Tea Party Group Behind Saturday's Gun Rallies Under Fire

| Fri Feb. 22, 2013 5:50 PM EST

On Saturday, gun rights advocates will be organizing at least 121 rallies across the country in a "day of resistance" to President Obama's gun violence prevention proposals. But some tea party activists are questioning the credentials of the group organizing the rallies, a Mesa, Arizona-based outfit called TheTeaParty.net that's been criticized as a data-harvesting operation designed to vacuum up contact information and credit card numbers from unsuspecting and largely clueless conservative activists. They've complained that the group raises tons of money under the tea party name but doesn't spend much to further the movement, and they're skeptical of its move into the gun debate.

Robin Stublen, a Florida tea party activist and gun owner, is suspicious of the Day of Resistance event. "All my life I have been around guns of some sort," he says. "Some are truly works of art. I respect them. I would never think of using them as the next political toy to make a fast buck. I seriously doubt if any of these so-called 'leaders' could tell the business end of a gun, let alone take them apart and clean them. They are opportunists and should be ignored."

TheTeaPary.net was founded by Todd Cefaratti, an Arizona man who is the CEO of a "lead generation" company for the reverse-mortgage industry and who has inserted himself into tea party politics in recent years. In 2011, TheTeaParty.net sponsored a truck at NASCAR's Camping World Truck Series, and it made a big splash by sponsoring a tea party "unity rally" at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida, last year. It's been a sponsor of the Conservative Political Action Conference in DC this year and last, raising its profile among conservative activists.

Originally called Stop This Insanity Inc., Cefaratti's outfit has gone through a series of iterations and spinoffs, variously advertising under the name  JointheTeaParty.us, the Tea Party News Network, and recently, its leadership fund has been advertising on TV as Tea Party Demand, complete with an 800-number:

 

Now, it's hosting the Day of Resistance website. And the group has had an ever-changing cast of characters associated with it, including Judson Phillips, the founder of the Tea Party Nation, who's come under fire for making racist comments and for his efforts to make a buck off the movement by scoring an appearance by Sarah Palin at a for-profit tea party convention. Donna Wiesner Keene, the wife of NRA president David Keene, also worked briefly for the group. 

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