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WASHINGTON — Several major players in the Tea Party movement on Thursday announced a new federation intended to help the decentralized small government movement gets its message out.
But don't call them organized.
The National Tea Party Federation will issue press releases, respond to critics and help spread the word about Tea Party rallies and initiatives, organizers said. But they were careful to note it would not change the loose, grass-roots structure of the movement.
"It's an evolution," said Tea Party activist Mark Skoda. "Not an organization. We're not co-opting a movement. We're not creating a new leadership structure."
Still, the federation is an acknowledgement of the limits of an undisciplined and disjointed political movement. In the year since it arose as a series of protests across the country, the Tea Party movement has mobilized thousands into activism and established itself as the most active force in conservative politics. But it's also openly aired embarrassing internal disputes and has been slow to respond to critics who've painted protesters as racists
"It took us 72 hours to respond to John Lewis," Skoda said, referring to the longtime Georgia Democratic congressman and civil rights leader who said a tea party protester use a racial epithet at a protest against the health care bill. "We're not needing to meet every week. But there will now be a way to have a call to arms to respond to attacks with a crisp and clear message."