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Anatomy of the Tea Party Movement: American Liberty Alliance

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Produced by HuffPost's Eyes & Ears Citizen Journalism Unit

The American Liberty Alliance grew out of TaxDayTeaParty.com, a website designed to help direct people to their local tea parties in April.

TaxDayTeaParty.com was registered on Feb 28 and AmericanLibertyAlliance.com was registered on March 23, both in 2009. RecessRally.com relied on the same format as TaxDayTeaParty to help direct volunteers to town hall protests, or "Recess Rallies." American Liberty Alliance's executive director, Eric Odom, is an online activist from Chicago by way of Nevada who has worked with leaders of groups like Americans for Prosperity and FreedomWorks since at least 2007, when he organized what he called the Conservative Leadership Conference.

Odom has been organizing via the Internet for years. Immediately before starting American Liberty Alliance, he was the new media director for the Sam Adams Alliance (SAA), a Chicago-based group that says it is dedicated to economic freedom and individual liberty. Now Odom is tapping the relationships within the alliance to orchestrate a conservative online renaissance including: blogivists.com, a network of conservative bloggers with an email list thousands strong, gifted to Odom from SAA; a retooled TaxDayTeaParty.com in preparation for Tax Day 2010; and 73Wire.com, which Odom calls "a Huffington Post of our own."

This summer, the American Liberty Alliance launched the American Liberty Tour, a coast-to-coast bus tour ferrying Joe the Plumber, among others, around the country to stimulate opposition to health care reform as well as to offer citizens "candidate training, blogger breakfast meetings, activists training and large scale Liberty Rallies." The American Liberty Tour described itself as a "collaborative project of the American Liberty Alliance, Americans for Limited Government and the Sam Adams Alliance." The tour held events in conjunction with Glenn Beck's 9/12 Project. Beck has effectively co-opted much of the energy of the movement and is seen as one of its leading figures, along with former Alaska governor Sarah Palin.

In a blog post now absent from TaxDayTeaParty.com, Odom claimed to have been a part of the "original crew" behind TaxDayTeaParty.com and the Tea Party movement in February 2009 with his associates Ken Marrero, Michael Patrick Leahy of #TCOT (Top Conservatives on Twitter), Tea Party Patriots founder Amy Kremer, and Stacey Mott of Smart Girl Politics. Odom's story is disputed by one of his fellow Chicago libertarians, who wrote on April 14th (the eve of Tax Day) that the Libertarian Party of Illinois (LP-IL) started a Tea Party group on Facebook back in 2008 and that Odom was simply a member of that original group. LP-IL Chair Dave Brady said:

This all is kind of frustrating because LP Illinois gets no credit for this project. Eric Odom, a member of LP Illinois, and our original group, created his own website and facebook group and aligned directly with Santelli. We have kept our facebook page active to reflect the initial start date of this whole movement weeks before Santelli.

The first post on the wall of the party's Boston Tea Party Chicago Facebook page (found here) is dated Feb. 11, eight days before CNBC reporter Rick Santelli's rant inspired many of the ensuing tea parties.

Despite Odom's extensive history in online and offline organizing, he described American Liberty Alliance in an October fundraising email as a "newbie grassroots organization". American Liberty Alliance used to list its leadership on its website. Along with Odom, that leadership included: David Yardley, former Michigan Republican congressional staffer; Allen Fuller, Odom's partner in the twin firms Flat Creek Management and Strategic Activism LLC; Corrine Williams, former policy analyst for the House Republican Policy Committee; Amy Hagerstrom, founder of the Michigan chapter of Americans for Prosperity; Ken Marrero, who founded the #DontGo movement with Odom; and Ali Akbar, executive editor of HipHopRepublican.com and president of Republic Modern Media.

Akbar, who has served as the American Liberty Alliance's technology consultant, creates plenty of Republican websites. Samadamsalliance.org and Healthcarehorserace.com (another Odom/ALA venture) were both designed by Republic Modern, a communications firm that creates content for Republican activists. Currently Akbar's LinkedIn profile lists him as the chairman of American Liberty Alliance. Interestingly enough, Republic Modern's portfolio fails to list both the Sam Adams Alliance and HealthcareHorserace as clients, though it does include other Odom projects such as #DontGo. Republic Modern also designed the old Sam Adams Alliance site.

Despite its frequent pleas for contributions, American Liberty Alliance is not a non-profit organization. According to its website:

The American Liberty Alliance is not a 501c3, 501c4 or a PAC. We are not registered as a non-profit and we do not raise funds as such. Our primary focus is on content. We publish information and sell advertising on our network of sites. We also occasional [sic] seek contributions from our readers. These contributions are seen as "gifts" to our network and are not tax deductible.

American Liberty Alliance has invited its members to contribute on at least 33 separate occasions since Aug. 10 alone. Neither those emails nor the website mention that American Liberty Alliance is a for-profit venture. On Aug. 23, however, Odom wrote,

We're currently in the process of filing for our non-profit, 501c4 status which will allow us to become even more aggressive in the political environment.

As of yet, American Liberty Alliance is not registered as a 501(c) non-profit organization.

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