The Republican National Committee has pulled off the Web a site that some tea party leaders saw as evidence the GOP is trying to "hijack" the grass-roots conservative movement.
The decision to pull TeaParty.Gop.com off the Web apparently stems from a meeting Tuesday between RNC Chairman Michael Steele and 50 conservative activists.
Karin Hoffman, founder of the DCWorksForUs group who coordinated the RNC confab, said Steele appeared unaware of the site's existence when a conservative activist complained the site was co-opting the independent movement.
"Chairman Steele did not know of this … he's not the one who actually edits the Web site," Hoffman told Newsmax. "He said, 'We'll address that right away, we're going to make sure that's taking down.'"
The site apparently removed late Tuesday night or early Wednesday.
The move may indicate Republican recognition that tea party leaders will not tolerate efforts to absorb it into the GOP. Tea party leaders have to be very careful to avoid any appearance of an alliance with the GOP, because their ranks include many independents and former Democrats who would strongly object.
By taking down the site, Steele may have averted a major confrontation with national tea party leaders. On Tuesday, one tea party organization launched SaveOurMovement.com, a site protesting RNC policies that it said are threatening to "take over" the movement.
Everett Wilkinson, coordinator of the Florida chapter of the Tea Party Patriots and a member of the organization's national leadership council, was guardedly positive in his reaction to Steele's decision to nix the GOP site.
"I am pleased that the GOP has done the right thing by taking down a 'tea party' Web site, and look forward to them in the near future ceasing current and planned attempts to 'hijack' the tea party," Wilkinson told Newsmax.
Tea party leaders from several organizations also objected that Tuesday's meeting was billed as involving tea party movement leaders. Several major tea party groups chose not to attend.
Michael Patrick Leahy, author of Rules for Conservative Radicals and leader of the Nationwide Tea Party Coalition, told Newsmax he sides with those national tea party leaders who stayed away.
"I don't think it's really appropriate for the chairman of the RNC, who is trying to understand the concerns of the tea party movement, to summon 50 tea party activists to a meeting at the RNC headquarters in Washington, D.C., where he holds court," Leahy said. "I think if he really wants to demonstrate a genuine interest in the concerns of the tea party movement, he ought to come with humility and ask for the opportunity to speak to the tea-party groups around the country in their locations."
Hoffman told Newsmax she is not at liberty to release the names of the groups whose representatives attended the meeting with Steele. But she said she is working to get approval from those groups to provide the names.
The Tuesday session with Steele was initially expected to last for one hour, but it stretched to four hours as both sides aired their issues. Afterward, Steele released the following statement:
“For over a year, I have made it a priority to have conversations with different grassroots activists who are concerned with the direction of our country and today’s meeting was an excellent opportunity to continue this conversation," he said. "I thank members of the tea-party movement and other concerned citizens for putting together this meeting and taking the time to speak with me.
"We share a common purpose in stopping President Obama’s agenda and standing up for principles such as smaller government, lower taxes, free enterprise, and the Constitution. Moving into the midterm elections this fall, I look forward to continuing to build on this discussion and to work to elect officials who will fight to protect the principles which they and a majority of Americans support.”
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