The Tea Party Movement vs The Political Party

The Tea Party Movement vs The Political Party

By Tom Tillison
Orlando Political Press

Is it real, or is it Memorex? 

On the steps of Orlando City Hall, under a blazing Florida sun, district 8 Republican candidate Bruce O’Donoghue spoke with local media on the “cozy” relationship he sees between the Florida Tea Party political party (TEA) and Democrat Representative Alan Grayson. 

This press conference was called in response to a threatening letter that Fred O’Neal, the head of the TEA party, sent to O’Donoghue.  (See Below)

“Where there’s smoke there’s fire,” said O’Donoghue.

Standing with some members of the local tea party movement, O’Donoghue said he was willing to challenge the Florida Tea Party, which he called a “sham”, because it “could confuse voters” on who the tea party movement supports and could split the conservative vote.

Again, it is critical to understand that the TEA party does not represent the tea party movement, nor does it involve anyone who is seen as a leader in the movement.  The TEA party was formed by local attorney Fred O’Neal, who was a registered Democrat at the time he filed with the state.  O’Neal has since changed his party affiliation to reflect the TEA party.

This ‘political party’ is a completely separate entity from the movement, and, as such, does stand to create confusion at the ballot box.  

When asked about the TEA party, Jason Hoyt, host of the Tea Party Patriots LIVE radio show (WORL 660 AM) and the first person to organize a tea party in Orlando, had this to say, “It’s a lie, flat out. It’s wrong, it’s deceitful and I think it’s disgusting.” 

Hoyt is among a small national group of 91 known as the ‘tea party founders’, and is well qualified to speak on the issue.  Hoyt goes on to say, “These guys have completely missed the essence of the tea party movement, where ‘We The People’ decide who our candidates will be. We’re battling political parties that choose our candidates for us, and his letter proves that these guys have now become the very thing we’re trying to reform.”

It’s worth noting that Alan Grayson recently purchased advertising time during the airing of Tea Party Patriots LIVE.  This time was purchased through the station, WORL,  which splits the ad time with the show.  This is a very recent developement that many perceive to be an equalizing force to attention that has been drawn to Grayson advertising for some time on a radio show that Guetzloe hosts. 

As for Alan Grayson, it’s indisputable that he stands to benefit if the conservative vote is split between the Republican Party and the TEA candidates.  So motive can easily be assigned.  However, as for any direct connections to the TEA party, as of this date, there are none.  It goes without saying that he denies any involvement.

What does exist are multiple ties between Alan Grayson and Doug Guetzloe, as detailed in an article posted last week by the Orlando Sentinel.  These ties even include Guetzloe’s son working as an intern for Grayson.

Guetzloe is a staunch supporter of the Florida Tea Party political party, even rumored to be the braintrust behind it, and, also happens to be represented by Fred O’Neal.  Yes, the same Fred O’Neal who registered the Florida Tea Party.

So, as anyone who is familiar with the local political scene can attest to, the lawsuits are flying.  The TEA party has been sued by multiple tea party groups around the state over claims to the phrase ‘tea party’.  Guetzloe, who is no stranger to litigation, is named in that suit and has now filed a counter suit against some of these same individuals.

Not exactly an encouraging sign for conservatives who are hoping to remove the uber-liberal Alan Grayson in November and restore sanity in district 8. 

What is certain is that this mess stands to get a lot worse as November approaches.  Local tea party leaders are working hard to educate the public on the differences between the political party and the movement itself, as it’s their belief that informed voters are the greatest enemy to the fraudulent actions of political opportunists.  Stay tuned!

Dear Mr. O’Donoghue:

People who know me know that one of my “rules of life” is to try not to get drawn into fist fights with midgets. But, in your case, I’m going to make an exception.

Let me introduce myself. My name is Fred O’Neal. I, not Alan Grayson, founded the Tea Party political party. I did so because in my opinion and as Polk County Commissioner and 12th District Congressional candidate Randy Wilkinson puts it, the Republican Party and the Democratic Party are just two wings of the same bird of prey.

You obviously like the Republican Party. I don’t. Why I don’t like the Republican Party is primarily because I know that the $350,000 you’re so proud of raising probably came with a price. In my experience, most Republican politicians have to sell their souls to the devil to raise the kind of money they raise. In my experience, big business and special interests have traditionally bought and sold Republican politicians like commodities. As a consequence, Republican politicians, in my experience, tend to vote the way their “masters” tell them to vote, rather than in the best interest of the people.

But that’s okay. If you think “trickle down economics” and representing special interests is best for the country, then you have a right to say so and you have a right to run for office in a political party which generally agrees with your philosophy.

I, on the other hand, disagree. I think the American people have been “trickled on” enough.

That’s not my beef with you.

My beef with you is your calling the Tea Party a “sham” political party and your questioning our right to even exist.

A little background on how the Tea Party got founded – for over twenty years I’ve been working with Doug Guetzloe and others to fight tax increases and big ticket boondoggle projects like Sunrail.

In 2006, with it being apparent that the Republican Party (at least at the state level) had become the “tax and spend” party, Doug and I looked into what it would take to form a political party. At the time, we thought about calling it the “Ax the Tax Party,” but the name sounded a little klunky and we didn’t do anything.

