A top Tea Party leader who has publicly distanced his group from the GOP was recently paid by a campaign run by an influential California Republican business organization, to gather signatures for a ballot initiative that’s long been a key goal of the state party.
Mark Meckler, one of two national spokespeople for the Tea Party Patriots, was recently paid $7,500 for “petition circulation management” by the “Citizen Power Campaign Supported by the Lincoln Club of Orange County,” according to state disclosure records. Meckler’s involvement with the campaign was first reported last month by the website Red County.
Yesterday, we reported that Meckler, a northern California lawyer, had also helped run a political consulting firm with ties to Washington D.C. Republicans.
The Lincoln Club, a group of southern California Republican businesspeople, is an influential player in state GOP circles. “The Club’s founders created an organization that included a wide spectrum of beliefs within the Republican Party,” it declares on its website. The group had a key role in the 1978 passage of the state’s anti-property tax ballot measure, and in the 2003 recall of Democratic governor Gray Davis.
The Club’s profile as a power center for business conservatives — according to its website, its membership “is comprised chiefly of entrepreneurs, CEOs, professionals, and executives from a wide spectrum of industries” — would appear to sit uneasily with the Tea Party’s more populist, anti-corporate ethos.
The Citizen Power Campaign is the Lincoln Club’s latest big-ticket project. It aims to gather enough signatures from voters to place a measure on the ballot this November which would make it illegal to use taxpayer money, deducted from the paychecks of public employees, for political activity. That would take away a key source of funding for the state’s public employees union, and make it more difficult for pro-labor candidates to get elected.
Passing the initiative, often known as “paycheck protection,” has long been a goal of the state GOP, and the effort was endorsed earlier this year by Senate candidate Carly Fiorina and gubernatorial hopeful Steve Poizner, among other California Republicans. Voters rejected paycheck protection initiatives in 1998 and 2005, both times by 53-47 margins.
Meckler’s involvement with the campaign — coming on the heels of yesterday’s news about his GOP-tied consulting firm — could intensify the fears of many grassroots Tea Partiers that their movement is being hijacked by Republican operatives. Meckler has gone out of his way recently to stress his independence from the GOP. “The major parties in this nation haven’t represented the American people,” he told TPMmuckraker in an interview in January, and lamented to a recent interviewer: “I felt like the Republican Party didn’t represent my values. The political parties represent entrenched interests … and they never do what they say.”
Meckler reportedly sent out a recent email to friends and family asking for financial help.
Late Update: Meckler responds:
I did get paid for about two months with the Citizen Power Campaign, but the campaign didn’t have the money to continue paying me, so that was discontinued. Back to struggling to survive. It’s all good though. It’s a worthwhile fight, and I’m fighting on…paid or not…just a little less time to spend.
As for working with a GOP-tied group… we align with folks who share our values on particular projects and initiatives. In some places and times that will be folks who have ties to Republicans, past or present, sometimes it will be Young Republicans, 9/12 groups, libertarian organizations, Democratic committees and organizations, and many, many others. Unlike the political paradigms of the past, we’re not really interested in party labels. We’re interested in principles. Party labels are a great way to divide people, even when they agree in principle. We’re more interested in aligning with people and organizations that share our principles on particular issues. The principle here is that we believe that public employee union money has corrupted California’s politics to the point where the citizens no longer have any real power. With hundreds of millions of dollars per year to pour into the political system, the system is impossibly corrupted and controlled by the public employee unions. Until this is changed, California has no chance of climbing out of the fiscal cesspool into which it has descended. We align on this issue with people and organizations that believe that the public employee unions have too much money and power in our system, and are causing its downfall. I don’t care if those people are Republicans, Democrats, independents or however else they wish to label themselves. We’ll let others worry about the labels, and we’ll stay focused on principle. The principles are what will ultimately prevail, not the parties.