After I appeared on MSNBC talking about Sarah Palin’s appearance at the Nashville tea party convention, several libertarian friends pinged me to say they were unhappy with the exchange.

I said that Sarah Palin’s hawkish message on Iran was oddly out of place in a group whose roots belong to the Ron Paul anti-interventionist libertarians, particularly as the anti-interventionist Rand Paul is looking strong in the Kentucky Senate race —  and Palin just endorsed him.

The woman I appeared with, who said she was representing the tea partiers, was quick to say that there were many who were NOT anti-interventionist, such as herself.  My libertarian friends couldn’t figure out WTF she was doing on MSNBC representing the tea parties in the first place, and said it was embarrassing when the opposition did a better job stating their case than their purported advocate.

But it underscores a rift within the tea parties between the anti-tax, pro-civil rights libertarians who started them and the corporatist neocons who are now trying to swoop in and capitalize on all of the hype.  I’ve now spoken with no small number of journalists reporting on the tea party phenomenon who don’t even seem to know that the first tea party in 2007 was held by Ron Paul supporters, and they actually dumped tea into Boston Harbor.

Ron Paul appeared on Rachel Maddow last night to speak about the fact that he himself is being challenged for his House seat by those who claim to represent the tea party movement.  Rachel asked him about his relationship to the tea parties, and he said:

I think the message gets a little bit diluted when a lot of people come in and the Republican party wants to make sure that maybe there’s a Neocon type of influence.

Alan Grayson worked closely with Ron Paul to pass Audit the Fed in the House, and we worked with the Campaign for Liberty to support them in that effort.  Ron Paul was reluctant to denounce Sarah Palin’s endorsement of his son, and mostly tried to change the subject.

But this morning Doug Bandow,  a Senior Fellow at the Campaign for Liberty, has a piece denouncing the Daniel Pipes foolishness (echoed by Sarah Palin last weekend) which says Obama would help himself politically by bombing the bejesus out of Iran:

There are no good solutions in Iran. The world will be a better place if Iran becomes democratic and abandons any nuclear weapons program. But initiating war likely would inhibit reform in Iraq while making the world a more dangerous place. The disastrous experience of Iraq should teach us many lessons, the most important of which is that war always should be a last resort. That standard is no where close to being met in Iran.

Masaccio stopped by the Nashville tea party and said there was a promo booth set up by ConAgra.  ConAgra. Agricultural subsidies are one of the biggest forms of corporate welfare around, and there’s a HUGE corporate push on to convince the tea party activists that they’re not.  They are.  Red State has endorsed Stephen Fincher for John Tanner’s seat, despite the fact that he’s taken over $300,000 in campaign contributions from families who have received over $80 million in farm subsidies.  The mid-south arm of the organization did an impressive investigation into it and called him out for it (below the jump).  In it, they cite the work of the progressive environmental organization EWG.

I have a lot of respect for the libertarians like Bruce Fein and Ron Paul who took a lot of shit during the Bush years for opposing FISA, domestic spying, warrentless wiretapping, the wars and the bank bailout.  It was a principled thing to do and it wasn’t easy.

Ron Paul was denied the ability to speak at the Republican convention in St. Paul, and held his own convention across town.  Glenn Greenwald and I were there.  While we disagree with the libertarians about more things than we probably agree on, it’s an honest disagreement about the role of government.  The GOP establishment, on the other hand, struck a bargain for power with corporate America that is totally at odds with everything the libertarians stand for.  I’ve often thought they have more points of honest intersection with progressives on the war, civil liberties, accountability and transparency than with the GOP and the “For Sale” sign they’ve affixed to the taxpayer trough.

Ron Paul has been tireless in taking his message to college campuses, and he has tremendous support among younger people who identify themselves as fiscal conservatives but are uncomfortable with the fundies and their gay-bashing.  But as the libertarian message is gaining traction, it is being hijacked by the Neocons — and Sarah “bridge to nowhere” Palin leads the parade.

It’s completely incoherent that there are now tea party-identified candidates are trying to oust Ron Paul himself from his seat.  I hope the libertarians lay down markers and come down on the side of ending ConAgra’s corporate welfare, and showing Palin and her many bombs to the door.

Press release by Mid South TEA Party on Stephen Fincher:

The Mid South TEA Party  For immediate release: 12/14/09
Phone: 901-827-0120

Is a Congressional Campaign Being Funded With Your Tax Dollars?

Earlier this year Stephen Fincher, a Republican candidate vying for John Tanner’s seat in the
eighth Congressional District, caused quite a stir by raising over $300,000 in campaign
contributions in just a few weeks.  Mr. Fincher’s apparent ability to raise funds of this magnitude
has caught the eye of GOP leaders across the district and of the RNCC.  He has also been
endorsed by the popular national blog site known as RedState.

