Zoller: More Tea Party Advice: From The Inside

I’m traveling this week, so I asked Martha Zoller if she wouldn’t mind helping out with a guest column.  She was kind enough to pitch in, and writes this one as a follow on to continue this discussion we started on Tuesday.

There is much “lamenting and gnashing of teeth” over the future of the Tea Party.  There’s turmoil at Freedomworks, “cleansing” of Tea Party conservatives in Congress and at home and around the country, local groups want to know what’s next?

Let’s step back for a moment and look at the history. This is a movement and in every movement there are ups and downs.  When you ask people about Tea Party values of less spending, smaller government and getting back to the Constitution, most people agree with us.  They didn’t vote that way in November, though.  If the first Tea Party patriots backed down after early setbacks, we wouldn’t have the United States of America.  In the founding of our Republic, only about a third agreed with independence.  Through leadership and perseverance, we prevailed.

And we must remember, the big loss in November wasn’t the Presidency.  It was losing ground in the United States Senate.  That should have been a win for Republicans and conservatives.  Our presidential candidate was never comfortable with the grassroots and the Tea Party.  And candidates failed to use the resources and media that were on their side, again. There’s work to do.

I attended my first Tea Party rally in Gainesville in 2009. The organizers got the permit for Poultry Park  in Downtown Gainesville, but didn’t’ know they needed a permit for a sound system. Don’t you love bureaucracy?  If the Tea Party folks had been like yesterday’s union thugs in Michigan, we would have just torn the place up.  But that’s not what we are.   So, I took my shoes off, stepped up on the bench and used my “big Broadway voice” to talk to the couple of hundred folks who came. Later that same day, I spoke to a much smaller event in Athens.

Since then, I’ve attended and spoken at Tea Party Events big and small.  I believe in the movement of “Taxed Enough Already.” I believe the Tea Party is best as a return to limited (by the US Constitution) government and fiscal policy.  However, as I travelled the 9th district in my campaign for Congress and around the state since, what is clear to me is the “Tea Party” is many things. Depending on where you are, there may be more focus on social issues or international issues or fiscal issues.

I’m a Tea Partier from the outset and on the inside and proud of it.  This is a truly grassroots movement.  But to my friends in the movement, we have to be careful not to be co-opted and become just another bunch of people co-opted into giving more credence to Washington insiders than to the grassroots that made this movement.

We had mixed results in the 2012 elections but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t support candidates with volunteer hours and money. So what to do next?

First, we need to stay focused on being Constitutional and Fiscal Conservatives. We can’t get bogged down in every issue out there. The most important thing we can do is get our country back on track fiscally.  The mainstream of both parties are counting on us to give up and “go back to work.” They think they can wait us out; we need to show them we are not going away. The opportunity to deal with the issues out there comes only from getting our fiscal house in order.

Second, we need to work with the people in power between elections. We’ve lost the rhythm of separating campaigns from governing.  Finding common ground is not selling out.  One prominent Tea Party leader in Georgia said, “Because we disagree on one thing, it doesn’t mean we disagree on everything.”  In the recent amendment to the Constitution of Georgia, Tea Partiers were pretty unified in their opposition to the T-SLOST, but were split on the Charter School Amendment.  We are not monolithic, but we should be on fiscal issues. So work together where you can and regroup when you have to.

Finally, the Tea Party principles are as strong as ever. We need to be “Happy Warriors.”  The Progressives are willing to work for generations to chip away at the Republic that we love.  Conservatives, Tea Party folks, Republicans and Libertarians have to do the same thing.  We don’t feel like the majority right now, but we are.

The best thing I did in my political life was to make the first phone call to Tea Party leaders and ask how I could help.  It’s an honorable movement of substance and should be lifted up, not town down.


Martha Zoller is a Tea Party activist, recovering Congressional Candidate and will be back on the air soon. You can contact her through marthazoller.com


  1. Bob Loblaw says:

    You got one thing right: the biggest loss was in the U.S. Senate, thanks to TEA Party candidates upending the careers of conservatives like Dick Lugar. Furthermore, as you mentioned, wading into issues outside of why so many thousands braved a cold rainstorm at the Georgia Capitol–limited government and fiscal policy, is why the U.S. Senate was lost.

    Co-opted is a great way to describe how the TEA party in Georgia was roped onto the educrats’ team in their effort to continue to enjoy a monopoly on public education.

    Excellent column. I wonder what the TEA party’s first order of business is going to be both on federal and state levels? Right now, its looking like the first order of business in Washington for the TEA Party is taking down Speaker. It appears the first order of business in Georgia is siding with Common Cause and Georgia Watch, two of the most liberal organizations at the Capitol, to discuss lobbying reforms.

