A couple of days ago, in a post about the race for Louisiana’s Third Congressional District, I mentioned that Republican candidate Jeff Landry had been endorsed by The Tea Party of Louisiana, which I implied to be a monolithic group of Republicans. Needless to say, this didn’t sit well with the board of the Tea Party of Louisiana, and within hours, I was contacted by board member Barry Hugghins, who politely informed me that their organization included Independents and Libertarians and that of the 12 members of their executive board, only six were, in fact, registered Republicans. Fair enough. I made the correction in an update to the post, and I asked Mr. Hugghins if he would consent to an e-mail interview about The Tea Party of Louisiana. I told him I would publish his responses, in full and unedited.
Obviously, Mr. Hugghins and I have vastly different perspectives on the role of government and the direction this country is currently taking, but although I disagree with the platform of the so-called Tea Party, I’m a big proponent of the open and free exchange of ideas.
Here, in full, is my exchange with Barry Hugghins of The Tea Party of Louisiana:
1. When was the Tea Party of Louisiana created? Are there any other similar Tea Party organizations in the State? If so, how does the Tea Party of Louisiana distinguish itself from other organizations?
The Tea Party of Louisiana (TPoL) was created in late May, 2009, and formal incorporation papers were filed with the La Secretary of State on June 22, 2009. I am told that there are 33 “Tea Party” groups in Louisiana, but I can give you neither an exact count nor an exact list; sorry.
In so far as “distinguishing itself” from other organizations, TPoL doesn’t particularly “lose any sleep” worrying about this. We subscribe to President Truman’s philosophy that “It’s amazing what you can accomplish when you don’t care who gets the credit”. TPoL does its own thing, working with other like-minded groups when the occasion arises where it makes sense for us to do so.
2. Has your organization received any funding or support from Political Action Committees or organizations like FreedomWorks?
TPoL’s ONLY funding source is member contributions and merchandise sales – American flags, caps, tee shirts, etc.
TPoL is non-partisan and independent, and has thus made a conscious decision NOT to align itself with nor take any funding from ANY national group such as those you refer to above.
3. Currently, when you visit the Tea Party of Louisiana’s website, you’re greeted with a video called “Join the Villere Revolution,” which makes it pretty clear that your organization supports Roger Villere’s candidacy for Lt. Governor. As you know, Mr. Villere is currently the Chairman of the Louisiana Republican Party. It seems somewhat ironic that an organization that consists of many people who “detest political parties,” including Mr. Hugghins, who believes in “abolishing” all political parties, would endorse the current Chairman of the Louisiana Republican Party. There are many other Republicans and conservatives who are also running for Lt. Governor. Why are you endorsing Mr. Villere? Do you believe he has been an effective Chairman? And, relatedly, despite the endorsement, does your organization have any specific criticisms of him?
TPoL endorsed Roger Villere for Lt Governor, so we completely support his efforts. Of the people running for this office, it was our judgment that, of those actually qualified to do the job, Mr. Villere is the most fiscally conservative, and, thus, most closely represents the ideals and values of the Tea Party movement. As for Mr. Villere’s chairmanship of the state branch of a major political party, that had no relevance in our decision. The endorsement was for Roger Villere, the man, NOT Roger Villere, the political party chairman.
We have no opinion as to Mr. Villere’s “effectiveness” as the chairman of the Louisiana Republican Party, and, frankly, could care less. Our goal is to help elect “liberty-minded, fiscally conservative candidates”; the success or failure of the Republican Party or any other political party is irrelevant.
As for the “detestation of political parties”, well, PERSONALLY, I agree with George Washington, who, in his farewell address said: “(political parties)… are likely in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.
That said, political parties are a fact of life, and until the day comes when people like me are able to convince a majority of folks that George Washington was right, then we’ll have to deal with candidates who are members of political parties, which I do, not because I like political parties, but because I choose to be involved and try to make a difference.
4. Your website features a video called “The Obama Deception,” which was made by talk radio host and well-known New World Order conspiracy theorist Alex Jones. I assume that, since the video is featured prominently on your website, the organization endorses Mr. Jones’s thesis that Obama is somehow covertly fooling the American people into adopting a “globalist” agenda. Do you also believe that Obama is actively working to eliminate 80% of the world’s population in order to allow the remaining 20% of “elites” to live better lives, as advanced by Mr. Jones? If not, then why post this video under the “Education” tab on your website?
Oh wow, a conspiracy advocate’s video on our web site; who knew? I have not seen “The Obama Deception”, so any comment I made about this would be meaningless. I didn’t even know it was on our website. Perhaps this is the “going away present” of our now-departed previous web administrator.
The term “New World Order”, comes from an early 1990’s speech to the UN made by GHW Bush. In any event, I’m quite sure that this term didn’t originate with Barak Obama. As for President Obama “..actively working to eliminate 80% of the world’s population…”, I don’t really think any seriously-minded person believes that. If this were his goal, he does control “the bomb”…….
Now, here’s what we do believe: Our country is in the midst of a “conflict” between two competing world views: Those who believe “collective solutions” are the answer to society’s problems, and those who believe in “individual solutions”. It’s quite clear that President Obama and the Democrats are collectivists. As evidence, I offer last year’s health care bill. The President believes that the best way for Americans to receive access to health care is through government involvement and control– a collectivist solution. A majority of American believe that this is a matter best handled by the individual without any input from the government. Having a collectivist view does not make the President and the Democrats bad people, it just makes them wrong – at least in our view.
What we want to see is an “opportunity society”: nothing is guaranteed to ANYONE except the opportunity to create the best life possible through hard work and achievement.
5. Your website also features a post about the “Erosion of the United States Constitution.” Interestingly, the post almost exclusively refers to actions taken by former President George W. Bush. Does your organization believe or endorse the idea that George W. Bush actively undermined our Constitution?
