A report released by the NAACP documents tea party groups giving "platforms to anti-Semites, racists and bigots" and cites efforts within the tea party to recruit members for white nationalist organizations.
The report exposes as false repeated claims by tea party leaders that the organization is primarily a coalition of groups concerned about budget deficits, taxes and the power of the federal government.
The NAACP study finds, instead, that among the tea party ranks are many who are obsessed with issues of race, national identity and a host of other social issues.
Among the tea partiers there is an over-riding obsession with President Obama's birth certificate and widespread belief that the first Black president of the United States is not a "real American."
The report also finds that strict adherence to the Constitution is fostered when it serves to put forward racist ideas but is disregarded when it gets in the way of racist campaigns the organization wants to support. Many tea partiers, for example, challenge the provision for birthright citizenship found in the 14th Amendment because they would like to deport the U.S. born children of Mexican immigrants.
The report provides detailed documentation of its overall findings. It reveals, for example, how David Duke, the long-time Ku Klux Klan leader, is active in the tea party, looking for money and support for a run for the presidency in the 2012 Republican primaries.
The leading figures in one faction of the tea party, 1776 Tea Party, were directly transferred over to their new positions from their old ones as leaders of the anti-immigrant Minuteman Project.
Making the ties with racists even more worrisome are the tea party connections to big business.
The report says the tea party movement as a whole is a multi-million dollar complex that includes big corporations, non-party organizations and political action committees that have, collectively, erased the advantage that Democrats once enjoyed in the arena of internet fundraising and web-based mobilization.
"They have resuscitated the ultra-conservative wing of American politics, created a stiff pole of opinion within the Republican Party ranks, and they have had a devastating impact on thoughtful policy making for the common good," says the NAACP.
The study goes on to discuss a third arm of the right-wing network. While big business funds the right wing tea party groups, it also backs a group of elected officials already towing an extremeist line in Congress.
It notes that a "quick look at the Tea Party Caucus in Congress, led by Rep. Michele Bachmann R, Mn., reveals a significant overlap with the enforcement-only House Immigration Caucus led by Rep. Brian Bilbray, R-Ca. The document notes that a number of these caucus members are also sponsors of a bill sitting in committee that would end birthright citizenship, H.R. 1868.
"The tea party movement has unleashed a still unchoate political movement by angry middle-class white people who believe their country, their nation has been taken from them. And they want it back," the report says.
The tea party membership proclaims loyalty to balanced budgets, small government and "free" markets.
The NAACP report provides powerful evidence that they are funded, however, by floods of big corporate money, many millions of dollars worth of "independent expenditures," and many millions of dollars coming from anonymous donors. And the bulk of their funds come from a handful of wealthy donors, oil and gas industry CEOs, construction giants and other tycoons - people whose real aim is clearly not small government. They seek, instead, a bigger-than-ever government that works for them.
Photo: John Gaudette