Tea party groups shun Arizona-issued license plate for their cause - East Valley Tribune: Politics

Tea party groups shun Arizona-issued license plate for their cause

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Posted: Friday, May 13, 2011 9:40 pm

Some tea party groups apparently do not believe the old adage, ``We're from the government and we're here to help you.''

In a statement issued Friday, representatives of several of the organizations said a new law creating a ``tea party'' license plate is ``well-intentioned.'' Those who want the plate would pay an extra $25 a year, with $17 of that going to organizations that promote tea party principles of fiscal responsibility, limited governments and free markets.

But what really seems to provide the most heartburn is that the cash collected will be doled out by a committee whose members are appointed by politicians.

``Basically, we do not want to take money and divvy it out through the government,'' Vera Anderson, leader of the Daisy Mountain Tea Party Patriots told Capitol Media Services. ``That's not what we're all about.''

Valerie Roller, representing Tea Party Patriots of Glendale, was more direct in her own prepared statement about the pitfalls of the law, calling its structure ``vulnerable to self-serving individuals who may be appointed.'' And she said there is a ``potential (for) misappropriation of funds'' to be used for purposes beyond the legislation.

``These tea party license plates have result in more government, not less,'' she said.

The objections both surprised and annoyed Senate President Russell Pearce, R-Mesa, one of the chief proponents of the legislation.

Pearce said the tea party groups he has heard from have been supportive of the fundraising idea. And he blasted the individuals and groups who decided to take a public position urging followers not to buy the plates.

``If they don't want it, don't participate,'' he said, allowing other tea party groups to share in the funds.

``I want to give my $17 to promote tea party principles,'' he continued. ``Why would they take away my choice because they're concerned?''

Anderson, however, said the legislation has been marketed as a goal of all the Arizona the tea parties.

``We just wanted to set the record straight,'' she said.

Not everyone shares the concerns. Courtney Snell, chairman of the Mountain View Tea Party, said he has no problem with the government helping to raise money for the cause.

``The people that are participating that are generating that money are doing it on their own,'' he said. ``The government is not making them buy those plates.''

But Snell said he shares some of the concerns about having the funds allocated by a committee appointed by politicians. He said there may come a time when those who get to name the committee members -- the governor, the Senate president and the speaker of the House of Representatives -- could be Democrats or others ``who have no interest in furthering the ideals of the tea party.''

Snell wants the law amended next year to transition the funding decisions directly to those appointed by tea party groups.

State lawmakers routinely approve creating special license plates to help organizations raise money. Just this session they approved close to a dozen new ones, including one Phoenix PBS affiliate KAET, one to help food banks and one to help fund research on childhood cancers. Pearce said this one is no different.

Legislative foes, however, argued that this will be the only state-issued license plate where the funds raised would be used to promote what they see as a political agenda.

That did not bother Gov. Jan Brewer who signed the bill into law. Gubernatorial press aide Matthew Benson said his boss does not believe the bill is overtly political.

``We're talking about an effort that supports limited government and the Constitution,'' he said. ``And that's a cause that Governor Brewer believes most Arizonans can get behind.''

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