washingtonpost.com
Tea Party: Amy Kremer on politics and the midterms

Amy Kremer
Tea Party Express Chairwoman
Thursday, October 7, 2010; 12:00 PM

Tea Party Express Chairwoman Amy Kremer has worked all year to engineer political upsets -- in Alaska for Joe Miller's victory over Lisa Murkowski and in Delaware for Christine O'Donnell's win over incumbent Mike Castle. She said on ABC's Topline program that "this isn't about sending Republicans to Washington, it's about sending conservatives to Washington. The grassroots movement has "fire in the belly" that Republican Party officials and Democrats continue to underestimate.

Kremer was online Thursday, Oct. 7, at Noon ET to discuss politics and the midterm elections.

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Columbia, Md.: Clearly the TPE has been very busy across the nation. Would you be candid and identify your top five supporters who pay your expenses and the expense of the TPE bus? And if you can not or will not identify the top five supporters, explain why not?

Amy Kremer: We are a federal PAC and therefore, can only accept donations from individuals. We cannot accept any corporate money. All of our donations come from individuals across the country and the maximum that an individual can give is $5000. We use this money from the individuals to do the bus tour and engage in the campaign activity. We are not funded by anyone.

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Less taxes, less services?: So the Tea Party seems to be all about less taxes and less government. Doesn't this automatically mean less services for the poor and the unemployed? I ask this question as someone who was just laid off.

Amy Kremer: No, this does not mean less services for the less fortunate. We need to balance our budget and reign in the spending. We need transparency to know where the money is going and stop lining the pockets of corporate lobbyists and special interests. We need to look at some of the pork that can be cut back.

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Washington, D.C.: Assuming victory for Tea Party candidates in 2010 and 2012, do you see the movement splintering any time soon? I'm seeing some pretty strong disagreements among the functional leaders as to where they'd like to go (tax systems, federal reserve, social programs). Do you believe that a transition from opposition movement to policy makers could result in fragmentation?

Amy Kremer: The movement is very diverse and I believe will continue to grow. The people across the country want elected officials in Washington that will stand on principles and values. They want officials that will do what they say they are going to do. That is not going to change.

One important thing to know and understand is that the people of the movement are loyal to the cause and the movement. They are not loyal to any one organization or any one leader.

The movement is focused on 3 core principles and values...fiscal responsibility, limited government, and free markets. We do not focus on social issues because that is what divides us. Believe it or not, there are many independents and democrats that are aligned with the movement because they too know that we must reign in the spending.

For these reasons, I believe the movement will continue to grow.

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Los Angeles, Calif.: Where do you get your funding? Is it public record? How much is contributions from individuals? Do you accept any PAC funds?

Amy Kremer: We are a federal PAC and all of our money comes from individuals across the country. We cannot accept any corporate money. The maximum donation that we can accept is $5000. This is not the same as other tea party groups that are c(4)'s and can accept unlimited funds from anonymous donors. We are truly funded by the grassroots.

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Hypocritical?: Ms. Kremer, If Joe Miller's wife received "questionable" unemployment benefits, isn't it hypocritical for Joe Miller to oppose unemployment benefits? Like Lou Dobbs and undocumented workers? Why do I find so many of these type hypocrisies in the Tea Party?

Amy Kremer: I cannot speak for Joe Miller or his campaign. However, I think the issue is more about the involvement of the federal government in the matter. This is something that should be handled by the states and not the federal government.

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Charles Town, W.Va.: Is the tea party a conservative Christian movement or a libertarian non-religious movement? It can't be both and your answer may determine if I vote for any of them or not...

Amy Kremer: This movement is focused three core principles and values...fiscal responsibility, limited government, and free markets.

The movement does not focus on the social issues.

There are many Christian conservatives and Libertarians involved in this movement. We welcome all of them.

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Boston, Mass.: If your candidates win, will they work across the aisle with Democrats or not?

Amy Kremer: That is something that each candidate will have to answer. I would hope that all elected officials (both Democrats and Republicans) will work together to balance our budget and get our country on the path of economic recovery.

This is not rocket science. We need to stop playing party politics and focus on the issues. It is simple...we cannot spend more than we make.

I hope that both sides will focus on working together to find solutions.

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Real America: Oftentimes during campaigning, Tea Partiers like Sarah Palin use the term "real America". Can you please define which parts or people of this country are real, and which are fake?

Amy Kremer: I would say the "real" are outside of the beltway! LOL!

We mean your average everyday Americans in every state.

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Immigration: What are the Tea Party solutions to dealing with illegal immigration. I am seeking specifics, not platitudes.

Amy Kremer: I am not an expert on illegal immigration and so I cannot give specifics. However, we have a problem with illegal immigration and both sides of the aisle need to work together to find solutions to deal with the problem.

The first thing that needs to be done is seal the border and then deal with illegal immigrants that are already here.

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Annapolis, Md.: One of the things that troubles me about the Tea Party movement is that we never hear about specific policy proposals. The party's opposition to high taxes and high spending is clear, but I don't hear anyone proposing a balanced budget amendment or tax credits for job creation or anything. I'm sure that some of the blame lies with the media. Can you point us to any party policy agendas? Thanks.

