In the latest sign of Tea Party rancor, the key backer of last month’s national convention at which Sarah Palin spoke is suing the event’s organizer, charging that he reneged on a deal to continue working together on Tea Party business.
Bill Hemrick, the founder of the Upper Deck baseball card company, loaned Tea Party Nation $50,000, which went towards the $100,000 speaking fee given to Palin. He says the money was loaned on the condition that he could remain involved with the conservative political action committee that TPN founder and convention organizer Judson Phillips said he was putting together. Hemrick says that Phillips backed out of the deal, and even barred Hemrick from attending Palin’s speech. He also claims that Phillips defamed him by writing an email to supporters saying he was not “reputable” or “trustworthy.”
Hemrick is seeking $500,000 in damages, Fox News reported last week.
“My client takes politics very seriously,” a lawyer for Hemrick told the Tennesseean newspaper. “And he thought they were going to be partners. But once he advanced the money, he found out that was not the case.”
In a statement, Phillips said the lawsuit “has no merit.” But Hemrick is hardly the first person to impugn Phillips’s integrity. In the lead-up to the convention, a slew of grassroots Tea Partiers raised concerns that Phillips was using the confab — which charged attendees $549 — to make a profit and to boost his profile in the Tea Party movement, leading several high-profile sponsors to back out.
Amid those concerns, Phillips announced that he would use any proceeds from the convention into a conservative political action committee. But since then he has offered few details about the committee’s planned work.
Phillips is currently planning a second convention for Las Vegas in July.