‘Tea party’ granted official status on Capitol Hill

Caucus joins other advocates

The “tea party” movement established an official beachhead on Capitol Hill Monday, even as top organizers faced an internal fight over how to deal with charges of racism against fringe elements of the movement.

Minnesota Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann confirmed Monday that the House Administration Committee had approved her request to create a new congressional Tea Party Caucus. The caucus joins dozens of other groupings on Capitol Hill promoting industries, ethnic groups and special industries.

“This caucus will espouse the timeless principles of our founding, principles that all members of Congress have sworn to uphold,” Mrs. Bachmann said in a statement. “The American people are doing their part and making their voices heard and this caucus will prove that there are some in Washington willing to listen.”

But the grass-roots movement also showed its growing pains in a fight between the National Tea Party Foundation and an offshoot group.

A coordinator for the Tea Party Express said Monday the group’s expulsion from a national coalition over a member’s blog posting about the NAACP was “arrogant and preposterous.”

The Tea Party Express was expelled from the National Tea Party Federation for refusing to publicly rebuke and oust spokesman Mark Williams.

Mr. Williams had posted a blog that satirized the NAACP and referred to its president, Benjamin Jealous, as “Tom’s nephew and NAACP head colored person.”

The NAACP approved a resolution last week that calls on activists and others to “repudiate the racist element and activities” within the tea party movement.

Tea Party Express coordinator Joe Wierzbicki asserted that the federation had “enabled and empowered the NAACP’s racist attacks on the tea party movement, and they should be ashamed of themselves.”

“Circular firing squads of groups within the tea party movement attacking one another accomplish nothing, and on this issue the Tea Party Federation is wrong,” he said in a statement.

Mr. Wierzbicki and other Tea Party Express representatives were meeting in Anchorage, Alaska, to discuss plans for helping Joe Miller in his challenge to Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski in next month’s GOP primary.

The group, through its political action committee, has promised to focus attention and resources possibly approaching $1 million to help Mr. Miller.

Miller campaign manager Paul Bauer Jr. said he didn’t consider Tea Party Express to be a distraction.

“We’re not getting involved in what they’re doing,” he said.

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