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“The money gets used for marketing the tea parties all over the country, not just the TheTeaParty.net,” Dooling said, citing contributions to the Wounded Warrior Project and other conservative causes. She would not reveal how much each group got and could not point to any local tea party groups in particular that TheTeaParty.net has financed.
TheTeaParty.net was also one of several organizations that sponsored the 2010 Conservative Political Action Conference, the high-profile confab held every year in Washington. That is where Cefaratti met Keene, whose husband is the former president of the American Conservative Union, which sponsors the conference.
The group has also arranged for a NASCAR truck to appear on the circuit this summer emblazoned with the logo for TheTeaParty.net and the text of the Constitution.
It appears that the organization also makes money off its mailing list. Emails obtained by Roll Call reveal that the group has rented its 200,000-person mailing list to companies such as Gold Rarities Gallery, an online gold and silver warehouse.
An advertising representative at Newsmax said he helps TheTeaParty.net find clients and confirmed that the list is available for $7,000 ($35 for every thousand names). Dooling said no personal information is released to third parties during the process.
Questions about the legitimacy of TheTeaParty.net — also known as JoinTheTeaParty.us — are rife throughout the blogosphere and among the leaders of other tea party groups.
Some top conservatives have never even heard of the group, and other tea party leaders have only a vague understanding of what the group is and what it does.
“I have absolutely no idea who they are,” said Randy Lewis, a spokesman for the Tea Party Patriots. “I honestly don’t know a thing about them.”