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Monday, 21 October 2013 10:34

There's Money to Be Made in Milking the Tea Party, 'Natch!

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2013.10.21.BF.BerkowitzBILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Whether you call him a marketing guru, a hotshot data-miner, a crass opportunist, a reverse mortgage huckster, or a Tea Party entrepreneurial role model, Todd Cefaratti isn't letting any grass grow under his feet. Now that the government shutdown is history (at least temporarily), Cefaratti has moved on to greener pastures; telling supporters that the Democratic Party has "declared all–out war on the Tea Party."

According to Cefaratti-signed email, with "Citizen Patriot" affixed to his signature, Democrats "are in panic-mode trying to save Obamacare and have just announced the formation of a special attack unit to target and defeat the Tea Party. In fact, they have already pumped 200,000 dollars in initial seed money into the so–call 'Rapid Response' unit."

To save the Tea Party, Ceferatti has established the "Emergency Response Fund," to fight back against the ... onslaught that is about to come our way."

In an email sent a few days earlier, Ceferatti asked supporters to pony up some dough for his campaign to draft Sarah Palin to run for a U.S. Senate seat from Alaska. In that email, Ceferatti affixed the title "Freedom Organizer" under his signature.

"A brand new poll released today by your Tea Party Leadership Fund shows Palin with a clear path to the Republican nomination," Cefaratti wrote. And while she's leading all other Republican Party candidates, her lead is small, so the best way to enhance Palin's chances of getting the nomination is to head over to the Tea Party Leadership Fund web page and "make a contribution to ensure we have the resources to continue our full court press?"

Thus far Palin has not publicly indicated any interest in running for the U.S. senate.

A well-educated and self-proclaimed marketing whiz, Ceferatti appears to have a knack for turning hot-button political issues into big bucks for an assortment of his enterprises.

Cefaratti is the editor of, and writer for an entity called the Tea Party News Network (TPNN). He is also the founder of the nonprofit 501(c)(4) organization TheTeaParty.net, a project of Stop This Insanity, Inc.

Various bios point out that Ceferatti is "a former upper management and marketing executive with firms such as National City (now PNC Financial Services Group, Inc.), CTX Mortgage Co., and Bank of America Corporation, ... [and] President and CEO of reverse mortgage lead provider Glengary Inc.

Earlier this year, the Institute for Research & Education on Human Rights' Leonard Zeskind and Devin Burghart reported that TeaParty.net "is largely a list-building money-generating machine. Cefaratti has a background in data harvesting, mining contact information and then reselling the leads to clients in the reverse mortgage industry.

"... Stop This Insanity, Inc., was founded as a political action committee in Arizona in early 2010 by Cefaratti and Ron Dove, who became TheTeaParty.net's treasurer and human resources manager. The PAC was terminated in November 2010, while it was in the process of losing a lawsuit with the Federal Election Commission. It also developed a bad reputation with other Tea Party groups after raising money ($469,000 between January and October 2010), and then not funding rallies or candidates.

"Instead, a significant amount of the funds, $189,759, went to online marketing.
Formally, TheTeaParty.net is a project of Stop This Insanity, Inc., which they now claim is a 501(c) 4 non-profit organization. The "Stop" corporation was registered as an Arizona non-profit on February 25, 2010. Its DBA "The Tea Party," however, wasn't registered until December 20, 2012, according to the Arizona Secretary of State Charitable Organizations System.

"It 'solicits funds in order to provide every ameridcan[sic] with access to the technology & means to be engaged & civically responsilble[sic] citizens & to empower individuals to take action in their communities to restore our founding principles of individual liberty, limited government & free markets,' according to their filing with the state.

"To bolster its organizational identity, TheTeaParty.net sponsored a truck in the NASCAR Truck Racing Series. They were the main sponsor of a Tea Party 'Unity Rally' in Tampa during the Republican National Convention in 2012. It also registered as a sponsor for the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) last year. This year they paid the $50,000 fee to be listed as a "partner" at the CPAC 2013 event next month.

"TheTeaParty.net developed a reputation for the large number of emails it sent to Tea Partiers who never signed up for their lists, causing them to publicly wonder who this 'net' organization really was. In March 2012, the organization hired Judson Phillips [the founder of Tea Party Nation] as an associate director, a move regarded by some analysts as an attempt to quell the grumbling."

As of February of this year, it wasn't clear if Phillips still works for TheTeaParty.net.

An October 29, 2010 by The Raw Story, "pointed out that Cefaratti's 'Arizona-based website took nearly $500,000 in donations but didn't turn out support for [the] tea party or candidates."

Federal Election Commission (FEC) disclosure forms revealed that JoinTheTeaParty.us "took in approximately $469,000 in donations this year and spent roughly half its budget on marketing, with the rest going to distinctly non-political avenues." CBS 5 in Phoenix reported that there was no evidence that the group spent any money on promoting tea party candidates or tea party events. Most of the money was spent on promoting its own interests.

"Confronted by a reporter with the Phoenix CBS affiliate, Cefaratti refused to answer questions, driving away in a black SUV with a custom license plate that read, 'TPARTY1'," The Raw Story pointed out.

These days, Cefaratti is trying to put the government shutdown behind him and jump on whatever bandwagon might lead to more donations for his assortment of groups. And the message of the moment is to convince supporters that given enough money, he will be able to convince Sarah Palin to make a run for the GOP's Alaska Senatorial nomination.

According to his published bio at the TPNN website, Cefaratti "holds degrees in economics, marketing and digital marketing, ... is one of the top internet marketing experts in his field. ... [and] is also the founder of the nonprofit organization TheTeaParty.net which began in 2009 at the height of the Tea Party movement and today is recognized as one of the top national Tea Party organizations in the movement."

Cefaratti, who spoke at CPAC in 2012, claims that "The organization is still growing at over a 1000 new patriots every day and going strong with over 600,000 loyal active members. Todd is also the CEO of a major marketing consulting and fundraising organization and the Tea Party News Network."

While Ted Cruz was grabbing most of the headlines and sucking the oxygen out of every room he appeared in during the government shutdown, Todd Cefaratti was not so quietly going about the business of making money off of Tea Party grips and grievances, a trend that will no doubt continue.

(Photo: ep_jhu)