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Anatomy of the Tea Party Movement: Sam Adams Alliance

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Produced by HuffPost's Eyes & Ears Citizen Journalism Unit

Samuel Adams was the brewer and patriot who, in 1773, ginned up a mob of Bostonians dressed as Native Americans which conducted history's original Tea Party. The president of Sam Adams Alliance is John Tsarpalas, former executive director of the Illinois State Republican party. Eric O'Keefe, SAA's chairman and CEO, is a former executive director of the National Libertarian Party. He once worked for Citizens for Congressional Reform (pdf), a project of David Koch's Citizens for a Sound Economy. Along with noted Libertarian financier Howard Rich, O'Keefe sits on the board of directors of Americans for Limited Government.

Shortly before online activist Eric Odom helped kick-start the Tea Party movement, he was new media director for Sam Adams Alliance. This put him in charge of (among other things) setting up websites, coordinating Facebook groups, managing Twitter accounts and other social networking tasks. Odom's first known acts as a Tea Partier were to set up the OfficialChicagoTeaParty.com site and Facebook pages within hours of Rick Santelli's February rant, then spreading word through Twitter, initially utilizing #TCOT, a Twitter list and hashtag for Top Conservatives on Twitter.

Both Odom and another former Sam Adams Alliance staffer, Ken Marrero, are now leaders of American Liberty Alliance. Odom is executive director and Marrero is director of grassroots outreach and coalitions. Marrero was a regional new media specialist with Sam Adams Alliance. In July 2008 he described Sam Adams Alliance as "an outgrowth of, I think, visions and dreams from some people who started at Americans for Limited Government."

John Tillman served as president and director of Americans for Limited Government during its start-up phase as well. According to the Illinois Policy Institute, Tillman grew Americans for Limited Government "from a single, part-time employee in May of 2004 to a staff of approximately 25 that had a significant impact on political activity in 13 states in 2006."

Tillman is also president and CEO of the Illinois Policy Institute. Within hours of Rick Santelli's rant, Kristina Rasmussen, who had just been hired as the Executive Vice President by the Illinois Policy Institute that morning, helped kick start the Chicago Tea Party by participating in a February 19 conference call to plan the event. Rasmussen, who was then the Director of Government Affairs at National Taxpayers Union, was the second speaker on the call. Tillman also serves on Sam Adams Alliance's board of directors and was president and COO of Sam Adams Alliance during its start up phase.

Odom formed American Liberty Alliance in March of this year through a combination of the gift of Sam Adams Alliance's blogivists.com, a conservative blog hosting hub, and the #DontGo movement, founded by Odom in 2008 to support offshore drilling.

American Liberty Alliance is not the only Sam Adams Alliance affiliate in this fight, however. American Majority, a self-described "political training institute", is a "concept" of Sam Adams Alliance, which in turn describes itself as AM's "sponsor". American Majority staff includes former George W Bush speechwriter Ned Ryun, regional field director for Bush/Cheney '04 Lonny Leitner, former Republican state legislator Shari Weber, and former director of operations at the Oklahoma Republican Party, Matt Pinnell.

American Majority also got involved this summer on Sam Adams Alliance's American Liberty Tour, offering organizer trainings prior to each tour event. The Tour itself was billed as a project of American Liberty Alliance, Sam Adams Alliance and Americans for Limited Government.

Long before Sam Adams Alliance's recent website redesign, they altered an internship recruitment page that connected Sam Adams Alliance to Koch Industries: "Interested parties can apply for a Sam Adams Alliance internship through the Charles G. Koch Summer Fellow Program administered by the Institute for Humane Studies and the State Policy Network." The internship is still listed on the IHS website. Charles Koch founded the IHS. The internship page existed up until the site's ongoing redesign, but recently the Koch reference was absent from the Sam Adams Alliance website. An article in Playboy Magazine, taken down almost as soon as it was posted, claimed the Koch reference was scrubbed on Feb. 16. Three days later, Santelli's supposedly-spontaneous rant kick-started the Tea Party movement, enabled by Odom's on-line assistance.


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