AUDIE CORNISH, host:
This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Audie Cornish.
The National Tea Party Convention wraps up today in Nashville with a keynote speech tonight by a hero of the movement, former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. Yesterday, the event's organizers said they're starting a political action committee and a separate non-profit corporation to solicit donations to fund conservative candidates and causes.
NPR's Don Gonyea reports.
DON GONYEA: There are 600 activists who paid the $549 registration fee to attend this first-ever national convention for a movement that sprung up almost exactly a year ago. For many, like William Temple, a retired government worker who came dressed in revolutionary costume, a chance to see former Alaska Governor Palin was a big draw.
Mr. WILLIAM TEMPLE (Tea Party Activist): Oh, I love the lady who kills moose. She's the strongest mind in the Republican - Sarah Palin. If I can get close enough, I'll give her a kiss.
Mr. JUDSON PHILLIPS (Organizer, Tea Party Convention): I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America.
GONYEA: Leading was the pledge was the conventions organizer, Judson Phillips, a Nashville lawyer who's been criticized by other Tea Party groups because this is a for-profit convention. That controversy died down, but at a news conference he was asked if he supports remarks in a convention speech by former Republican Congressman Tom Tancredo, who called President Obama a committed socialist ideologue.
Phillips, who is new to this kind of attention, said Tancredo's speech was great but he spoke carefully, embracing the substance if not the red-hot tone.
Mr. PHILLIPS: The word socialist is a word that you don't want to be labeled with in the American political system. And it's got a lot of negative connotations, but it also has a very specific political meaning. It refers to a specific political ideology. And I think it's very clear that that is the political ideology of Barack Obama.
GONYEA: Also helping to organize this week's event is Memphis-based Tea Party activist Mark Skoda. He told reporters the movement has to find new ways to expand its reach.
Mr. MARK SKODA (Tea Party Activist): Let us not be na�ve here. The notion of holding up signs and simply responding with emotions does not get people elected.
GONYEA: Skoda announced the creation of two entities - one: a nonprofit called the Insuring Liberty Corporation, a 501(c)(4), which can take corporate donations but is not required to disclose them. And, he said, there'll be a separate political action committee. He offered few details but implied that it's a way to create something that can help the movement without getting caught up in differences of opinion between various Tea Party groups.
Mr. SKODA: While this is not the only way that the Tea Party movement can progress and mature, this is one way that we believe we can seek together the approach to counter, if you will, the fragmentation that exists today.
GONYEA: Though how setting up new outside organizations for fundraising accomplishes that is not entirely clear. Also uncertain is the future of the movement itself. It's growing in size and influence but whether it can hold together to have a lasting impact on the political landscape remains to be seen.
Don Gonyea, NPR News, Nashville.
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