With the money in the bank and an “R” behind his name, Fincher seems to have become the
front-runner on the Republican side of this race.  More importantly, he is being viewed by some
as the top choice for conservatives in the district. He confirms this notion on his website by
making a vague claim to be the candidate that will “stop the runaway spending in Washington
that is bankrupting America…”

However, a closer look at the source of his campaign funding reveals that Mr. Fincher, along
with his supporters, might be part of the problem rather than a possible solution. Over 90 percent
of Fincher’s campaign funding came from farming families that have been recipients to almost
$80,000,000 in federal farm subsidies.  These subsidies are a complicated web of taxpayer-
funded entitlements that tend to benefit large farming operations, and processing facilities. The
Fincher family has been the recipient of nearly $6,000,000 of these funds.

The Fincher Family raked in more than $800,000 worth of this corporate welfare during 2007

In a press release sent out in April 2008, Ken Cook, president of Environmental Working Group
(EWG), described the problem with the farm subsidy programs:

“Though net farm income reached a record level of $88.7 billion in 2007, propelled by
high market prices for major crops, Washington still sent out over $5 billion of taxpayers’
money in ‘direct payment’ farm subsidies to over 1.4 million recipients… Over 60 percent
of the subsidy was pocketed by just 10 percent of the recipients-the largest and generally
wealthiest subsidized farming operations in the country.”

In West Tennessee, the concentration of subsidy wealth is even more alarming. The EWG
reports a stunning 85 percent of all subsidies distributed to the eighth Congressional District
were collected by just 10 percent of subsidy recipients. Moreover, while just 18 percent of
farmers and/or ranchers statewide collect millions in these entitlements each year, 59 percent of
those farmers reside in West Tennessee. This concentration may in part be due to the vast
amount of farmland in West Tennessee. However, based on Fincher’s campaign contribution list,
with many supporting families making maximum donations of $9,600, it appears that these
particular farmers and their families are hardly suffering.

According to the EWG, farm income exceeded $84,000 per household on average in 2007,
compared to an average income for all U.S. households of $50,233. Yet, in 2008, the current
Representative, John Tanner (D), voted not once, but twice, in favor of a farm bill that would
raise the limit on farm subsidies to 150 percent of the previous limit.   This would send even
more taxpayer money to those already significantly more financially well off than the average
American. Considering the fact that 90 percent of Mr. Fincher’s donors, including his own
family, are benefiting from this type legislation, it would be reasonable to assume that Mr.
Fincher would find himself beholding to such subsidy recipients who have donated to his
campaign.  Following the money makes suspect Mr. Fincher’s claim that he would be able to
represent the 8th District in a fiscally conservative manner once elected.
Here is the breakdown of the amount donated and the amount of subsidies received:

Farm Families Amount Contributed Amount of Federal Subsidies

Anderson $10,600.00 $1,488,122.00
Arnold $14,400.00 $485,262.00
Barnett $6,800.00 $1,068,799.00
Bates $9,600.00 $873,556.00
Beaird $5,000.00 $5,023,188.00
Castleman $2,500.00 $887,632.00
Couch $11,350.00 $6,079,981.00
Crews $9,600.00 $380,146.00
Driver $9,600.00 $80,567.00
Eason $4,000.00 $138,143.00
East $2,000.00 $2,262,204.00
Edwards $9,600.00 $1,044,287.00
Espey $14,400.00 $1,318,197.00
Fincher $21,600.00 $5,845,110.00
Greene $4,800.00 $1,251,036.00
Hargett $9,600.00 $3,346,541.00
Hollingshead $1,000.00 $419,787.00
Hughes $26,000.00 $6,089,687.00
Hurt $14,400.00 $151,751.00
Hutchison $4,800.00 $830,747.00
Johnson $1,250.00 $288,464.00
Jordan $24,600.00 $7,870,212.00
Kelley $5,000.00 $14,062,146.00
Luckey $3,000.00 $3,987,860.00
Murphy $2,500.00 $666,104.00
Nunn $13,600.00 $639,793.00
Pearson $8,000.00 $3,216,379.00
Riley $9,600.00 $1,515,037.00
Simmons $13,200.00 $370,030.00
Taylor $2,000.00 $3,930,878.00
Turnage $1,500.00 $926,338.00
Totals: $275,900.00 $76,537,984.00
Jane Hamsher

Jane Hamsher

Jane is the founder of Her work has also appeared on the Huffington Post, Alternet and The American Prospect. She’s the author of the best selling book Killer Instinct and has produced such films Natural Born Killers and Permanent Midnight. She lives in Washington DC.
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