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Tea party cup running over


Publication: Waukesha Freeman (Conley); Date: Mar 11, 2010; Section: Opinion; Page: 8A

Tea party cup running over
Large turnout expected as Bill Kramer receives award

(James Wigderson is a blogger publishing at and a Waukesha resident. His column runs Thursdays in The Freeman.)

How big is the tea party movement? It wasn’t that long ago when a conservative gathering would be lucky to fill a small room. All that changed when CNBC’s Rick Santelli made the call for tea parties across the country.

Now the crowds of people protesting out-ofcontrol spending just keep getting bigger. At event after event, the crowds often exceed organizers’ wildest expectations.

The trend will probably continue this weekend in the Wisconsin Dells, when conservatives and tea party activists gather for the third annual Defending the American Dream Summit and Midwest Right Online Conference.

Americans For Prosperity Wisconsin State Director Mark Block said estimating what the crowd will be for the event is tricky because, unlike other tea party events, Block has to try to guess how many he’s having for lunch. It’s a problem I’m sure he’s grateful to have.

Block said it seems like there are always twice as many people showing up than they planned for. When AFP held a rally in Madison, they expected 4,000 people to show up. Instead, 8,000 people showed up. At a bonfire event in Racine, they planned for 2,000, but were pleasantly surprised by 4,000 showing up.

Block’s group has benefitted in membership, too. Last year at this time, there were only 18,472 members statewide. Now AFP has over 54,000 members, and the organization expects more growth this year because of the election.

Block is under no illusion where the growth in membership came from. “Give credit where credit is due. It was the tea party movement that caused the membership explosion.”

The keynote speaker this year is Michael Reagan, radio personality, author, and son of the late President Reagan. Others include John Fund of the Wall Street Journal, Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, state Supreme Court Justice David Prosser, and Steve Moore from the Wall Street Journal.

Of special interest to those in Waukesha, State Rep. Bill Kramer is receiving the state Defender of the American Dream Award. Block says Kramer earned the award with the amount of impact he’s had in such a short time in the Legislature.

Block said there were two issues especially where Kramer has had an impact. Kramer has made strides in repealing the state’s minimum markup law, including recent passage by the Assembly of repealing the minimum markup for prescription drugs. The other issue is financial transparency for the state, an issue AFP is going to be making a big push for this year.

Kramer said it was great to win the award. “I was a member of AFP from the beginning. I go to as many of their events as I can. I was an activist before I was a legislator.”

Kramer said his acceptance speech will give credit to the organization and people in the room.

“Holding legislators’ feet to the fire is more critical than they know. I want them to know I am with them and that I take their work seriously.”

As for the size of the crowd, “If I weren’t so busy I would probably be nervous.”

Block said it was Kramer’s perseverance that made him so effective. “I can count on two hands the number of legislators with a backbone. He is truly a financially responsible legislator.”

Block added that Kramer was “one of a handful of politicians you always know where he stands.”

By winning the state award this year, Kramer follows State Rep. Jim Ott, who won for his efforts to stop the state’s global warming bill, and state Rep. Leah Vukmir for her fight against the proposed “Healthy Wisconsin” plan, among other things.

Kramer is in interesting company. Winning the national Defender of the American Dream Award is Joe “The Plumber” Wurzelbacher, who will lead a similar rally in Washington D.C. on April 15.

When asked when registration closes for the event, Block said he would accept registrations through the final reception of the evening. “I just can’t guarantee them lunch.”


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