semites on his “Tea Party Hour” radio program. [See the chapter “Racism, Anti-Semitism and the Militia Impulse” for more.] Both incidents increased the negative publicity surrounding the 1776 Tea Party, but its notoriety did not stop two leaders of an anti-immigrant vigilante group, Minuteman Project, from stepping in to run the 1776 organization.
On June 8, 2009, Robertson sent out a press release claiming that financial hardship would soon force him to sell the teaparty.org website domain to the highest bidder on Ebay. At that point Stephen Eichler, who had graduated from Trinity Law School in 2005 but had never joined the California Bar Association, and Tim Bueler, a media savvy business-type, stepped in. Both men were leaders of the anti-immigrant vigilante organization, the Minuteman Project. Eichler was its executive director and Bueler its media director.
From the Minuteman Project to the Tea Party
Their path to the 1776 Tea Party corresponded with a sharp decline in the Minuteman Project’s organizational fortunes. The nativist group had been fractured in 2007 by a series of lawsuits and counter-suits in which the Minuteman Project leaders sued each other for fraud, defamation and business tort. A second step in the Minuteman Project’s decline occurred after one of its “border operations directors,” Shawna Forde, was arrested for the murder of Raul Flores and his 9-year-old daughter Brisenia in Arizona. Forde was charged along with Jason Eugene Bush and Albert Gaxiola. The murder of the Flores’ was allegedly part of a plot to secure funds for their border war. Records collected after the arrests indicate that Eichler was one of the last people Forde spoke to before she was arrested. As scrutiny of the Minutemen increased dramatically, the organization continued to lose members and money.
Despite this chain of events, Eichler claimed, “We are seeing a substantial increase of groups wanting to be Minuteman Project chapters, not to mention our growing relationship with Tea Party and 9/12 organizations.”
Actually, while the Minuteman Project’s fortunes plummeted, Eichler and Bueler were in the process of affiliating with Robertson’s 1776 Tea Party. According to records filed with the Texas Secretary of State, Eichler and Bueler formally became corporate directors of the 1776 Tea Party on October 28, 2009; Eichler as treasurer and Bueler as secretary. Robertson is president of the Texas non-profit corporation. Although Robertson remained the public face of the 1776 Tea Party, much of the day-to-day operations and the public relations shifted to Eichler, who became the 1776 Tea Party executive director in addition to his corporate board role, and to Bueler, who became media director while also keeping his corporate board role.
At the same time as they have assumed roles which essentially put them in charge of the 1776 Tea Party, both men have maintained a number of other relevant business and political positions: Stephen Eichler has remained executive director of the Minuteman Project. He is also listed as president of the Minuteman Victory Political Action Committee, a corporate officer in Minutemanbookclub.com, and a board member of the American Civil Responsibilities Union (acru.org), which claims to be seeking a “better balance between civil liberties and civil responsibilities.” Further, Eichler continues to host a radio talk show on the nativist “Wake Up America Talk Show,” and is an officer of the program’s sponsoring corporation, Wake Up America U.S.A. Inc. As president of FaxDC.com, Eichler bills visitors to the 1776 Tea Party website who want to send faxes to Congress.
Tim Bueler uses his public relations group, U.S. Media Direct, Inc., to do business with the 1776 Tea Party. Bueler’s past media work included a stint in 2008 with Jerome Corsi (of Swift Boat Veterans for Truth infamy). Corsi and Bueler were detained and eventually deported from Kenya while attempting to hold a press conference at which they promised to “expose secret ties between Obama and Kenyan leaders, as well as a mysterious plot that would be launched should the Democratic nominee win the U.S. election.”
To complete the transformation from Minutemen to Tea Partiers, the teaparty.org website was redesigned in May 2010 to look strikingly similar to that of the Minuteman Project.
Interaction with other Factions
Dale Robertson’s grandstanding as “a founder of the Tea Party movement,” combined with the negative attention attached to his group, has created some distance between the 1776 Tea Party and the other factions.
FreedomWorks spokesman Adam Brandon stated, “There’s only a handful of people we would categorically not work with--Dale Robertson, maybe.”
Tea Party Patriots put out a press statement denouncing 1776 Tea Party leader Dale Robertson: “Tea Party Patriots wishes to make clear that our organization has never had any association with Mr. Robertson, and that we stand firmly against any expression of racism and the kind of language and opinion expressed in his sign.” Despite this denunciation, the Tea Party Patriots website list of Tea Party groups still, as of August 2010, included the 1776 Tea Party website.
Of all the other factions, ResistNet worked most closely for a time with Robertson’s organization, sending out email in December 2009, inviting supporters to attend 1776 Tea Party “Liberty Concerts.” Resist.Net later backed away a bit with an email to its supporters, “While they [1776 Tea Party] are a separate group from us, we share many of the same goals, a free, conservative America, and fiscal responsibility within our government. We are not necessarily promoting their complete ideology.”
Robertson announced that he sent members of his own 1776 organization to a Tea Party Express bus tour event in Searchlight, Nevada in March 2010. While these two groups have been the ones most notoriously marred by racist incidents, as the report makes evident, they are not the only Tea Party factions with problems in this regard.
Leonard Zeskind is president of the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights. Devin Burghart is IREHR vice president.
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