In August of 2009, with the emergence of the T.E.A. (Taxed Enough Already) movement, I pulled out my old research and went ahead with forming the Tea Party. I didn’t roll it out publicly until November, after Doug Hoffman’s showing in NY23 and the apparent groundswell of dissatisfaction with both political parties.

By November, Doug and Nick Egoroff had been kicked out of the Republican Party by the now infamous Jim Greer. So, Doug and Nick both being friends, I asked them to come join me. Thankfully, they agreed.

As an aside, Alan Grayson had nothing to do with any of the above. He didn’t give me the idea to form the party. He didn’t pay me to do so (no one paid me to do so). Moreover, I’ve never met Alan Grayson. I’ve never talked with Alan Grayson. In short, I wouldn’t know Alan Grayson if I ran him over with my car.

But I digress. Since November 2009, Doug, Nick and I have been recruiting candidates (and not just for the 8th Congressional District). But, as to the 8th Congressional District, I first met with fellow attorney, Todd Long. The meeting was arranged by a mutual friend, Alicya Simmons, the ex-wife of former State Rep. David Simmons. Todd, Alicya, myself and another attorney, Mark Fisher, met for about an hour. I tried to convince Todd of the advantages of running on the Tea Party ticket. But, Todd wanted to run as a Republican, and so he politely said “no.”

Next, Doug, Nick and I met with Dan Fanelli. We had several meetings with Dan. Unlike Todd, Dan couldn’t make up his mind what to do. We gave him a deadline (because we needed to move on if he wasn’t going to run on our ticket). The deadline came and went and still no decision from Dan. So, we moved on.

As another aside, it’s humorous to read Dan say he “turned us down cold.” That couldn’t be further from the truth. Todd “turned me down cold,” in a polite way. Dan … we just never got an answer from him.

Luckily Todd turned us down and luckily Dan couldn’t make up his mind because that brought us to Peg Dunmire.

Peg was a total surprise. I hadn’t heard of Peg prior to our meetings with her. Peg is spunky. Peg is knowledgeable. Peg is 100% right on all the issues. Peg would make a great Congress-person. But, what attracted me most to Peg is how much she cares about her granddaughter and the kind of country we’re leaving behind to our kids and grandkids.

But I digress. I, too, read Mark Schlueb’s article in the paper. I like Mark. I think he’s a good guy. We go way back. But, Mark needs his job. So, Mark does what he’s told. His “masters” (the people who run the Sentinel) HATE Doug Guetzloe (and they don’t like me very much either). The reason they HATE Doug Guetzloe is because Doug has historically been the main opposition to all the taxpayer funded downtown boondoggles the Sentinel tries to push down our throats in order to improve the value of their property downtown (question: is it just a coincidence that the main SunRail station is only a block away from the Sentinel’s property downtown?).

So when Mark writes a story about Doug (or me), I know what his instructions are and where the article is going. For example, I gave Mark a statement about Grayson’s involvement (or, I should say, non-involvement) with the Tea Party. But, not surprisingly, Mark didn’t use my statement in his article, because it just didn’t fit the story line he was trying to create. What I told Mark was that, unfortunately, Grayson hasn’t contributed any money to the Tea Party. But, if Mark were going to contact Grayson for his story, I asked Mark to tell Grayson he could either contribute on-line at our web site or he could send a check to the mailing address on the website, or, if the check were $500 or more, I’d personally go by and pick up the check.

Which brings me back to your press release calling the Tea Party a “sham” political party – what is it with you Republicans? Why do you feel you’re “entitled” to be the voter’s only alternative to the Democrats? Where did that sense of “entitlement” come from? I’ve checked the Constitution. I can’t find it there. I checked the Florida Statutes. I can’t find it there. I even checked my FHP driver’s manual. I didn’t find it there, either. Why do you think the voters should only have two choices? In every other area of American life people have more than two choices. Yes, there’s Burger King and McDonald’s. But there’s also Wendy’s. Where does your sense of “entitlement” come from?

As you may be aware, a recent New York Times/CBS News poll showed that 46% of Americans say the country needs a new political party. Are you saying 46% of the people are wrong?

Regardless, you’ve picked a fight that’s going to cost you. In case you were wondering, “O’Neal” is an Irish name. Genetically, therefore, I suffer from an acute case of “Irish Alzheimer’s,” a condition which causes you to forget everything but the grudges. In case you haven’t figured it out by now, I now have a grudge with you.

Specifically, if by some fluke you become the Republican nominee for the 8th Congressional District, and if by some fluke Peg Dunmire were to want to withdraw from the race, I, personally, am going to beat her with a stick until she agrees to stay in the race to the end. Or, if despite my best efforts she still withdraws, I will see to it that someone else takes her place so that there is a Tea Party nominee on the ballot in November opposing you.

And, if you ever again in your lifetime decide to run for any other public office, whether it be dogcatcher or water district commissioner, I’m going to, personally, make sure there is a Tea Party nominee on the ballot opposing you.

You are going to personally find out how wrong you are in saying that the Tea Party is a “sham” political party.


Fred O’Neal


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Tom Tillison


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