Yesterday evening I went to Valley Park with Bill Hennessy, my co-organizer for the St. Louis Tea Party, and other STLTP organizers to meet with the board members of Circle of Concern. Rich and Mimi met us there as well; as you may or may not know, I was introduced to Mimi at Saturday’s July 4th event where Mimi, a volunteer at Circle of Concern (her husband, Rich, is on the board) explained that while Circle of Concern accepted food and cash donations from our April 15th Tax Day Tea Party event, they voted to not accept any further donations from the St. Louis Tea Party.
Rich called into my show on Sunday night to explain further; you can hear our conversation here, about one third of the way into the hour.
Monday morning just after finishing Allman in the Morning, wherein I mentioned the Circle of Concern situation, I got word that Glenn Koenen, Executive Director of Circle of Concern, and Jerry Caesar, President of the Board, were incredibly upset with Mimi and Rich. I’m told that after she was summarily dressed down, they asked for an immediate meeting.
There were many things which, I’m sorry, just didn’t sound right to me as justifications for the actions taken and that’s fine. Glenn and Jerry explained that they were, well, concerned because of these photos which appeared on an infamously partisan blog, reports from Southern Poverty Law Center, and Charles Jaco.
Jim notes that one of the photos, the one cited by Circle of Concern as a reason for choosing to accept donations at tea party events, might have possibly been that of a plant, published by the über-left Fired Up, designed to smear the tea party and scaring any charity that dared to show up and accept donations from happy-to-give tea partiers. The man in this photo I’m told has played at fundraisers for President Obama (I’m told his name is Jesse Irwin. I don’t know the full story of what he was attempting to do here but the question is why would he do it?) I was warned, anonymously, from multiple sources that this sort of thing was going to happen at the April 15th event:
I’m a longtime reader of your Mamalogues website and I don’t agree with the political things you have to say at all at your other sites or on your show, but I believe you have a right to say them.
I wanted to give you and the other organizers a heads up because I know that there are some who have talked about making crazy signs or provoking the crowd as a way to get bad coverage for the tea parties.
I won’t go to a tea party but you all have enough respect to let us demonstrate without this subversive [redacted] and I think we should be the same way.
However, Irwin has Ron Paul stuff on his site, and while I think Ron Paul is to the left on foreign policy, he’s not a lefty. It’s just … all so very odd. The sign is just … no, but it’s surprising because it’s usually the left who makes signs about killing elected officials (via) or telling the troops to go blank themselves.
It’s also odd to me that we we would be held accountable for the reaction of a liberal blog. Obviously, they’re not going to like us; hence the cherry-picking and the seemingly racist way in which those who report on tea parties refuse to count those of various ethnicity at the events – and that’s what it is: to ignore all of the wonderful Hispanic, Black, Asian, Bosnian, et al. who came out to the tea parties seems so incredibly racist to me. What – they don’t count unless they’re liberals?
It’s the fear of leftist reprisal and the additional reluctance of conservatives to speak out that provides the indulgence on which this type of bullying survives.
Circle of Concern was afraid that the reaction of these liberal outlets and their zeal to make tea partiers fit their bigoted perspective would possibly either harm the amount of donations they receive or violate a tax code.
I personally don’t agree with that for several reasons:
1) 501 c (3) states that you can’t support candidates and parties; the St. Louis Tea Party movement isn’t a PAC, we’re not an organization, we’re just a bunch of people who like American prosperity. People of all ethnicities, of all religions, of various parties consider themselves as part of the tea party movement. This is why I have always, always said be SUSPICIOUS of anyone who dares tell you they are the official head of anything. It’s grassroots. There is not official anything.
2) The St. Louis Tea Party doesn’t endorse candidates. We don’t even allow politicians/candidates to speak. Period. We’ve told Sarah Steeleman, Todd Akin, Roy Blunt and many others “no.”
3) Accepting donations of food from an event doesn’t imply endorsement of that event.
Some never acknowledge these basic facts because it serves their interests best to ignore them. They want an official group, they want a head so that they can have a target; they want to ignore our diversity so that they can malign all those participating and isolate us from others who see the scare tactics from these lefty blogs, et al. and are too afraid to get involved with us. Hmmm, sounds similar to some southern gothic tactics I’ve heard of before to keep people from things. But I digress.
Circle of Concern can’t afford to be involved with the tea party anymore thanks to the coverage on these blogs and by Jaco and the like. I don’t agree with the charity’s reasoning – but I now understand why they’re doing it. Circle of Concern fed 1,216 people last May alone (source: Circle of Concern); one in six Missouri residents receives food stamps. I do not want to persecute those who help the community; it’s what we’re also trying to do. However, I will hold Fired Up, SPLC, and Jaco whose malicious misrepresentation of what the tea parties are all about are actually HURTING charities’ ability to collect food at such events.
Can you imagine how much charitable donations will be affected by say, cap-and-trade? Can you imagine how grocery budgets will shrink, as will donations, when the price of everything spikes? This stuff isn’t political. It’s math. I don’t care what side you’re on: I have a servant’s heart for this community and all I want to do is HELP.
It begs the question as to why the charity would not stand up to the liberal bullies for their purposeful mis-characterization of anyone involved, but they will cut off donations from tea party events – without even verifying the accuracy of the photos posted. Look how quickly we were able to find the sources and people in one of the photos mentioned.
Regardless, there are some genuinely good people are Circle of Concern who have been working so hard to get food to hungry people. It’s unfortunate that those who disagree with the tea parties will take that disagreement as far as they have and sensationalize us so that it actually stops charities from accepting for the needy for fear of hurting their entire operation.
This is what’s wrong with politics. Those actions are not indicative of serving the people; they’re of serving an agenda. So much for power to the people.
One of the Circle of Concern staffers asked us why we would even accept food at events? Jim has some of the backstory on that; the thing is, we give regularly, as much as we can without putting ourselves in the red. We don’t crow about it and alert the papers, but being good stewards of the earth and servicing those in need are tenants of what we believe. It’s something we already do; we didn’t realize that in order for anyone else to count it, it had to be done with fanfare. Sorry, but that expectation of giving is tacky and places the importance on the person committing the act rather than the act itself and the fact that blessing others comes from something higher, not ourselves.
We’re going to work with other charities though at future events because we were so wonderfully surprised at the tons, literally tons of food we collected for those in need. If we’re in a position to use these events to share our blessings further then we want to do it.
It would be nice to see the fervor with which others attack us turned into zest for helping others.
I have video forthcoming and will update.
*Bill makes a great point about how we donate food to keep the government from doing it as a way to exploit the people.
*More update: Irwin wrote and said that he’s not an Obamaphile and considers himself a conservative. That’s fine and dandy, I still think that we have the ability to differentiate ourselves from those on the left by dissenting in a more creative and not as salacious manner. It’s not an infringement upon anyone’s right to think such; rather, why not employ a perk when it’s available?