Recent research seems to suggest that the Tea Party is just the old, trusty religious right wrapped up in a shiny new package. Apparently, South Florida Tea Partiers didn't get the memo. Two Tea Party leaders in the area, which neither appear to be very powerful, have voiced their public support for Genting's Resorts World Miami project, including its casino. This, despite the fact banning gambling was a major plank of the religious right's agenda.
Here's a snippet from the release from a group calling itself "Tea Party Miami":
"After careful consideration and debate, Tea Party Miami has endorsed Genting's Casino Destination Resort proposal and efforts by Rep. Erik Fresen to legalize three casinos in Miami-Dade and/or Broward Counties," said Diane J. Thorne, Chairwoman of Tea Party Miami. "The Fresen proposal fosters competition and will create a boom of economic growth Miami sorely needs."
"We in the Tea Party are fiscal conservatives, not social conservatives," said Thorne. "The Fresen proposal makes good financial sense for Miami and for Florida," she said. Thorne said her organization had received no contributions from any casino gaming company including Genting and that they would not accept any casino company money.
Thorne says her group has 23,000 members, but its website lists no other officers. A Google search on Thorne also reveals little previous activity in the Tea Party. In fact, the largest section of their website is a page supporting the casino. Very curious. Why or how this woman decided to speak for the entire Tea Party, we're not entirely sure.
However, Thorne isn't the only Tea Party "leader" speaking up. Everett Wilkinson, president of the South Florida Tea Party, also released a statement in support of the project. He has a bit more history as a Tea Party gadfly (his Twitter handle is "TeaPartyCzar"), and lives in Palm Beach (mind you, not anywhere near downtown Miami).
Here's what's interesting about Wilkinson's letter though, it starts saying, "I have to admit that I was less than thrilled when I received an invitation to attend the unveiling of destination casino resort in Miami last week."
So, wait, Genting is actually targeting Tea Party "leaders" for support by inviting them fancy unveiling events? Seems like it, and the strategy worked. Wilkinson has no short supply of good things to say about the project.
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The company was rolling out an incredible, beautiful resort, not a ugly cheap casino. The architecture was iconic, Genting, the developers, had also taken great lengths to invite all members of the community to participate in the roll out of a world class resort casino. I noticed African Americans, Dominicans, Haitians, small business people and both Republicans and Democrats. I can't begin to applaud the level professional presentation and attention to details. The actual design which resembled giant sails or sea shells was the most unique breathtaking design I have for a casino! I would be proud to have such a beautiful building in South Florida.
Geez, tell us how you really feel.
Of course, the Tea Party is an amorphous movement with no true leaders (well, maybe the Koch brothers), and these appear to be the personal endorsements of two relatively unimportant people basking in their perceived Tea Party leader status. We'll have to wait to see what other elements of the right in Florida, including those that still stick to religious principals, have to say as Genting's fight to get a gambling license unfolds.