The Decline & Fall of the SVTPP

The Tea Party in better days.  Outside of Rep. Goodlatte's office in Staunton, 4/4/11
The Tea Party in better days, rallying against raising the debt ceiling outside of Representative Goodlatte’s office in Staunton, 4/4/11

An open letter to the members of the SVTPP

Friends, I don’t know if you have heard the news, but I regret to say that the Shenandoah Valley Tea Party Patriots, Inc. (SVTPP) is no more.   For those unfamiliar with the corporation, it was a collection of three tea parties, Staunton, Harrisonburg, and Page County.  It also included Waynesboro during the time that that tea party was in existence.

I know that there are many people within the former SVTPP who would prefer you not hear of these things, but as an elected member of the Board of Directors, I feel that it is my duty to inform you of this situation.  Based upon the information I have gathered, these are the thoughts that I have and the conclusions I have reached.  I firmly believe that in the interests of openness and transparency you have a right to know what happened.

Unfortunately, the organization has been in decline for many months now.  As you likely know, when Bruce Richmond stepped down as the Leadership Chairman of the SVTPP last year, the Board of Directors was tasked with finding his replacement.  Mr. Richmond asked several people to take over, including myself, but I did not feel that I had the necessary time and financial resources to serve the Tea Party’s need.  Only one candidate stepped forward, Dr. Ed Long of the Staunton Tea Party.  Although most members of the board did not know Dr. Long, we were encouraged to install him as the new leader based upon the recommendation of the Staunton group and the fact that there were no other candidates.  I argued that it was better to wait until we knew something of the man, but was outvoted.  That was okay.  After all, such is the nature of working with a team.

However, very quickly afterward problems emerged.  For example, Dr. Long sent several letters to Representative Bob Goodlatte on behalf of the entire SVTPP.  In one of the letters he declared that the group endorsed Representative Goodlatte’s immigration plan, however this was done without the knowledge or consent of the Board of Directors or the approval of the leadership of the three tea parties.  I protested these actions at a meeting of the Staunton Tea Party, as did the leader of the Harrisonburg Tea Party, but our objections were ignored.

At the next meeting of the Board of Directors, things got much worse.  Dr. Long attempted to modify the Board by convincing one previous Board member (the former Chairman of the Board) that he had not resigned, thus permitting Staunton three members on the board as opposed to the two allotted to them in the bylaws.  Each group was to have two representatives and thus he attempted to expand the Board under his own authority to seven instead of six.  Dr. Long tried to cancel a meeting of the Board of Directors, a power he did not possess.  He also tried to offer an amendment to a resolution I proposed compelling the Board to approve his choice for Chairman of the Board.  Fortunately, the Board resisted most of these actions.  However, it became clear to me that if we continued down this path, the Board would be treated as little more than a rubber stamp for Dr. Long’s actions.  Therefore, I felt that I had to act.

As a result of continuing problems, I drew up a list of grievances against Dr. Long.  In response, he called for my removal from the Board, stating that my present and previous employment in politics violated the nonpartisan status of the SVTPP and the 501 (c) 4 tax status.  Although I appreciated the nonpartisan nature of the SVTPP, individual members had always been free to act as they saw fit.  For example, in the previous year a multitude of individuals volunteered for Jamie Radtke’s Senate campaign and no one objected then.  In addition, shortly after being elected to head the SVTPP, and at the same time I was working for Robert Sarvis, Dr. Long listed his email address in an ad sponsored by all three groups of the SVTPP in a fundraising pamphlet for E.W. Jackson.

And again no one said a word.  Unfortunately, Dr. Long’s demand led to the resignation of one of Staunton’s Board members.

At the October meeting of the Board, we planned to discuss what to do about this situation with Dr. Long.  At that time, the Board had been reduced to five members due to the previously mentioned resignation.  The day of the Board meeting, the remaining Staunton representative notified the other Board members that he could not attend that night and that he was cancelling it, offering no legitimate reason for doing so.  As the remaining four members wished to meet, we informed him that according to the bylaws no person could unilaterally cancel a Board meeting and thus we met in his absence.  Due to all of the problems that the SVTPP was facing, the Board voted unanimously to remove Dr. Long from his position as Leadership Chairman of the SVTPP.  This letter was sent to Dr. Long.  The absent Board member and the three leaders of the member tea parties were also notified.

