A Tea Party Legal Battle...Over a Google Group
Tea Party Patriots, one of the largest tea party umbrella groups in the country, has proven once again that there's no issue too piddly for it to go to court over, at least when it comes to protecting its "brand." The group has waged legal battles against tea party Internet radio hosts, activists selling tea party T-shirts, and even a lone rural conservative who had the nerve to put the words "tea party" and "patriots" on his website. It's recently been battling in a Georgia court over a sparsely populated Gooogle group.
The case got it start in 2009 in a dispute with former board member and current Tea Party Express chair Amy Kremer. TPP kicked Kremer off its board after she defied orders and went on a bus tour with Tea Party Express, TPP's rival. Then, TPP went to court and won a restraining order barring Kremer from using the Tea Party Patriots name, trademark, domain name, and especially its most valuable asset—its email list. She counter-sued for slander and also opposed TPP's trademark application, on the grounds that she put the term into circulation months before TPP was incorporated.
The case has dragged on now for nearly two years. In early May, TPP was back in court claiming Kremer had violated the original restraining order. A Georgia judge agreed and found her in contempt of court for failing to turn over control of a Tea Party Patriots Google group, as well as apparently for suggesting in public that she was one of TPP's original founders without noting that she's no longer affiliated with the group. A May 18 order (PDF) requires Kremer to relinquish control of the Google group to TPP posthaste and to correct the record about her affiliation. (See Kremer do just that with Stephen Colbert here.)
The fact that TPP is spending its members' donated money fighting over control of a listserv doesn't reflect well on the group. After all, the Google group activity has dwindled to a handful of kooky contributors who spend their time arguing about whether Obama's birth certificate is really real and which Marxist Communist policies Obama is pushing at the moment. It's hardly property worth fighting for. Ultimately, TPP's litigiousness seems more designed to bankrupt Kremer than to wrest control over its crumbling grassroots empire.