Group promotes lower spending, less government

Broadcasting live Friday afternoon from an Italian restaurant in Martinez, Tony Powers was inciting revolution, but not through violence.

Powers, the new co-owner of Revolution Radio, WNRR-AM 1230, read from the "Joseph Stack Manifesto," the document left by a disgruntled software engineer who recently flew his plane into an Austin, Texas, IRS building.

Whatever his motivation, Powers said, Stack found the wrong outlet for his unhappiness.

"I think that Mr. Stack misunderstood the American people," Powers said, urging dissatisfied Americans to instead "come out and get organized with people of like minds in a peaceful way.

"Vent those frustrations, but don't do it like this guy," he said.

Powers is part of a small, loosely organized network of area Tea Partyers lining up facilities for the April 15 Tax Day Tea Party, to be held from 5 to 9 p.m. at Augusta Common.

Powers, who helped plan April's Tea Party in Augusta, said he expects a turnout upwards of 10,000 for this year's event.

They'll likely include advocates for smaller government, tax reform, personal liberty and other causes.

The Tea Party Movement might appear disorganized, but that's by design, said Bonnie Alba, an Aiken writer and blogger on conservative issues.

"It's a grass-roots movement. The power doesn't lie in being organized," said Alba, a retired Department of Defense employee.

Alba said she knows very few Tea Partyers personally but knows they are numerous. The "Tea Party Nation" consists of thousands of groups spread across the United States, she said.

"We have all kinds of people -- Democrats, Independents, groups with the Tea Party name -- if they are following the Tea Party movement, that's who we are," said Joy McGraw of Atlanta, the state co-coordinator for a group called the Georgia Tea Party Patriots.

In an effort to get the groups "under a more structured umbrella," Georgia Tea Party Patriots is conducting grass-roots training Saturday in Atlanta on the one-year anniversary of the first Tea Parties, McGraw said.

The movement boasts 15 million followers nationwide, most of whom emphasize limited government, fiscal responsibility and following the Constitution, McGraw said.

"We do not hit -- as much as the media likes to say we do -- the social issues," McGraw said.

Social conservatives generally promote a pro-life stance on abortion and emphasize traditional family values.

Augusta Tea Party organizer Megan Seda, the president and founding member of Columbia County Young Republicans, said she became involved with the 2009 event to find like-minded supporters for her group, open to Republicans age 18-40.

"Last year, we had around 2,000 people, but the whole Tea Party movement didn't even get started until Feb. 27, 2009. This year, people know what it is, and they're looking for it," Seda said.

Unlike last year, the Tea Party will offer booth space for various groups to distribute information and sign up volunteers, she said.

Seda, the daughter and granddaughter of Columbia County Republican Party officials, acknowledged that Tea Parties attract "a lot more libertarian-minded people."

And while there are many elections she considers critical to advancing a conservative agenda this year, organizers don't want the event to be a candidates' forum, she said.

Georgia has seven candidates seeking the Republican nomination for governor.

"If you invite one (to speak), you have to invite them all," Seda said. "Really, the focus of the Tea Party is trying to get people involved."

The theme that does unite most Tea Partyers is dissatisfaction with spending by the current administration and the health care public option, Seda and Powers agreed.

"President Obama has spent $1 trillion in his first year of the presidency," Seda said.

Joseph Galpin is head of Conservatives of Columbia County, which includes about 15 active "Tea Party patriots," he said.

In frequent contact with the public through his work with a soft drink distributor, Galpin said he hears much discontent among conservatives but little desire to break off into a separate political party.

"The (Tea) party's definitely becoming more organized, but it's been stressed that we're not going to become a third political party," Galpin said. "We want to support the candidate, not the platform."

"We want candidates to answer to us, rather than the other way around," Powers said.

A group with specific interests that has found a home at Tea Parties is Georgia's Fair Tax movement, whose state director is retired Hephzibah accountant Lloyd Newsome.

"Generally, as the Tea Party groups have evolved, they tend to be more supportive of the Fair Tax," Newsome said.

Fair Tax proposes eliminating all federal income taxes on individuals and businesses and replacing them with a national sales tax.

"Everything about the Fair Tax treats everyone, every household the same," Newsome said.

Tea party patriots

HOW THEY DEFINE THEMSELVES

According to the Web site for Tea Party Patriots Inc., the impetus for the Tea Party movement is excessive government spending and taxation. The group says its mission is to "attract, educate, organize, and mobilize our fellow citizens" to promote public policy consistent with three core values:

- Fiscal responsibility

- Constitutionally limited government

- Free markets

Source: teapartypatriots.ning.com

Learn more online

Georgia Tea Party Patriots: georgiateapartypatriots.com/wordpress/

Find other Georgia groups:

teapartypatriots.org/State/Georgia

Find South Carolina groups:

teapartypatriots.org/State/South_Carolina