The resolution removing Dr. Long
The resolution removing Dr. Long

Thereafter, everything changed…and not for the better.  The Staunton Tea Party seemed to refuse to accept the fact that Dr. Long had been removed.  The Staunton representative declared our actions to be illegitimate given that he was not present.  It should be noted that several months before this whole mess, the Board met without this member, which I conducted as Vice Chairman of the Board, and neither that meeting nor what resulted from it was ever questioned.  The Secretary of the SVTPP (a member of the Staunton group) did not relay the information of Dr. Long’s removal to the email list despite repeated requests from the Board.  Communication broke down and the Staunton Board members and leaders of Staunton refused to meet with anyone from Harrisonburg or Page.  Although the Staunton Board member agreed to attend several of our subsequent announced Board meetings, he did not do so.  I was told that the Staunton group had secretly hired an attorney and was seeking trademark of the SVTPP name, but did not know how to react; after all, if true, such an action would be a gross violation of, not only our trust, but also the bylaws of the corporation, the SVTPP.

SVTPP By-Laws 5-23-13

In December, the Staunton representative on the Board sent letters to both the leader of the Harrisonburg Tea Party and me.  He demanded that either the leader of the Harrisonburg Tea Party resign or that she withdraw the Harrisonburg Tea Party from the SVTPP.  My letter simply demanded my resignation.  Curiously, when questioned, the Staunton Board member admitted that he did not write the bulk of what was in these letters and merely signed them.  Given he did not possess the authority to act in such a fashion, both of these demands were refused.

Letter calling for my resignation
Letter calling for my resignation

After these letters, Staunton continued their silence with respect to the Board of Directors and the Harrisonburg and Page groups.  Then in February, Mr. Richmond the leader of the Staunton group visited with the leaders of Harrisonburg and Page.  He delivered a letter announcing that Staunton had seized control of the SVTPP and that Harrisonburg and Page had been kicked out.  This action was in violation of the bylaws of the organization.  Staunton claimed that they had secured the trademark to the name of the SVTPP as well as the group’s 501 (c) 4 status, without either the knowledge or consent of the Board of Directors.

While the troubles with Dr. Long were ongoing, I asked Mr. Richmond if he would consider leading the SVTPP once more, but he declined.  According his self-proclaimed title in this February letter, it seems that Mr. Richmond changed his mind and decided to wrest control of the organization without the proper authority from the Board.  Although I pressed Harrisonburg, Page, and the Board to contest this issue in court, it seemed as if the group was tired of the infighting.  The attorney for the entire SVTPP offered mediation in his law office, but again the leaders of Staunton refused to participate.  In addition, if you receive the official SVTPP email newsletter, you may have noticed that the Staunton group has erased all mention of either the Harrisonburg or Page County Tea Parties.

While drafting a letter announcing their withdrawal from the SVTPP, the leaders of the Page County Tea Party stumbled across some surprising information.  Apparently erroneous information had been given to the Virginia State Corporation Commission in both 2011 and 2012.  The Commission requires annual reports and information as to who serves on the Board of Directors.  Although I was elected to the board in mid 2011, my name did not show up on the 2012 document.  The names of the Page County representatives did not appear anywhere and even the names of the Staunton representatives were wrong or nonexistent.  Instead, the list included board members who had resigned either in 2011 or even earlier.  You can see the 2011 and 2012 paperwork for yourself on the State Corporation Commission website.  In addition, a representative from the State Corporation Commission mentioned that as the 2013 paperwork had been filled out so incorrectly that as of November 30th of 2013, the Shenandoah Valley Tea Party Patriots, Inc. was no longer a legally recognized group in the state of Virginia.  Although that information was sent to the leadership of Staunton, they chose to keep it from the Board of Directors and from you.

So my fellow tea partiers, I wanted to let you know that the Shenandoah Valley Tea Party, Inc. is no more.  Yes, the Staunton group may continue to use the name SVTPP, but if they do so you ought to know that it was hijacked through deception.  As mentioned in the previous paragraph, the group as a corporation is not recognized by the state of Virginia though I have heard that the Staunton group is seeking to change this status now that they have eliminated Harrisonburg and Page from the fold.  I’m sorry to see the organization go, especially with such horrid infighting.  We speak of the corruption in Washington and unfortunately it seems that corruption has taken both the Staunton Tea Party and the SVTPP too.  Unfortunately, some people have decided to tread down a dishonorable path, using the tea party merely to advance their own power.

