Earlier this week, FITS News called out the Gingrich campaign for seeking to win the Tea Party vote by hiring certain individuals who presented themselves as connected. This issue flared up after a comment by Wesley Donehue, a South Carolina politico working for the Michele Bachmann campaign, that "Bachmann is trying to grow an organic base of supporters, and Newt Gingrich is trying to buy off tea party groups" was brought up by John King of CNN.
Bachmann herself hasn’t gone so far as to directly accuse Gingrich of purchasing Tea Party support, although she did say this week that she has “been hearing this all across the country, that money is changing hands.”
Gingrich’s campaign didn’t directly deny the allegation – choosing instead to slam Bachmann for attacking the “character” of Tea Party leaders.
The FITS story singled out Gerri McDaniels, a paid employee of the Newt Gingrich for President campaign, who recently played a key role in ramming through an endorsement vote by the Myrtle Beach Tea Party which, not surprisingly, endorsed her employer. When asked what she thought about this connection, McDaniels engaged in denial and diversion, tactics characteristic of her short time of involvement in state politics:
It had not one thing to do with me being on staff. Do you have the same problem with someone being in the GOP as Team Party:-)? People need to focus on their candidate of choice and stop worrying about who folks support.
As much as Tea Party groups have railed against people buying influence and said higher standards should be met, it's a little disappointing to see they feel that, like the "establishment" they rail against, that they.
In all fairness, Bachmann campaign can't get a pass on this issue. They've brought on board several people with supposed involvement with Tea Party and Christian evangelical groups, as well as former Cain operatives, some of whom are likely getting paid to help "open doors". In this case, it seems to be a matter of jealousy as the Gingrich hires are obviously doing better at playing pied piper than the Bachmann operatives.
In it's earliest days, we praised the Tea Party movement for its independence and willingness was to challenge power, including the wielding of paid influence agents to manipulate people to accomplish goals. Obviously that's not McDaniel's game, which is disappointing. Even more disappointing is the willingness of campaigns to engage and empower those like her in treating grassroots movements as marketable commodities.
But she's not the only one who's pimpin' the Tea Party. Expect us to talk more about some of those pimps real soon.