There used to be a time when people who liked the tea party movement and the local affiliate, the Racine Tea Party, showed up at City Hall with homemade signs and bad fashion, grumbling about taxes and big government while standing on public property (because they had personally murdered irony) and didn't quite get the joke.
We liked those schmucks. They seemed to enjoy getting their angry on and then heading over to the Perkins for some pie. We marveled at the mental flexibility it took to rail against health care and the supposed Socialist takeover just after making a quick stop at the Walgreens drive-thru to pick up their latest Lipitor script paid for by Medicare. (Perkins!)
They were real - if not a bit confused - white, dying, patriots living in a time where the landscape looked a whole lot browner and gayer. Their grandchildren didn't appear to care that some of the people on the TV were gay, they took Spanish in school (and not just for a family vacation in Cancun) and appeared openly bored when you tried to tell them how great the world used to be for white, heterosexual men and their faithful, church-going wives.
They just wanted their country back. Details would be provided later by Glenn Beck.
But something odd began to happen. The handmade signs disappeared and were replaced with sound systems and media celebrities. Great big, custom painted buses came to town with Jonah Goldberg and Joe the Plummer.
Pretty soon the Racine Tea Party wasn't just hawking small government - they were choosing sides. Hovde for Senate and Herman Cain for President before the primary was even decided. Putting up fake candidates in the recall. Swooning over Paul Ryan as if he never voted for the auto or bank bail-outs.
Our small town tea party organizers started showing up in the front row of the Vice Presidential debates, the sound stages got bigger and people cashed in on the payroll of Americans for Prosperity.
The Perkins crowd was confused - but surely this must be a sign of their success. The moral correctness of their fight had reaped the whirlwind of righteousness and materialized as rented halls, microphones and divinely prepaid airplane tickets and hotel rooms, right?
No, of course not. Americans for Prosperity was paying the bills.
People love to demonize the Koch brothers as the evil center of all conservative activities - but in the case of AFP in Wisconsin, it is actually true. They fund it along with good friends and billionaires from the Bradley Foundation.
So while AFP was busy running ads and paying the bills - they were also running into problems. They had millions of dollars, but only half of those millions could be used on direct political action. They needed to diversify.
With the upcoming recall elections in June of 2012, the Racine Tea Party formed itself a Political Action Committee. A PAC can spend directly on events without having to worry. All they needed to do was file the forms and get the cash. AFP couldn't give the cash directly to the Racine Tea Party PAC - but they could get their friends to do it for them.
In less than 2 weeks, the Racine Tea Party PAC raised over $20,000. Pretty good for a group with no organized political experience. Turns out they didn't even need the old gang from Perkins either - they had made some new friends with very deep pockets and interesting public profiles.
- Fred Young kicked in $2,500. Young is a millionaire who sold his father's Racine corporation and outsourced hundreds of jobs in the area. Young is a regular Koch Summit attendee. He and his wife have given over $100,000 to GOP candidates in Wisconsin alone. Young serves on the Koch run board of both the CATO institute and Reason Foundation.
- David Lynch kicked in $1,000. A little cheap for the Burlington native who owns the Lynch family dealerships. But Lynch is no slacker - he's given nearly $60,000 to GOP candidates in Wisconsin over the years.
- Newcomer, Curtis Woodward ponied up $1,000. Woodward owns Retail Fixtures, LLC. They were the people who ran Artistry Furniture on Monument Square for a while. Woodward lives in Franksville and his contribution record dates only go back to 2006 - new money, apparently.
- Another rookie is Michael Heyer who pitched in a measly $250. Heyer owns Racine Kringle and lives in New Berlin and has done more to sully the fine tradition of kringle-making by turning it into something only Little Debbie would be proud of. Yuck!
- Modine president, Tom Burke chipped in $1,000. Burke is a healthy GOP donor for a working guy, having given nearly $30,000 to GOP candidates in just 4 years. Burke was rewarded for his dedication by being appointed as the Workforce Development board president by swarthy, Jim Ladwig.
- Jockey heiress, Debra Waller and her husband, Charles, contributed $4,000. Waller has longtime ties to the Kochs, AFP and conservative candidates. Waller doesn't strike us a Perkins type - so it's interesting the millionaire responded with such enthusiasm.
- Big winner, naturally, was Richard Uihlein of ULine with a $10,000 check. Uihlein is the king of the corporate teabagger contributors. Uihlein contributed almost half of all the donations collected by the tea party - which should get him some kind of naming rights: Uline presents the Racine Tea Party!
The Racine Tea Party managed to reel in some pretty big fish in 12 days, gathering enough money to pay for their pre-recall bash in Caledonia. It would be impressive if it wasn't so obviously calculated, orchestrated by the big-money machine that operates Americans for Prosperity, Club for Growth and other entities coincidentally under subpoena in the new John Doe case.
Now, Uihlein, Waller and Burke can give their millions to anyone they want. They haven't broken any rules or laws by individually funding the activities of the Racine Tea Party. It's a matter of public record.
However, as business leaders, their participation is a bit more complicated. A poll conducted at the end of October shows a Tea Party favorability rating of 27% among REPUBLICANS a major drop from last June.
Among all voters (or as we call them: consumers) it's worse.
Tea Party groups and politicians are publicly faulted with orchestrating the insanely stupid government shut-down, a politically fatal swing towards unpopular legislation like forced ultrasounds, voter suppression, relaxing environmental standards, anti-gay measures, repealing healthcare and social security and medicare provisions. Not to mention becoming increasingly at fault for the Washington gridlock that disgusts average Americans.
Most people understand that millionaires and corporate titans favor Republicans - their interests are almost one and the same. But a line gets crossed when those same people singlehandedly fund tea party groups (in towns where most of them do not live) that 3 out 4 people think are idiots damaging the very foundation of America.
We'll repeat: 3 out of 4 Americans think the Tea Party are fucktards ruining the country.
Were the Siren to be a corporate titan, relying on the good nature and loyalty of 3 of those 4 Americans to pay for my vacation homes and private planes, we might not go "full-on teabilly" at least where public records are concerned.
Were the Siren to be a early tea party fan, who made homemade signs with tea bags stapled to them in the garage of my modest track house, I might wonder why a group of 7 millionaires funded 97% of my grassroots organization in 12 days?
The death of the tea party has been heralded more than once over the last few years, but the tea party didn't die - it was purchased by Uline, Modine and Jockey.
How about some pie?