Amy Kremer: One reason you do not hear about this is because we are not a party, but are only a movement. This movement is very diverse and is not lead by any one group.

There are many groups out there that have offered solutions or proposals. I have heard many talking about a balanced budget amendment, tax cuts for job creation, ban on earmarks, lowering the corporate tax rate, etc.

One thing that the movement absolutely supports is the extension of the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts. The families cannot endure a tax increase during these troubling economic times.

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San Diego, Calif.: Do you think that the national media has been unfair to the Tea Party in their coverage? This newspaper has columnists and op-ed writers (Milbank, Robinson) that basically call tea partiers racists. What say you?

Amy Kremer: We absolutely are NOT a racist movement! We are being labeled this way to discredit us and the movement. This movement is about issues. We focus on the content of ones character and not the color of one's skin.

Yes, I do believe we have been treated unfairly by some of the media, but I would not expect anything different. If we were not making a difference and having an impact, they wouldn't be attacking us...meaning we would not be getting any media attention.

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Washington, D.C.: To me, a grassroots movement is at the local level. How can the Tea Party consider itself a grassroots movement if the funding that got candidates elected in AK and DE came mostly out of CA? How is the Tea Party any more grassroots than Republicans or Democrats?

Amy Kremer: The funding came from all across the country, not California. Our office is in California, but we are supported by grassroots activist all across the country. We are a federal PAC and cannot accept money from any corporate entity and all of our donations must be $5000 or less...all donations come from individuals.

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Wilmington, Del.: Since both sides of the aisle take huge amounts of money from unions and or industry/banks, how are you going to do the people's business without being indebted to these groups?

Amy Kremer: Tea Party Express is a federal PAC and can only accept money from individuals. We cannot accept any corporate money. All of our donations are $5000 or less.

It is "We the People" that must hold them accountable. We need to work with our elected officials more than ever before so that they are beholden to the ones that send them to Washington.

The reason that the people in Washington have forgotten who they work for is because we have not been paying attention.

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Rockville, Md.: Why Christine O'Donnell?

Amy Kremer: She is a common sense conservative.

Mike Castle is one of the most liberal RINO's in Washington. He already voted for Cap & Trade in the House and would be a sure vote in the Senate. Our country cannot endure this job crushing legislation and a massive tax that disproportionately effects low income earners.

Christine O'Donnell will vote against Cap & Tax!

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Washington, D.C.: When will the Tea Party face the honest truth that reigning in entitlement spending alone will not balance the budget? Military spending must be analyzed and more than ambiguous "waste" must be cut.

Amy Kremer: We need to look at the entire budget, not just entitlement programs. Everything should be on the table.

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Re: "Yes, I do believe we have been treated unfairly by some of the media, but I would not expect anything different.": Do you find it paradoxical to post this in an online forum hosted by a major media outlet?

Amy Kremer: I think they are being fair by allowing me here. I did not name them, did I?

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Washington, D.C.: You say the tea party movement is not racist but all I see at tea party rallies are a sea of white faces.

Is this just a coincidence?

Amy Kremer: Look at who we have with us on the Tea Party Express.

Lloyd Marcus, William Owens, Selena Owens, David Saucedo (Polatik), Kevin Jackson and others.

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2012 GOP nominee: It seems Mitt Romney will be the GOP nominee-- he has the most experience and is the front runner. If he is the GOP nominee will the TPE support him?

Amy Kremer: We are not focused on Presidential politics at this time. A lot can happen between now and 2012.

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Washington, DC: The tea partiers is almost all white movement. How many Hispanics, African-Americans, Asians or other non-white ethnicities belong to your organization?

Do you feel the Tea Party movement is unfairly labeled as racist?

Amy Kremer: We are not an almost all white movement. Look at who travels with us on the Tea Party Express...LLoyd Marcus, William Owens, Selena Owens, David Saucedo, Kevin Jackson, and others.

Yes, I think we are labeled unfairly. It is being done to discredit us.

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Allentown, Pa.: I know you were joking, but it really isn't funny when people say things like "real" America is outside the beltway, etc. Anyone who is born in this country is a "real" American. People who live in DC have fewer rights than the rest of us, but offer the same services and sacrifices to the country that we do - take a look at how many servicemen and women from the District have been killed in the past 10 years.

If a movement is truly diverse and wants to represent the country, then it should represent and accept everyone, not shut some people out because they're from a city the politicians you're backing want to get to.

Amy Kremer: It is not the citizens of DC, it is the K Street lobbyists. We need people who will vote on principle and not be swayed by the K Street lobbyists.

There are actually several tea party groups there inside of DC. They are "Real Americans" that are concerned with the direction of the country, just as the rest of us.

When I say DC, I am speaking about the ones that have been sent to Washington to represent the people and they have become more concerned with their own self interests and political career than the people they represent back in their states.

