Produced by HuffPost's Eyes & Ears Citizen Journalism Unit
The Tea Party movement has gained national prominence for leading organized protests against big government. But the movement itself is far from a cohesive group of supporters. No less than eight separate and sometimes competing organizations make up the Tea Party network. And though it purports to be a grassroots movement, wealthy and politically-connected individuals have been feeding the phenomenon, according to research by Huffington Post Eyes&Ears citizen reporters.
During the spring's Tax Day Tea Parties and the summer's ubiquitous town-hall protests, unity was on display as a disparate group of protesters took aim at the Obama administration and the federal government. But once the fervor cooled down, some of the movement's best-known affiliates began feuding. The Tea Party Patriots and several regional organizations publicly accused the Tea Party Express of Astroturfing, claiming that it was directed by Republican strategists, and even ousted and sued one of its own founders for associating with the Express.
Though they may be wracked by infighting, the two groups have plenty in common when it comes to their funding base, their partnerships and their links to Republican strategists. Both claim to be new grassroots organizations, spawned out of frustration over the bailouts. Yet neither group really fits the dictionary definition of grassroots -- "involving the common people, especially contrasted with... an elite" -- due to their ties to the wealthy and powerful.
Rick Santelli's infamous CNBC rant in February that ignited the Tea Party movement was also used as a call to action by many previously existing groups. Of those, the three most prominent are Freedom Works, Americans for Prosperity and the American Liberty Alliance. All three claim to be grassroots. All three are primary sponsors of both Tea Party factions (Tea Party Patriots and Tea Party Express), and all three have been sponsored by organizations supported by David and Charles Koch, the billionaire brothers who co-own America's largest privately held company as of 2008, Koch Industries.
This slideshow details each of the Tea Party movement's disparate parts. Click through the links below for full reports on each organization:
The Tea Party Patriots is a coalition of tea party groups from across the nation. The major organizations behind the Tea Party Patriots are Newt Gingrich's (pictured) American Solutions for Winning the Future and Dick Armey's FreedomWorks. The Tea Party Patriots considers the Tea Party Express to be Astroturf, claiming that it is directed by Republican strategists, although its founder Amy Kremer recently switched sides from the Tea Party Patriots to the Tea Party Express. Click here to read more about Tea Party Patriots' role in the movement
FreedomWorks is credited as the front group behind the Tea Party protests. It is run by former Republican Majority Leader Dick Armey and draws its origins from the think-tank Citizens for a Sound Economy, founded by David Koch. This summer FreedomWorks supported the efforts of both the Tea Party Patriots and the Tea Party Express. Click here to read more about Freedomworks' role in the movement
When people think of the Tea Party movement, what comes to mind are the Tea Party Express rallies that received extensive coverage over the summer from FOX News. Due to its association with Our Country Deserves Better PAC, which is led by GOP strategists, the Tea Party Express has been publicly shunned by other Tea Party groups, creating a fractured movement. Click here to read more about the Tea Party Express's role in the movement
Americans for Prosperity may be the most moneyed and well-connected group engaging in widespread, on-the-ground organizing for the Tea Party movement. The group fields staff in several states who helped organize the original protests in February, again on Tax Day, and throughout the summer. Americans for Prosperity was founded by David Koch (left) of Koch Industries, America's 2nd largest privately held company. Click here to read more about Americans for Prosperity's role in the movement
American Liberty Alliance is the brainchild of Eric Odom, one of the self-proclaimed founders of the Tea Party movement. Among its leaders are former employees of the Sam Adams Alliance and former Republican congressional staffers. American Liberty Alliance became a driving force behind the summer's Tea Party protests against health care reform. Click here to read more about the American Liberty Alliance's role in the movement
Sam Adams Alliance has its origins in the libertarian group Americans for Limited Government. It is behind many elements of the Tea Party movement; and its allies in the game include American Majority, the American Liberty Alliance and the American Liberty Tour. The Sam Adams Alliance has ties the largest privately-held oil company in America, Koch Industries. Above is a video satirizing health care reform that was sent to the Sam Adams Alliance email list in August Click here to read more about the Sam Adams Alliance's role in the movement
The American Future Fund is a shadowy organization, the staff of which are connected to the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, the Bush/Gore 2000 Florida recount effort, and the infamous Willie Horton ad in 1988. The Fund was involved in supporting the Chicago Tea Party since day one, and is currently fighting to expand limits on robocalling. Click here to read more about the American Future Fund's role in the movement
RecessRally.com is yet another website developed by conservative website guru Eric Odom (pictured). It provided a state-by-state listing of the addresses of each member of Congress with the option to list events targeting specific representatives. Most of the August Tea Party protests during the August Congressional recess were organized on RecessRally.com. Click here to read more about RecessRally.com's role in the movement
The Tea Party concept first gained widespread attention from the media on February 19 when Rick Santelli ranted about government spending on CNBC. Subsequently, coverage by FOX News, conservative talk show hosts, and right-leaning bloggers helped push the Tea Parties to political prominence. Click here to read more about the media's role in the movement
Read full coverage detailing the various parts of the Anatomy of the Tea Party Movement:
- Tea Party Patriots
- Tea Party Express
- Americans for Prosperity
- American Liberty Alliance
- Sam Adams Alliance
- American Future Fund
- The Media
Follow Dawn Teo on Twitter: www.twitter.com/dawnteo
Follow Alex Brant-Zawadzki on Twitter: www.twitter.com/beezling