As others bolt, Sarah Palin stands by 'tea party' convention

Other speakers at the Tea Party Convention in Nashville, Tenn., have pulled out, citing ethical questions about the for-profit event. But Sarah Palin says her $100,000 speaker’s fee 'will go right back to the cause.'

By , Staff writer

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    Sarah Palin at Fort Bragg, North Carolina in November signing copies of her book "Going Rogue." Ms. Palin is the featured speaker at the Tea Party Convention in Nashville, Tenn. this weekend.
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Others have pulled out of this weekend’s Tea Party Nation convention in Nashville, Tenn., but Sarah Palin is staying the course.

Explaining her decision to speak at this weekend’s for-profit tea party event, Ms. Palin, the popular but often polarizing ex-vice presidential candidate, says in a USA Today column today that ”it’s important to keep faith with people who put a little bit of their faith in you.”

Palin writes she thought “long and hard” about the decision to headline the $349-a-plate lobster dinner after others like Rep. Michele Bachmann (R) of Minnesota pulled out citing questions brought up by the House Ethics Committee over the Tea Party Nation’s for-profit status.

Palin is set to receive a $100,000 speaker's fee, but she writes that “any compensation for my appearance will go right back to the cause.” It’s likely to go to SarahPAC, her political action committee, which, among other things, is helping "tea party" backed Senate candidate Rand Paul in Kentucky.

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Caution against 'cult of personality'

John O’Hara, author of “A New American Tea Party,” has cautioned fellow activists against fawning over any one leadership figure, falling prey to what he calls the “cult of personality” that led to the election of President Obama. (Indeed, a more natural tea party star may in fact be Keli Carender, who blogs as “Liberty Belle.”)

And to at least one of over 800 commenters to Palin’s column, the former Alaska governor’s explanation for sticking with the tea party convention is “just more secessionist rambling.”

Yet Palin gives the fractious tea party movement the appearance of legitimacy and heft at a time when both Republicans and Democrats are scrambling to figure out how much obeisance they will have to show in this year’s mid-term elections.

“Sarah Palin is becoming a figurehead of sorts for the tea party movement,” concludes the Wall Street Journal’s Susan Davis.

Palin will headline other tea party events

That role is only expanding. Palin is set to headline a number of events, including the kick off of the Tea Party Express III in Sen. Harry Reid’s hometown of Searchlight, Nev., and a planned appearance in Boston for an April tea party event.

“Though tea-party activists still tend to look askance at political professionals and the Republican Party as an institution, such veterans have provided strategic leadership, even on the grassroots level,” writes Newsweek’s Suzy Khimm.

Palin’s decision to stick with the program means excitement is building around the Tea Party Nation convention. Fox News has announced it will carry Palin’s speech, as will PJTV, the conservative online network.

“Palin can turn a phrase, even while indicating that if you think the tea party movement is a little odd, you’re not, well, patriotic,” writes Kansas City Star editorial columnist Yael Abouhalkah. But “many of you will be watching,” he predicts.

Palin says the controversy around the Nashville event ultimately points to a key strength of the tea party movement.

“As with all grassroots efforts, the nature of this movement means that sometimes the debates are loud and the organization is messier than that of a polished, controlled machine,” she writes. “Legitimate disagreements take place about tone and tactics. That’s OK, because this movement is about bigger things than politics or organizers.”

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