Despite these setbacks, both the Harrisonburg and Page County Tea Parties have resolved to move forward; however, we will proceed on a course separate from Staunton and the SVTPP.  Page County has already withdrawn from the SVTPP and once Harrisonburg makes their announcement official, my service to the Board of Directors will come to an end.  Yes, Staunton has had many troubles, but as there are still many fine individuals in the Staunton Tea Party and we share many of the same goals, let us hope that they will thrive in whatever route they think best.  Regardless of what the future may bring, it is imperative that we should never forget the founding principles of the modern Tea Party, the ideals of a limited and constitutional government with a driving focus on fiscal responsibility.

I wish you well in your forthcoming endeavors.

Written by

Joshua Huffman

Soon to Be Former Harrisonburg Representative

SVTPP Board of Directors


With additions and concurrence by:

Merle Hilscher

Former Page County Representative

SVTPP Board of Directors


Carl Hilscher

Former Page County Representative

SVTPP Board of Directors

Tea With Staunton

For the last several days and the next week or two, I’ve temporarily transferred to the city of Staunton, Virginia.  Located twenty-five miles or so south of Harrisonburg, Staunton is a place rich in both history and culture.  Not only can you find places like the Frontier Culture Museum and the American Shakespeare Center, but also Wright’s Dairy-Rite and Woodrow Wilson’s birthplace and Presidential Library.  If you are wondering how Wright’s fits in with the rest, like Jess’ Quick Lunch in downtown Harrisonburg, it is an iconic restaurant that serves as a gathering place for politicians and political campaigns over the decades.

On Thursday, I had the chance to attend a meeting of the Staunton branch of the Shenandoah Valley Tea Party Patriots.  Although I had hoped to visit with this group earlier, the fact that so many of their gatherings took place at the same time that the Harrisonburg group met, I felt I had to wait until their schedules were separated.  Speaking of such matters, during that same evening Senate hopeful Jamie Radtke was meeting with the Page County branch.  I would‘ve loved to have gone there as well, but I still haven’t found the trick to be two places at once.

Besides electing a Staunton representative to the SVTPP board (more on this issue later), the main highlight of the event was Karen Miner Hurd and her Virginia Tea Party Alliance PAC.  A relatively new organization in Virginia politics, Ms. Hurd’s PAC seeks to transform Virginia politics by not merely electing Republicans, but by electing Republicans who embrace the conservative ideology.  While wearing a pin declaring her disdain for RINOs (Republicans in name only), she ardently advocated challenging the Republican establishment types who have previously and continue to water down the Republican brand.

Given my frustrations with lackluster and non-conservative candidates (like John McCain in 2008), I can certainly appreciate the purpose of the VATPA.  After all, electing Republicans is not of much value if they govern and legislate in more or less the same fashion as the average Democrat.  If some Virginia Republicans steadfastly refuse to adhere to the principles outlined in the RPV Creed, then why should conservatives support their election or reelection?

After Karen Hurd spoke, Senator Mark Obenshain (R-26) offered a few thoughts to the audience as well.  He regaled us of his early days in the Senate when he butted heads with then Senator John Chichester, a fellow Republican.  As you may recall, Chichester, a villain to many fiscal conservatives, helped pass one of the largest tax increases in state history.  I always appreciate the chance to hear Senator Obenshain speak and, as you already know, given his voting record and sponsored legislation, I believe him to be one of the best, if not the best, member of that body.  One does hope that should the Republican regain control of the Virginia Senate this year that men of Obenshain’s caliber will lead the body as opposed to business as usual Republicans.

Getting back to the main focus of this article, given their commitment to our shared principles as well as a determination to influence local, state, and national elections here in the Commonwealth, you can be sure that I’ll be eagerly watching the activities of this new PAC.  I’ll provide more details as they become available.

I have no other news from Staunton at this time.  if you happened to be in the Harrisonburg area, I hope you had a chance to meet with the Ron Paul group. I would have loved to have gone myself, but given the high price of gas, I had to sit this one out.

Until next time, just remember; stay informed and stay active!