Politics

Americans for Prosperity Taps Tea Party Volunteers for Tuesday

By: Kenric Ward | Posted: January 30, 2012 3:55 AM
Karen Jaroch, Slade O'Brien and Apryl Marie Fogel

Karen Jaroch, Slade O'Brien and Apryl Marie Fogel

The conservative group Americans for Prosperity is signing up Florida tea party leaders to serve as regional coordinators, and paying groups $2 per signature to recruit Election Day volunteers.

"It's an opportunity for tea parties to raise dollars for their organizations by helping AFP with an awareness and membership drive on Tuesday," said Slade O'Brien, AFP's Florida director.

But critics say it looks suspiciously like a conservative version of ACORN, buying foot soldiers for election work.

"It's reprehensible," said Apryl Marie Fogel, a former AFP state director. "Slade is doing things we would never have considered doing."

Though O'Brien said AFP does not endorse candidates, Fogel expressed concern about the organization's activities on Tuesday and beyond.

"Incentivizing people with money is no different than what ACORN or other groups are doing," she said.

O'Brien said "about 50" tea party and patriot members have been gathering signatures of volunteers, who, in turn, will wear AFP T-shirts and spread the group's message at precincts on Election Day.

He could not provide a current tally of volunteers, but said they will be working statewide.

"All volunteers are required to sign a release stating that they will only hand out AFP material and will not display, have available or advocate for any candidate while engaged in this project," O'Brien told Sunshine State News.

"Many [tea and patriot] groups struggle to raise money. This is an opportunity for us to boost membership on Election Day."

O'Brien defended the $2-per-head bounties paid to recruiters, saying, "All groups spend money to attract new members. This is an efficient way to have a face-to-face conversation."

But Fogel said the process smacks of "Astroturf."

"This is the opposite of what AFP stands for," she said.

Headquartered in Arlington, Va., AFP says it "is committed to educating citizens about economic policy and mobilizing those citizens as advocates in the public policy process."

The group was founded in 2004 with financial support from brothers David and Charles Koch of Koch Industries.

With state organizations in 35 states, the group's website says, "The heart and soul of AFP is our citizen activists."

In addition to recruiting volunteers, O'Brien is tapping into Florida's tea parties by hiring full-time "field coordinators," reportedly paying them salaries of $30,000.

He said about 10 coordinators have been hired, and another 10 are expected to come on line in the coming weeks. While declining to give specific salaries, O'Brien said about half the jobs have gone to tea and patriot group activists, with the remainder held by "hardcore political operatives."

Karen Jaroch, one newly hired coordinator in the Tampa area, is a founding member of the Tampa 912 chapter and sits on its board.

Jaroch said building grassroots membership is like "herding cats" and that the AFP brand "might open some doors."

Dismissing concerns that AFP is insinuating itself into tea party ranks with the goal of ultimately taking over local chapters, Jaroch said, "We don't need an AFP chapter in Tampa. AFP doesn't deal with immigration or social issues. But they see value in issues advocacy."

O'Brien said, "There are no worries about a takeover. We are close allies. We fight for the same principles and we're proud to partner where we can."

He added that AFP is reluctant to hire tea party presidents for fear of "creating a [leadership] void."

O'Brien said he hopes to make the field coordinator jobs permanent, extending beyond November.

"We'll be engaged in Florida in the 2012 cycle, and we're hoping to keep them on board to spread the word of free markets and fiscal restraint," he said.

Both O'Brien and Jaroch categorically denied rumors that AFP is a stalking horse for Newt Gingrich's presidential campaign.

"I don't know any field coordinators for Newt. One favors Mitt Romney and one supports Rick Santorum. I'm undecided," Jaroch said.

Tom Tillison, a tea party activist and political blogger in Orlando, said, "AFP has always been very respectful of the autonomy of local tea party groups. I have never seen any advocacy toward specific candidates."

