The co-founder of an Iowa-based Tea Party group who was thrust into the national spotlight two months ago has resigned his position with the organization. Ken Crow, chairman of the Tea Party of America, stepped down last week. Crow gained notoriety following some missteps in the handling of Sarah Palin’s appearance at a TPoA event in September.
“Due to philosophical differences and opinions, I decided it was best to pursue other avenues in the Tea Party movement,” Crow told TheIowaRepublican.com. “It wasn’t a break up. I’m the founder of it and I decided it wasn’t best that I hang around anymore, so I resigned as chairman of the board and founder and walked away.”
Tea Party of America posted a notice on its Facebook page on Friday announcing Crow’s departure. That prompted an angry response from Crow’s wife, Sonya Jean. She wrote, in part,“Departure would not be how I would describe it! I think his dream was stolen by less than honorable people, who then lied and cheated their way into a take over would be more honest.”
The organization’s board members made it clear that Crow was not forced out. “Ken has a really good heart,” said April Linder. “He has good intentions, he just does not take direction very well. We tried several weeks to deal with Ken and try and direct him in the way we should go. We tried to groom him, media-wise. It was very difficult.”
The Tea Party of America was founded by Crow and Charlie Gruschow in the spring of 2011. Gruschow is founder of the Des Moines Tea Party, but departed that organization following disputes with other members.
The duo’s first big event was originally scheduled to be a late July rally in West Des Moines. The Tea Party of America invited all the presidential candidates to attend and believed the event would impact the Ames Straw Poll. The group hyped the event as something that “several thousand” conservatives would attend. However, organizational issues forced a postponement.
Soon thereafter, TPoA pulled a major coup, luring Sarah Palin to speak at Labor Day weekend rally. The appearance from the former Alaska governor led to widespread speculation that Palin would announce a presidential bid at the event. However, the extravaganza almost fell apart at the last minute.
Gruschow and Crow decided to invite former Delaware senate candidate Christine O’Donnell to speak at the rally. Following a backlash from some conservatives, O’Donnell was disinvited. Feeling remorse, Crow and co-founder Charlie Gruschow decided to re-invite O’Donnell later that same day.
All the drama, as well as other concerns, prompted Palin to put her appearance “on hold” just three days before the event. Reportedly, she did not want to share the stage with any other politicians, so she threatened to pull out of the event if O’Donnell was also given a chance to speak. O’Donnell was then uninvited for the second time. The disputes were aired publicly and reflected poorly on both Palin and Tea Party of America.
Crow, in particular, gave numerous media interviews and faced a backlash from political watchers. The controversy greatly diminished the TPoA event. A disappointing crowd of less than 2,000 attended. Some event organizers told TheIowaRepublican that Palin’s threats to pull out of the event prompted some out-of-state groups to cancel their plans to attend.
Crow took responsibility for the drama. “I’m a political rookie,” he said in September. “I’m the dumb cowboy. I’ve been a rodeo cowboy my whole life, and I don’t know how to be anything different.”
However, Ken Crow’s dissension with other TPoA board members stretches beyond the Labor Day fiasco. Following Crow’s departure, Tea Party of America co-founder Charlie Gruschow takes over as chairman and longtime political operative Craig Bergman becomes the group’s new president.
April Linder says the group will soon expand to eight new states. “We’ve already met with several congressman and senators and we’re moving forward. The ultimate goal is to hold elected official accountable. You got elected by the people, so stand up for the people. We elected you, so be there, tow the line and do what we put you in office to do.”
Other Tea Party of America board members include Judd Saul and Harlan Colt. The organization includes both a 501c4 and a political action committee. Ken Crow says the groundwork has been laid for the group to succeed and he believes it will.
Photo by Dave Davidson, Prezography.com
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