    Off to a good start, Martha?

      • Bob Loblaw says:

        Doesn’t Common Cause advocate using taxpayer funds to finance political campaigns? Doesn’t Common Cause want to radically alter the U.S. political system by putting a stranglehold on free speech? See for yourself. Maybe they went left when you left, Harry!


        “In a citizen-funded “Fair Elections” system, qualified candidates who take no contributions larger than $100 can run for Congress on a blend of small donations and public funds.”

        Their idea of your tax dollars at work…going to fund a political campaign. Maybe they’re not liberal. Maybe its worse.

          • Bob Loblaw says:

            That would be limiting one’s contribution to a campaign from the current levels to a $100 level. That would be a chilling effect on free speech.

              • Bob Loblaw says:

                They’re “wrong”? You sound like Rand Paul after the Obamacare decision: “Just because the Supreme Court says its constitutional doesn’t mean that it is.”

                Wait, yes it does. Your ability to spend your money in campaign electioneering is tied directly to your speech. So says the law of the land.

                • Bob Loblaw says:

                  sorry, that was “unconstitutional”. My bad. It’s late and I’ve been laughing for an hour straight.

    • 2 Down 1 To Go says:


      I lived in Indiana for 20 years and Dick Lugar was my Senator for the entire time. There were few issues with Dick and he was seen as a damned good Senator and well respected.

      The key reason that he lost the primary was the number of years he had served and the backlash of many that he felt he could hold the office until death. It had more to do with what kind of effort does an 86 year old put in than whether he was Conservative enough.

      The issue wasn’t challenging the incumbent in the primary, the issue was the challenger.

    • debbie0040 says:

      Bob, when are you going to stop being a coward and post under your own name?

      You think it is ok for others like Gov. Deal to reach across the aisle and work with ultra liberals like Mayor Reed, but you have an issue with us doing it because you don’t like what we are doing.

      Under Georgia law, it is legal for a lobbyist to gift a legislator with a car or house as long as it is disclosed. Bob and his boss don’t want limits on lobbyist gifts like the majority of states around Georgia have in place . Bob and his boss want to continue the practice of legislaltors being to accept unlimited gifts from lobbyists. I can just imagine the campaign ads/robocalls in 2014….

      Bob, are you saying that conservative organizations or Republicans are opposed to ethical government and only liberal groups and Democrats want tough ethics law? There are over 30 organizations in the ethics coalition and 80% are conservative groups.

      Just for the record, the idea about limits on lobbyist gifts and other ethics reform came from a tea party summit held in McDonough, GA in October of 2010. the caps and ethics reform was part of a tea party platform about 20 tea party activists came up with . Common Cause read about it in the newspaper and contacted us. So, “Bob”, you and your boss can stop telling outright lies about why we are pushing for tough ethics reform and where the idea came from.

      Bob, until you stop being a coward and post under your real name, this is the last time I will re4spond to you..

      • John Konop says:


        Kasim Reed and Ceasar Mitchell have both shown tremendous leadership via fiscal issues and are pro business. This is the best leadership I have seen in Atlanta since I have lived here. Not many from either party has shown this type of leadership. I like you Debbie, but lumping people together with claims that are off base is why some people have turned off the Tea Party. You do a great job when you are building alliances not tearing them down.

        ……..The deal is struck: Atlanta pension overhaul agreement reached…….

        ………. Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed and Council President Ceasar Mitchell on Thursday applauded the Atlanta City Council for taking a major step toward approving pension plan reform. If approved by the Atlanta City Council next week, the legislation would avoid the need for personnel reductions and service cuts, and put the city on a path toward greater fiscal stability in FY2012 and beyond……


        • debbie0040 says:

          John, I see nothing wrong with conservatives and liberals working together on issues they agree on. I was pointing out bob’s hypocracy in criticizing us for working with liberal groups but he says nothing when other conservatives do.

          For example tax-payer funding for the stadium is another issue both liberal and conservatives agree on. The majority oppose tax payer funding a a new stadium.. I see no reason groups cannot work togerther on issue they agree on without sacrificing their principles.

          The bottom line is it is disgraceful that some Republicans oppose limits on lobbyist gifts. We were basically told by some Republican legislators that the Democrats got all the perks when they were in power and now that the Republicans are in power, it is their turn to get the perks. Ethics should not be a Republican or Democrat issue or a liberal vs. conservative issue, it should be a good government issue.

