A number of tea party groups have dropped out of the convention, the New York Times reports, balking at the high cost for attending the event and its potential exploitation of a grassroots movement. Slated to begin in Nashville on Feb. 6, the Tea Party convention will feature a speech from former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, which reportedly came at a cost of $100,000. Tea Party Nation, the organization hosting the convention, is charging $549 per ticket, plus a $9.95 fee, not including hotel or airfare.
Tea Party Nation is a for-profit corporation started by Tennessee lawyer Judson Phillips, Politico reports, but it expects to only break even from the convention even though tickets are sold out.
"If there is any profit, the money will go toward furthering the cause of conservatism," Tea Party Nation leader Sherry Phillips, Judson's wife, told the New York Times.
Still, the exorbitant costs do not sit well with activists focused on grassroots organization and fiscal conservatism.
Philip Glass, the national director of the National Precinct Alliance, released a statement saying his organization is "very concerned about the appearance of T.P.N. profiteering and exploitation of the grass-roots movement," according to the Times. Glass' organization aims to fill the Republican party with tea party-minded politicians.
The American Liberty Alliance also withdrew from the event after its members expressed concerns about the convention's organizer being for-profit.
While self-identified tea partiers remain a disparate group, they are unified around the concept of fiscal responsibility, Tea Party leader Michael Johns told CBS News' Katie Couric in this week's installment of @katiecouric. Kellen Guida, another Tea Party leader, concurred.
"Nationwide what we see are just angry citizens, citizens who have not been politically engaged before, and just fed up with the spending," Guida told Couric. "You know-- we-- we're accountable with our paychecks, with our taxes. And we just see a runaway government that's not representing the fiscal values."
Meanwhile, as the tea party movement struggles to come together as an enduring political force, Democrats are aiming to divide the movement even further from moderate Republicans. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is releasing a memo today, Politico reports, advising Democratic candidates to drive a wedge between moderates and conservatives by asking Republican candidates questions such as whether they believe President Obama is a socialist.