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Non-Republicans?: I keep hearing Tea Party leaders insist that there are Democrats and Independents aligned with the movement, but I have yet to see any of them provide any evidence to that point. As far as the general public can tell, the Tea Party fields Republican candidates on Republican tickets supported by Republican organizations. Who are all these Democrats and Independents? Could you please provide one well known Democrat or Independent who is currently aligned with the Tea Party movement?

Amy Kremer: I am not talking about the Senators and Congressmen aligning themselves with the movement. I am talking about many of our supporters are Democrats and Independents.

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Specifics, Please: No Tea Party candidate, not a single one, has provided a practical way to cut spending. They all say they're advocating fiscal responsibility, yet not a one will tell us how they propose to do that. It's easy to say "I'll cut spending." It's far, far harder to actually do it.

Amy Kremer: I understand that it is hard to cut spending. No one ever said this was going to be easy. I am not an expert on the US budget, but we need to look at all spending across the board.

I have heard a number of them talk about cutting earmarks. That is a start!

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Spending: Ms. Kremer,

If reducing spending is your goal, could you tell us which of the three biggest money pits you will reduce: defense, Social Security or Medicare? It's fine to say cut education and help for the poor all day long but if you refuse to touch those three topics, you'll never even make a dent in the budget. What's even worse is that we have a crumbling transportation system that it seems Tea Partiers would refuse to fund improvements upon. What do you say about these topics?

Amy Kremer: We need to look at ALL programs across the board and determine where we can make cuts. It is not going to be easy, but it has to be done.

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Arlington, Va.: A liberal like me who is a lifetime federal employee, always votes for Democrats and will proudly vote Democratic this year. Do you see us as the enemy?

Amy Kremer: No, I do not see you as the enemy.

People across this country are waking up and engaging in the political process and realizing that we cannot sustain this out of control spending.

People need to stop playing and voting party politics. You should vote on principles and values, not according to the letter next to someone's name.

This is about our country and saving the Republic from bankruptcy. This is not about which party has the control on Capitol Hill!

Our objective is to send true fiscal conservatives to Washington, not Republicans or Democrats!

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Atlanta, Ga.: As the questions you have received demonstrate, many on the left are quite fearful of the Tea Party movement. To what do you attribute this fear?

Amy Kremer: They are scared of us because we are making a difference and having an impact. It is pretty simple.

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Katy, Tex.: What can we do to get Democrats and these beltway types to understand that the more and more people are dependent on the government for their needs, the less and less freedom they have. If the government has to trim drastically because of debt, it will be the poor, not the rich who will be most affected.

Amy Kremer: We do this through education. This movement is focused on education because through educating people, we empower them. That is what is happening across America, people are waking up and doing the research.

Our objective is to educate to empower. When people go to vote, they should be voting on principles and issues and not party politics. This is about saving our country, not which party is in control on Capitol Hill.

It is our job to educate them. Remember, we did not get here overnight and we are not going to change it overnight. It is baby steps, or one person at a time.

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Lobbyists: You say that lobbyists are the problem, however lobbyists exist to give those individuals and groups access to lawmakers when they would have no or limited access -- ever. In fact, doesn't FreedomWorks lobby on behalf of the Tea Party? How do you explain other K. Street groups who associate themselves with you?

Amy Kremer: The people need to lobby their own elected officials. We should not need corporate lobbyists to work on our behalf. I think this has been changing over the last year and a half and will continue to change where the people have more access to the representatives they hired.

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Tulsa, Okla.: I can see why some say the Tea Party is a fad and will fade away. Mayor Bloomberg and Sen. Graham being two willing to go on the record. Groups of angry people will get media attention, but I think for a movement to sustain itself it needs a leader and solutions to problems. You have neither.

Amy Kremer: We have done pretty good with no leader. The movement is growing and is a force to be reckoned with and we have done this as a movement with no leader. We are still in our infancy and will continue to grow.

One thing to understand is that this movement is organic and is issue based. We do not need a leader to tell us what issues are important.

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Gun Control : Hi -

How does the Tea Party feel about gun control? I worry that your movement is going to introduce gun control legislation and help the federal government take my gun away. How do you respond to this? Will the tea party make the world a better place for gun owners?

Amy Kremer: This is a movement that is based upon the Constitution and it is your Constitutional right to have a gun according to the 2nd Amendment.

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Virginia: If you're not a party, but a movement, then the voter doesn't really have any idea of what to expect from a TP candidate once elected, right? A TP candidate campaigns on "out with the old, in with the new", but the "new" is as diverse as the candidates. A TP who is elected might not even want to work with another TP'er!

Amy Kremer: We are focused on principles and values, not the letter next to someone's name. We expect someone to do what they say they are going to do and not flip flop according to the political climate.

We do not need to be focused on party politics, but on the issues. That is one of the problems that has gotten us into the situation we are in now. This is about our country and getting back to a sound and vibrant economy. This is not about what party is in control on Capitol Hill.

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washingtonpost.com: This concludes our chat with Amy Kremer. Thanks for joining.

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Editor's Note: washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions. washingtonpost.com is not responsible for any content posted by third parties.

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