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Tea Partiers Call Their Congresspeople. On Their Cells.

BY Nancy Scola | Friday, November 12 2010

The Tea Party Patriots got upset yesterday when it turned out the Claremont Institute, the California-based conservative think tank, had scheduled its DC "freshman orientation" for new Republicans members of Congress for precisely the same time this weekend, a move that the tea party group interpreted as a bigfooting of their grassroots out of their rightful chance to shape the minds of the dozens of tea party-leaning members of Congress by an establishment outfit with longer Washington ties. The New York Times Kate Zernike has the details on that dust-up, one perhaps succinctly captured by the call to action that the Tea Party Patriots sent out to its email list yesterday, blaring in giant red type, "Don't Let Them Steal OUR New Members of Congress."

A interesting wrinkle: and as part of that email, the Tea Party Patriots listed email addresses and phone numbers for several dozen members of Congress, and told the list, "We need you to call & email these incoming Congressmen & tell them you want them to attend YOUR Tea Party Patriots event." And then today came an apology, kinda, for blasting out what turned out in some cases to be the numbers for the mobile phones belonging to the members-elect:

We listed the contact information we had for these freshmen and we now know that some of it was personal cell phone numbers or fax numbers. This list was the best information we had at the time. We also understand that sometimes members of Congress find it annoying to receive numerous calls from voters. But we encourage them to remember it is part of the job and they asked to be hired. This will not be the last time.

Since we have made our voices heard, it is time to allow the freshmen a chance to change their plans and see how many are going to listen to what we had to say.  (It is awfully hard to change your flight plans over the phone when the other line is ringing nonstop.) Additionally, we are asking that if you posted these phone numbers on your Facebook page or blog, let's remove them at this point. We will send a list of their official phone numbers and email addresses as soon as it becomes available.

There's a good chance they answered, at least. It's pretty unlikely that the Claremont Institute would blast out the personal phone numbers of incoming members of Congress; it's just not what the establishment does. Fascinating to watch as the Tea Party Patriots work on figuring out how you navigate Washington, and defend your apparent turf (note the use of "OUR" in describing members of Congress), while trying to stay outsiderish and radically. But posting people's personal numbers seems to have been judged by the tea partiers to be wrong way to do it, at least for the moment.