Tea Partiers Question Ariz.-Based Website 10-28-2010

A tea party organization based in Mesa, Ariz., which has collected hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations, spent nearly half of its budget on marketing its own name, according to Federal Elections Commission documents.
Those records, obtained during a CBS 5 News investigation, also show the organization spent no money to directly support tea party candidates.
The website, JoinTheTeaParty.us is registered to a nonprofit corporation in Mesa. When CBS 5 News reporters contacted the director of that company, they were referred to a Washington, D.C., attorney, who said the personnel in Phoenix were too busy to sit down for an interview.
CBS 5 News began its investigation into the company after receiving a phone call from an East Coast tea party activist who said nobody within the tea party movement he had spoken to had heard of the Mesa organization.
The caller also told CBS 5 News it did not appear the organization was spending any of its donations to support tea party priorities.
Among the findings of the CBS 5 News investigation, the organization spent $181,000 on Google, Facebook and other websites for advertising. As a result, when CBS 5 producers typed the phrase, "tea party," into the Google search engine, the first paid advertisement that popped up was for JoinTheTeaParty.us.
Additional digging into the organization's background revealed the director of the nonprofit also has ties to companies that collect and sell people's personal information. Todd Cefaratti is listed as the director the the nonprofit, as well as a company known as reverseleadclub.com.
At a recent tea party rally at the state Capitol, no tea party supporters approached by CBS 5 News had heard of the wesbite.
An e-mail written to CBS 5 News from Washington attorney Dan Backer stated that the site develops and distributes daily information on local and national tea party events. Backer also wrote that the website does not share the names or personal information of its donors with any other commercial interests.
Several donors to the site contacted by CBS 5 News said they were under the impression they were joining the official tea party when they donated to the website. The populist tea party movement is not an official national political party.
Click here to see the Federal Elections Commission report which documents the finances of “JoinTheTeaParty.US.”