Tuesday, February 16, 2010

tea partiers at the big tent

WaPo | About 50 leaders of the grass-roots "tea party" movement will meet in Washington on Tuesday with Republican National Committee Chairman Michael S. Steele and other top GOP operatives to discuss campaign strategies and conservative principles.

The afternoon meeting on Capitol Hill will mark the first time that a broad coalition of tea party organizers -- who have railed against both the Democratic and the Republican establishments -- will sit down with GOP leaders. Top Republican leaders have been openly courting the organizers, looking to marshal grass-roots energy heading into November's midterm elections.

Karin Hoffman, founder of DC Works For Us, a tea party group in South Florida, said she initiated the meeting by approaching Steele last month and asking him to sit down with a range of tea party organizers. She said her goal is to open a civil dialogue with the GOP leadership, but she dismissed any suggestion that tea party groups might merge with the Republican Party.

"From the get-go, the grass-roots movement emerged from people desiring to be heard and not feeling like their voices are being heard in Washington," Hoffman said in an interview. "This is the beginning of a formal discussion with the political establishment."

RNC spokeswoman Katie Wright said Steele plans to listen to concerns of tea party leaders and hopes to discuss such issues as lower taxes and smaller government. "The chairman believes it is extremely important to listen to this significant grass-roots movement and work to find common ground in order to elect officials that will protect these principles," she said.