The last few weeks have not been particularly good for the organizers of the National Tea Party Convention, as activists have questioned its cost and sponsors have started to withdraw.
And now it looks like one of the featured speakers, Rep. Marsha Blackburn, might be having second thoughts about her participation:
Last week, U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., was planning to introduce former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin to a raving hometown crowd of TEA Partiers early next month in Nashville. This afternoon, she appears to be having cold feet.
“We’ve got it under review. We’ve got the request, and we’ll see what happens,” Blackburn said in an interview in her Cannon Building office. “It’s a ‘We the people’ event, and I think sometimes it’s become about ‘I the organizer,’ for the organizer.”
She was referring to growing protests that the $549-per-person cost of the for-profit Tea Party Nation event on Feb. 4-6 at the Opryland Hotel is pricing some grassroots activists out. Some sponsors and supporters are fighting about the nature of the Taxed Enough Already (TEA) conservative movement and plans to showcase its stars, which include Palin, Blackburn and Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn.
Blackburn said she is interested in hearing from the TEA Party groups and has addressed them at previous events.
Asked if she was asking for a review of the event by the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, the so-called ethics committee, she declined to say. But afterward, her spokesman, Claude Chafin, called The Commercial Appeal to say an official request for review by the ethics panel has been made “out of an abundance of caution.” The question is “whether they would consider it appropriate for her to do,” Chafin said.
And it seems as if Blackburn’s skittishness is making Rep. Michele Bachmann’s staff a bit skittish as well:
Another listed speaker at the Nashville event, Rep. Michelle Bachmann, R-Minn., was still planning to attend.
“We just checked with Blackburn’s office and according to them, they’re still attending,” Bachmann spokesman Dave Dziok said in an e-mail. “We still plan to attend.”
He said Bachmann’s advisers “are all just crossing our t’s and dotting our i’s to make sure everything’s in line ethically” for her to attend.