          For years Republican elected officials got away with un-ethical behavior or avoiding putting a cap on lobbyist gifts and tough ethics reform by manipulating activist by telling them that the liberal AJC and liberal groups were pushing it or that the liberal AJC was just out to get them and they wanted to hurt Republicans. Many activists looked the other way because actually believed it. No more. Conservative groups are calling elected officials out so they can’t not hide behind the liberal media or the liberal group excuse any longer. And some don’t like it..

          The voters of both parties sent a very strong message on July 31st with the ballot question pertaining to lobbyist gifts. 87% or 827,826 voters of the Republican primary and 71% or 423,775 voters of the Democratic primary voted for cap on lobbyist gifts. If elected officials want to ignore that, then they can answer to the voters.


          • debbie0040 says:

            The bottom line is that the GOP caucus electes Speaker of the House and if the majority of the GOP caucus wants a cap on lobbyist gifts and tough ethics reform, then it would pass. If the majority of the caucus wants caps on lobbyist gifts and Speaker Ralston tried to obstruct it, then they demand he stop obstructing caps or they would remove him as Speaker. I am not calling for him to be removed as speaker but simply pointing out that the GOP House caucus is not going to be able to hide behind Speaker Ralston to fight caps on lobbyist gifts. If the House continues to obstruct caps on lobbyist gifts and other tough ethics reform, it is because the majority of the members House caucus really don’t want limits on lobbyist gifts.

            If a bill passes the House and a different bill passes the Senate, we will be watching very closely as many times the conference committee is used to kill legislation that both houses don’t really want but don’t want to oppose it because of political ramifications.

      • Bob Loblaw says:

        Oh, so a cap on lobbyists gifts was first born in TEA Party meeting in McDonough? HA! Tell that to Mary Margaret Oliver, Sonny Perdue and many others who have introduced legislation to do the same back when you were still on the couch looking for a brighter shade of blonde and a TEA party meeting in McDonough was years in the making.

        The arrogance you show is unreal. The TEA Party came up with a lobbyist limit? Common Cause has been calling for getting money out of politics in every way possible since their beginning, so your little McDonough revelation may cause them to pull you aside and set you straight as well. Ask Bob Irvin. Ask Eric Johnson. You so need to get those Georgia government Cliff’s Notes.

        You may have 30 organizations in your group, but you couldn’t get even one representative from half of these “supporters” to show up at the “big” rally, could you?

        from: http://www.ajc.com/news/news/local-govt-politics/reformers-optimistic-on-lobby-gift-cap/nTTkJ/

        For example, Perry said the alliance’s meeting Monday in Athens was a bit of a disappointment. The meeting had been timed to coincide with a three-day legislative conference at the University of Georgia attended by most state legislators. Organizers had encouraged legislators to attend and provided a free shuttle to ferry lawmakers from the conference to the meeting. But Perry said the only lawmakers who came were state Sen. Josh McKoon, R-Columbus, who was on the panel, and incoming Rep. Regina Quick, R-Athens, who used ethics reform as one of her campaign issues.

        The meeting Wednesday drew a crowd of about two dozen people, more than half of whom were from the media.

        So Debbie, you keep railing about cars and houses that never have been bought (like, ever, ever, ever) for an elected official and you’ll keep turning out “crowds” like described, above. You’re credibility is about as strong as that turnout. This is an AJC issue.

        Where’s your T-SPLOST lawsuit again? Oh yeah. You’re not talking to me. Again.

        Common Cause saw a TEA Party idea to cap lobbyist spending and contacted you. Oh my God I don’t need to watch any sit-coms tonight because my core is cramping due to uncontrollable laughter. Have mercy.

  2. John Konop says:


    ……… When you ask people about Tea Party values of less spending, smaller government and getting back to the Constitution, most people agree with us……….

    The reality is most of us want a balanced approach to the budget. We need to straighten loopholes that give the very wealthy an unfair tax advantage ie very rich pay more, We need to cut back on entitlements and invest into infrastructure. It is time for the adult lawmakers to step up and cut the deal.

    ……….NBC/WSJ poll: Two-thirds support balanced deficit deal……….


    • John Konop says:

      BTW all sides want a balnaced……………

      ………..That includes 68 percent of Democrats, 66 percent of Republicans and 56 percent of political independents who support this position………

      • seekingtounderstand says:

        BTW most folks realize that if President Obama had not tried to inflate the economic bubbles we would be enduring another depression with major suffering.
        He may have delayed the suffering thru debt spending, but eventually even he can not stop market forces.
        The only hope America has is thru selling of energy resources to pay off this massive debt.
        Realizing that governments will inflate the debt away as much as they can and destroying the middle class and poor.
        Sound money policy should be one goal every citizen agrees on.

  3. 2 Down 1 To Go says:

    It would be interesting to take a deeper dive on the issue of the Charter School Support and why TEA party members were split on the support.

