Tea Party Patriots tells members to stop phone drive

Rachel Rose Hartman
The Upshot
Tea Party Patriots celebrate on Election Night.
Tea Party Patriots celebrate on Election Night.

The tea party insurgency has arrived in Washington, and so far, at least, it's proving to be a rather rocky match. One of the movement's national leadership groups, the Tea Party Patriots, mounted a phone drive last week seeking to influence incoming members-elect in Congress and get its message across to Washington think tanks. But the effort was so all-encompassing that some of its targets likened it to harassment, and it ensnared some accidental targets--prompting the activists to call the initiative off.

At the end of last week, leaders with the Tea Party Patriots issued an appeal to members to stop contacting incoming House members to remind them to attend their sponsored tea party orientation. "PLEASE STOP CALLING THE FRESHMEN," the Patriots titled one of three emails to supporters telling them to desist. "It's time to turn off the heat."

The national group informed supporters in three separate messages that their message had been heard-- loud and clear. But the emails also informed followers that some had been contacting candidates who didn't win election--as well as at least one member dealing with an undecided outcome.

We need to offer our sincere apologies to a John Koster, Jesse Kelly, and Keith Fimian who ran for office and did not get elected but who were inadvertently added to our list. Additionally, we had a long call with David Harmer from California tonight. He is in a recount, and is dealing with the results of what appears to be large scale voter fraud, and may not win his office. The last thing he and his family need is pressure from us, and we apologize for any stress we may have added to their lives.

The Patriots, one of several national groups that rose to prominence this election season, claimed that some members-elect reported receiving more than 500 communications from them over a 24-hour period.

But the Patriots later explained that many of those phone numbers and email addresses were private numbers and addresses for members-elect. "This was not our intent," Patriots leaders noted in the emails. They asked supporters to remove the phone numbers from their personal websites.

But the apologies didn't end there. The Patriots had asked supporters to contact the Claremont Institute conservative think tank and chastise the group for scheduling a freshman orientation that conflicted with the Patriots' orientation.

Claremont's president, Brian Kennedy, complained to Roll Call on Friday: "After a mass e-mail was sent out calling for Tea Party members to harass me, effectively, I have received many nasty and threatening calls saying we should 'stand down' and that 'they have my number."

The Patriots referred to the Claremont event as "indoctrination organized by DC insiders and lobbyists, members of The Ruling Class."

On Saturday, the Patriots' apologized if supporters "inferred" the suggestion Claremont is run by insiders, adding they have "nothing but admiration for Claremont."

As for the deluge of calls and emails the Patriots group unleashed on incoming members, Patriots were less apologetic: "We also understand that sometimes members of Congress find it annoying to receive numerous calls from voters. But we encourage them to remember it is part of the job and they asked to be hired. This will not be the last time."

(Photo of Tea Party Patriots' election night party: AP/Ann Heisenfelt)