Ever heard of TARP? How about the (so-called) Patriot Act?
Former President GW Bush seems to be a decent man, but, he was just as given to “shredding the Constitution to satisfy expediency” as have been many other politicians from BOTH sides of the isle.
6. The Tea Party of Louisiana, on its website, claims that the mainstream media is state-sponsored and “monolithic.” How, exactly, is the media “state-sponsored”? And more importantly, what is the solution to this?
Take a look at the fact that political staffers seem to move seamlessly into and out of the broadcast and print media, and this has to be a point of concern. How can Chris Mathews, who worked for Ed Muskie and Tip O’Neal, was a Democrat candidate for Congress, and had a 15+ year career as a Democrat operative be “fair and balanced”? The same question could be asked about Dick Morris or Dana Perino.
Where is the journalist today, print or broadcast, who has integrity of Walter Cronkite? He NEVER brought his political view to the broadcast booth.
7. Louisiana is one of the poorest states in the nation, and for decades, we haven’t enjoyed an equitable share of tax royalties generated by off-shore drilling. I know the Tea Party is, by and large, against taxation. Does the organization support revoking taxes currently levied against the oil and gas industry? Should Louisiana tax off-shore drilling?
The fact that we haven’t received the same share of off-shore tax revenues as other states is the legacy of the greed of Earl Long, spurred on by Leander Perez, because, in Long’s last term as governor, he took Perez’ advise to reject the federal government’s royalty / severance tax sharing offer, claiming that Louisiana was entitled to it all. Well, the federal courts didn’t agree and here we are today.
Recent legislation addressed this, but does not go into effect for several more years.
Now, let’s address your statement that Louisiana is “one of the poorest states in the nation”, I would submit to you that this is the legacy of HUEY Long and his “share the wealth” program of the 1930’s. This is a preview of what the entire country will look like if the entire “collectivist” agenda of the Democrat party is adopted. People are not inclined to work if the fruits of their labors are taken from them. They will flee to a place where this doesn’t happen, or just cease to be productive, working only hard enough to provide for themselves and their families.
As for taxes, TEA is an acronym for Taxed Enough Already. The Tea Party movement is not an attempt to repeal all taxes, it’s a movement to keep taxes low, reasonable, and prevent them from becoming so high as to become a dis-incentive to hard work, innovation and achievement.
8. Your organization claims that it wants our “essential liberties back.” What liberties have been undermined?
Let me give you the best example of this that I can think of. Recently, in trying to defend his comments about the “ground zero mosque” the President made the statement that “…in America, we’re all equal before the law…”
Now, first of all, Barak Obama, the man, is entitled to any opinion he might want to have, but the fact that the President of the United States even commented about the mosque is an infringement of basic liberties because, under our constitution it is the right of the people of New York to make this decision. Neither the federal government nor any federal official has any say in this. The power to make such decisions is reserved for the states under the 10th amendment. Whether that mosque is ever built at that location is no one’s business EXCEPT the people of New York. If they want it, fine; if not, that’s fine, too.
Second, the President’s assertion that “we’re all equal before the law” is untrue. Federal law is replete with examples of the denial of the “essential liberty” of equal protection under the law. The federal tax code is ~ 67,000 pages long – 67,000 pages ! Why? Because it’s filled up with “special deals”. The recently passed health care bill was ~ 2,900 pages; the recently passed financial “reform” bill was ~ 3,200 pages. Why? More “special deals” !! Why are there different tax rates based on the amount of income if we’re “all equal before the law”? And we haven’t even scratched the surface of the civil regulatory system.
If this institutionalized lack of “equal treatment under the law” incodified in every piece of legislation that’s passed Congress for the last ~ 100 years isn’t enough of an example of the “denial of essential liberties”, I don’t really know what other example I could offer you.
9. Your organization has been very critical of Republican Hunt Downer. Why?
Based on his voting record, we do not believe that Hunt Downer is a sufficiently responsible person with which to entrust the public’s money or our nation’s future. Often, critical issues come down to a single member’s vote. We don’t want Mr. Downer to be the person casting that vote on our behalf.
10. Are there any elected Democrats in the State of Louisiana that have reached out to your organization? Would you ever entertain endorsing a Democrat?
We have invited both Senators to speak at and participate in our town halls. Senator Vitter accepted our invitations; Senator Landrieu did not. Likewise, Congressman Melancon has also declined our invitations to speak at and participate in our town halls. He did, however, see fit to send one of his aides.
As for endorsing a Democrat, we evaluate candidates who seek our endorsement based on their record, not on any party affiliation.
11. How is your organization legally organized? As a PAC, a corporation, a 501c3, or a 501c4?
I’m neither an accountant nor an attorney, but here’s what I was told: We are an LLC; we’re a non-profit, but contributions to our organization are not tax deductable.
12. And finally, are there any elected Republicans who have embraced the Tea Party of Louisiana but who the Tea Party doesn’t support? Did Congressman Fleming and Congressman Cassidy reach out to your organization prior to declaring themselves Tea Party supporters?
We’ve had no contact with Congressman Fleming. I think his support of Tea Parties has been directed toward those organizations local to his district. We have a very good relationship with Congressman Cassidy and Senator Vitter, both of whom have been very supportive of our activities.
As for those who have “…embraced the Tea Party of Louisiana, but who the Tea Party doesn’t support…”, Hunt Downer certainly fits into this category.
Also, Todd Slavant, who ran for the Republican nomination for Congress in 5th district has a link on his website that says “join the Tea Party” that leads to our website, implying Tea Party support. However, Slavant is unknown to us, never asked for our endorsement, and we therefore chose not to support his candidacy.