    My biggest objections and why I voted against were

    1. We already had a process for grating Charter Schools in the state and that the amendment created an unnecessary second method and bigger government (bureaucracy and expensive)
    2. Corporate Welfare is as insidious and self serving to politicians as individual welfare and this seemed like a prime example of creating a money flow out to private companies and a money flow into to legislatures via lobbying.
    3. It was led and orchestrated by the Chipster and had as much to do with punishing those in his own neighborhood as it did with creating a ‘better’ Georgia. Every time he said it was “for the children” I’m pretty sure a kitten died.

    It would seem that for those TEA party members that voted for it, their individual needs trumped those related to less government and more local control. They created more government and provided the State a way to use their Tax dollars for something their local school boards decided was unnecessary. It’s much easier to change your local school board or lobby them on the need for a Charter school than it is to have an Amendment to the State Constitution repealed.

    To me, this shows some weakness in the TEA party and it stinks of the old saying “It’s a waste of money when that guy gets his pork through, but it’s economic development and good governance when my guy gets his pork through.”

    • Bob Loblaw says:

      The kitten comment is freaking hilarious. Between this post and Debbie’s claim that the TEA Party gave birth to lobbyist caps is just too much. When you google “comedy” this blog entry should come on the front page.

      • 2 Down 1 To Go says:

        Well, I’m just happy you made it that far. Glad I could help you out with your core workout. Who knew that the P in P90X stood for Politics?

  4. griftdrift says:

    That Martha infers the tea party is not part of the mainstream and Debbie thinks Kasim Reed is an ultra-liberal is all you really need to know about this conversation.

  5. Scott65 says:

    My problem with the TP is several fold. First, its hardly a grass roots movement. It was and is funded by some of the wealthiest in this country. Second, who is the economist advising the TP? What economic philosophy tells you that we have to pay down our debt now? Third, why are most TP gatherings absent minorities and people of less means (the poor), and why are these people not buying into your message. Here is my take…because its wrong, and people are waking up to the fact what Martha lays out is simply wrong. Now, that said, what Debbie is advocating…honesty in our elected officials, transparency and ethics…those are winning issues for everyone, and make everyones lives better. Going to the top of the mountain and screeching about the debt (when it is absolutely not the problem right now) is demagoguery, and is destined to fail (either the policy or its implementation if it comes to that) . Governments like the US issue their own currency…so we cant go broke and we cant become Greece…and anyone that says otherwise has little understanding of monetary policy…and shouldn’t be dictating it

    • 2 Down 1 To Go says:

      Scott65 –

      To your point on which Economist and Economic Philosophy guide the Tea Party:

      I think Economists are pretty much like polls and statistics, you can always find one that supports your case. I am in no way a spokesman for the TP, only went to the first two gatherings downtown at the capitol, but the one thing I agreed with at that time was that the American people were concerned that the Government didn’t feel the need to follow the same basic rules an average American does.

      It sounds trite, but it’s the old…sitting around the table with a checkbook and making hard decisions statement. It’s not so much about economic philosophy as it is common sense. You can’t continue to spend money you don’t have. Sure you can find PHDs that will give you all sorts of information on Sovereign Debt and that debt is just swell…all that is great.

      But to the commoner, we don’t see anyone making the “hard choices” that we are making. I don’t have a smart phone because I can’t afford the data rates. The country shouldn’t send billions to Egypt and Pakistan because we can’t afford throwing money at people that don’t like us.

    • mpierce says:

      Second, who is the economist advising the TP? What economic philosophy tells you that we have to pay down our debt now?

      Paul Ryan has lots of Tea Party support and the Ryan budget doesn’t start paying down the debt until after 2040.

      why are most TP gatherings absent minorities

      Maybe false narratives put forth by the media is part of the reason?

      people of less means (the poor)

      Maybe they like the taxes where they are.

      Distribution by Income Group, 2009:
      Quintile: Share of income, share of income tax
      lowest: 5.1, -6.6 (yes that’s negative)
      2nd: 9.8, -3.5 (negative again)
      3rd: 14.7, 2.7
      4th: 21.1, 13.4
      highest: 50.8, 94.1

      Source: CBO

    • Three Jack says:

      So Scott65, if $50T in debt is no big thing, why do we need to increase taxes ‘on the rich’?

      Also, this narrative about lack of minorities is such a bogus position. Do you also ask where are all the white folks at a NAACP gathering? What difference does skin color make? You sound like that idiot ESPN analyst Rob Parker who went on a rant about RGIII not being a brother, called him a ‘cornball brother’. Anybody can attend any TP event that I ever attended, never once saw a sign saying, “No brothers allowed”.

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