Steve Vernon, vice president of Tea Party Manatee, said, "AFP people have spoken at our meetings and offered a free bus on a certain date to go to Tallahassee to meet with legislators, but nary even a whisper about supporting Newt or any other candidate.  

"And," he added, "Tea Party Manatee hasn't received a dime from AFP. "



Contact Kenric Ward at kward@sunshinestatenews.com or at (772) 801-5341.

Comments (19)

Joyce
1:24AM JAN 31ST 2012
It's kind of disappointing that Ms. Fogel is so critical of what the Americans for Prospertiy is doing. She had no difficulty using our Tea Party groups to swell the numbers of her events when she was working in FL. She did not seem to have any problem capitilizing on the success of those events to move on to Ralph Reed's Faith and Freedom organization, then on to DC? Lots of us are still here trying to fight for Florida, and we appreciate the efforts of AFP, with out being used as a stepping stone. I hope this helps people get involved!
Jim B.
8:28AM JAN 31ST 2012
Joyce you certainly nailed it.

Ms. Fogel had no difficulty swelling her numbers with Tea Party members. That is because she did it the old fashioned way, SHE WORKED FOR IT!!
Slade O'Brien comes here with a fist full of money to buy the movement. That is a fact. He never marched with us. I doubt if he ever made a sign and stood on a corner. He is buying his influence.

I cannot stand Ralph Reed and told Ms. Fogel this countless times. However, her religious beliefs swayed her to that movement. As for her job in DC I believe that at some point you have to move forward. Her job will help provide change from within.

So for all her faults I will stand side by side with Ms. Fogel. Slade O'Brien he has never made a sacrifice in this movement to stand beside him with at anytime.

So if you can be bought for $2.00 per head then sell away. Use what ever reason you want, you are now bought and paid for, you are owned.
Apryl Marie Fogel
9:04PM JAN 30TH 2012
I have posted expanded statement regarding this story on my personal blog for anyone following it. aprylmarief dot com / blog

Jill the answer to your question is no. No other groups and to my knowledge, no other AFP chapter, and certainly not Fla prior to this has paid volunteers compensated per head to sign up members.

David G. Well put.
PrimaryTuesday
8:26PM JAN 30TH 2012
Don't the Republicans always find a way to make money off of the average person?
Slade O'Brien
12:11PM JAN 30TH 2012
Let me clarify a few things here. There are 2 separate programs that have unfortunately been lumped together in one article.

1st) AFP is in the process of hiring a field staff for Florida. We have every right to hire a field staff. We are hiring people that share our views and their job is to recruit more people that share our views and expand the message that free markets, limited government and fiscal restraint is the path to greater prosperity for all Americans.

2nd) We offered like minded groups an opportunity to earn some badly needed funds for their local organizations (which can be used however they see fit) by recruiting new members to the movement and our organization on election day. We are not paying for volunteers or elections workers, we are recruiting new members and making a donation to their club/organization based on their effort. I call that a mutually beneficial relationship. Kind of how the free market works. Two parties getting together in a mutually beneficial arrangement. If you care about the patriot movement, you should want it to grow. This voluntary arrangement benefits both AFP and the local organization, to call that into question demonstrates a naiveté that is astonishing to me. And for the record AFP does not sell its membership list.

Finally, all membership based organizations spend money to recruit members. You may do it through direct mail, internet advertising, TV or radio advertising, door to door, or special events and rally’s, but it all cost money. Just like in business you have to promote your service or product for people to be aware of it. In this case rather than those dollars going to a vendor they are actually going back to the heart and soul of the movement. The independent Tea Party and 912 clubs that choose to participate. Who better should it go too?

What is truly a shame, (perhaps even "reprehensible" to use her wording) and personally disappointing to me, is that the former AFP Director, who clearly does not understand either of the these two programs has decided to attack her former employer and her successor without even giving us the courtesy of a phone call to explain it to her.

Once again, we find members of the conservative movement eating their own. No wonder is so difficult to defeat the left.
bill d
2:29PM JAN 30TH 2012
motherjones.com/mojo/2012/01/americans-for-prosperity-paying-tea-partiers-collect-voters-personal-info

This seems to clear it up nicely.
David G.
1:40PM JAN 30TH 2012
Mr. Obrien you have every right to hire whomever you wish. You have every right to pay two dollars per head for data.

We have every right to voice our opposition to those tactics unless you expressly state at each polling location that these names are being purchased by AFP and that there is a possibility of them being sold in the future to other organizations.

As far as hiring leaders in this movement I can see nothing wrong with that as long as they do not have to obey your every command when it comes to their local groups and that they now disclose they are a paid employee of AFP.

Otherwise we can still voice our opposition to that as well. Unless of course you think we should be good little boys and girls and obey the elite well trained lobbyist such as yourself.
Jill
9:05AM JAN 30TH 2012
I am shocked. I have never heard of other groups doing this pay for information. Does Freedom Works, Tea Party Patriots, Tea Party Express do this? If so I am going to have my name removed from all lists. This is very upsetting.
Kyle S
7:25AM JAN 30TH 2012
To equate illegal voter fraud of ACORN to a grassroots group trying to build their membership is journalistic manslaughter.
David K.
9:55AM JAN 30TH 2012
Kyle S.
I think the shock of buying and selling grassroot conservative voters information like they are livestock is what led to the comparison to ACORN. We know that ACORN does not care about people, they just care about their bottom line.

I am more interested in the money aspect. If this Slade character has the money to pay multiple individuals $30 thousand per year where is this money coming from? How much does he make? Is this still a grassroots organization? It does give some reason to the left calling them astroturf.
RepublicanConscience
7:15AM JAN 30TH 2012
Both Americans for Prosperity and the Tea Party share the same goals. I seen no problem with combining forces. Tea Party members have the boots on the ground, AFP has the great organization and resources. It is a perfect fit to have the Tea Party provide the numbers and local activities to be supported by the Organization with resources.

I take offense at a suggestion of this strategic alliance looking like ACORN because it is the bottom up people who actually know why we are fighting accepting help for our cause. It is not American Haters orchestrating this deal as they are at ACORN, buying off Jay Leno's Jaywalkers, or Hannity's man in the street imbeciles who cannot find Washington, DC on a map.

I will be working on election day signing up people for Americans for Prosperity and using this vehicle to advance the conservative principles, the $2 per person means nothing to the Tea Party, it is all about stopping the bleeding of this nation's resources, jobs, freedom, rights, and character of our nation under the present administration.
Concerned Citizen
8:56AM JAN 30TH 2012
Good for you! When you sign those people up make sure you tell them you are receiving two bucks for their information and that their information may be sold to multiple campaigns for the next several years. Better stand back because they are going to take off like a rocket!
Concerned Citizen
6:06AM JAN 30TH 2012
From Slade O'Brien's Linkedlin Page

President
Florida Strategies Group, LLC
April 2002 – Present (9 years 10 months)
I am a veteran government relations and public affairs executive with more than 15 years of demonstrated success in public policy communications, project, campaign & issue management, media relations, community outreach, coalition building, direct lobbying, fundraising, event staging & management, grassroots advocacy and third party recruitment.
Specialties

Strategic consulting, issue management, coalition building, creative communications, fundraising, direct lobbying, grassroots & third party recruitment and activation.

Looks like Mr. O'Brien is a hired gun who sells his service to the highest bidder. How much do you want to bet that Mr. O'Brien will use the information collected by his minions to enhance his own company? When it comes to unethical means in which to gather information Andy Stern and Wade Rathke have nothing on this guy.
Kw
8:09PM JAN 31ST 2012
Amazing to me how many people mouth off about things they know absolutely nothing about, including Apryl Marie. have any of you Apryl supporters taken two minutes to find out why Apryl left AFP to go to Faith and Freedomand then left that group to go to a Congressman's office, all in a matter of months. Seriously. Do you really want to trust the judgements of someone that cannot make up her mind who and where she wants to work? Sounds like a confused young lady to me. As one who knows most of these groups pretty well (from the inside and out) I can tell you from my personal experience they are doing more to HELP YOU than most of you know. It's interesting how most of you are probably bitching about the candidates all attacking each other right now. Let me suggest you take a long hard look in the mirror. And while you're looking let me suggest you Get off these sites and get in the trenches and do something. Most of your groups have memberships of thousands and only dozens ever show up, and I would suspect its not you.
Kw
8:09PM JAN 31ST 2012
Amazing to me how many people mouth off about things they know absolutely nothing about, including Apryl Marie. have any of you Apryl supporters taken two minutes to find out why Apryl left AFP to go to Faith and Freedomand then left that group to go to a Congressman's office, all in a matter of months. Seriously. Do you really want to trust the judgements of someone that cannot make up her mind who and where she wants to work? Sounds like a confused young lady to me. As one who knows most of these groups pretty well (from the inside and out) I can tell you from my personal experience they are doing more to HELP YOU than most of you know. It's interesting how most of you are probably bitching about the candidates all attacking each other right now. Let me suggest you take a long hard look in the mirror. And while you're looking let me suggest you Get off these sites and get in the trenches and do something. Most of your groups have memberships of thousands and only dozens ever show up, and I would suspect its not you.
Kw
8:08PM JAN 31ST 2012
Amazing to me how many people mouth off about things they know absolutely nothing about, including Apryl Marie. have any of you Apryl supporters taken two minutes to find out why Apryl left AFP to go to Faith and Freedomand then left that group to go to a Congressman's office, all in a matter of months. Seriously. Do you really want to trust the judgements of someone that cannot make up her mind who and where she wants to work? Sounds like a confused young lady to me. As one who knows most of these groups pretty well (from the inside and out) I can tell you from my personal experience they are doing more to HELP YOU than most of you know. It's interesting how most of you are probably bitching about the candidates all attacking each other right now. Let me suggest you take a long hard look in the mirror. And while you're looking let me suggest you Get off these sites and get in the trenches and do something. Most of your groups have memberships of thousands and only dozens ever show up, and I would suspect its not you.
Slade O'Brien
8:11AM JAN 30TH 2012
Concernd Citizen: I shut down Florida Strategies and took a substanial pay cut when I took the State Director position with AFP. I am in this for the right reasons. (yes, I should update my linkedin page)

And even while President of the consulting group I only accepted clients that fit into my view of the world. You may not agree with my political views but you would be hardpressed to find anyone anywhere (who has actually worked with or against me) to question my ethics, integrity or character.
Concerned Citizen
8:50AM JAN 30TH 2012
Mr. O'Brien if I had a dime for everyone who said they have taken a pay cut to do this or that I could retire and be making more money than I make now. Point is you have now tarnished a movement in FL that some took years to establish. Thanks for nothing.
Jim B.
5:43AM JAN 30TH 2012
So what does Mr. O'Brien get for his money? What exactly are these previously independent activist going to do for Mr. O'brien? One thing for certain, he will be telling them what tune of what drummer to march to and when to march. They cease to be independent and become no more than a mouthpiece for O'Brien. Groups across the state will now question if their leaders mean what they say or are saying it because their employer told them to take that position.

Here is the other thing that is troubling to me. What is Mr. O'Brien going to do with the data he collects? Do you realize just how many times an individuals contact information can be sold on the open market during a political campaign? Their email address, phone number and physical address all can and no doubt will be sold separately.

These people will be wearing AFP shirts and not the shirts that promote their own organizations. They will become and will remain employees of AFP. Strange how a group of independent activists are so willing to sign a piece of paper giving up their right to free political speech for a few pieces of silver, err I mean dollars.

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