On February 24, 2011 a post appeared on the CNJ website that effectively rattled the conservative blogosphere in the Garden State. It was a reaction to a breakfast meeting that took place earlier in the day at Drumthwackit, the official gubernatorial residence, between Gov. Chris Christie and fourteen or so representatives of Tea Party groups and other conservative organizations. Among those invited by the governor’s office were Jim Lefkowitz of the Somerset County Tea Party and Barbara Gonzalez of the Bayshore Tea Party.
The purpose of the meeting was not made fully clear to the invitees until they were seated with the governor: he wanted to get their feedback on his budget and other issues. Barbara recounted the meeting on her BTP blog later that afternoon:
He wanted to go over his budget and hear what we thought. We were able to ask questions and we did, with him answering every one of them in great detail.
He has a great plan and asked us to understand how living in a blue State makes it necessary to do things in a certain way in order to achieve what needs to be done.
His budget had the top priority issues that he felt could be tackled, while he understands there are other issues to deal with. RGGI, and the ObamaCare lawsuit being two of those issues. He was very clear in telling us about his opposition to RGGI and ObamaCare.
A couple of hours later, CNJ blogger Rich Zuendt shared his thoughts:
Today approximately 20 Tea Party leaders were invited to Drumthwacket for some refreshments and to have their picture taken with Governor Christie. Why would Governor Christie invite these self-proclaimed leaders to his home away from home? Why would he now associate with the Tea Party groups that he did everything possible to avoid during the last elections? Why would he bring these leaders together today? The following flyer should give you the answer:
Zuendt posted an image of an e-flyer sent out by the Independence Hall Tea Party advertising a rally to be held in Trenton on Feb. 25. Here is the text of the image, courtesy of Anna Little’s Facebook page:
As many of you know, the AFL-CIO and SEIU are mobilizing protests in Philadelphia and Trenton during the next two days.
While we think it’s tempting to greet them at Love Park (in Philly) today, we believe it would be smarter to travel to Trenton on Friday and attend an Association sponsored Press Conference being hosted by State Senator Michael Doherty:
A Call for Taxpayer Relief Press Conference (in support of Gov. Christie’s 2012 Budget)
When: Friday, February 25, 11-11:45 AM
Where: Room 103, State House, 125 West State Street–across from Senate Chamber, Trenton, NJ
Sponsored by: Independence Hall Tea Party Association in cooperation with several New Jersey Tea Party groups and American Majority.
Confirmed Speakers: State Senator Michael Doherty (R-23); Assemblywoman Alison McHose (R-24); the Honorable Anna Little; Ned Ryun, President, Americans Majority; and 4 Tea Party Leaders representing North, Central, and South Jersey–Jim Lefkowitz, Somerset County Tea Party; Russell Cote, Bayshore Tea Party; Mark Falzon, Jersey Shore Tea Party; and Barbara Davis, Cherry Hill Area Tea Party.
Invited Speaker: Rosa Perez Lionetti, New Jersey Chapter, Smart Girl Politics.
At 12 noon (immediately following the Press Conference), a “Taxpayer United” rally, sponsored by AFP and several New Jersey Tea Party groups, will be held at the State House.
Note that the list of confirmed speakers for this presser “in support of Gov. Christie’s 2012 budget” includes none other than State Senator Mike Doherty. More about that in a bit.
Shifting into paranoid overdrive, Zuendt concluded that the Drumthwackit meeting was somehow nefariously linked with the Trenton press conference and that the Tea Party and other conservative leaders were somehow co-opted by Christie as pawns in his sinister plot to transform New Jersey into RINO Heaven. Or something.
For a couple of minutes with the Governor, the leaders of Tea Party Groups across the state have sold their members out, whether they know it or not. Now, the “leaders” of the Tea Party groups will tell the press how they (and their members) support the supposed conservative Governor Christie and his new state budget.
Note in the flyer how the lead in to what had been a rally to show support for Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin and his fight to bring fiscal sanity to his state will now be this:
A Call for Tax Payer Relief Press Conference
(IN SUPPORT OF GOV. CHRISTIE’S 2012 BUDGET)
And who are some of the featured speakers?
Jim Lefkowitz Somerset County Tea Party
Russell Cote Bayshore Tea Party
Mark Falzon Jersey Shore Tea Party
Barbara Davis Cherry Hill Area Tea Party
Tomorrow night, the mass media will be telling the world that the Tea Party groups in New Jersey are 100% behind Governor Chris Christie and his 2012 budget. They will not hear about a rally to support the efforts of another governor to try and stop public worker unions in his state. No, they will tell how a budget that continues to shortchange suburban towns is being supported by Tea Party members. The talking heads that support Chris Christie will tell how the Tea Party has seen the light and now stands with the Governor of New Jersey; even though that same Governor still supports Cap and Trade, green energy and the denial of a citizen’s right to free speech if it involves the burning of a Quran. Tomorrow night it will be all over the news that the new De Facto leader of the Tea Party movement in New Jersey is [Chris Christie]
Zuendt failed to mention Sen. Doherty in his Hall of Shame rascal list. In light of the video below, released by the Indy Hall folks, I can see why.
Sen. Doherty (who was joined by Anna Little and Jim Lefkowitz) announced that he was present “to support Gov. Christie’s effort to reform New Jersey’s pension and health benefits system.” For those of you in Garfield, that “effort” is the central focus of the 2012 budget.
Holy Co-Opt, Batman! Sen. Doherty, Anna Little and Jim Lefkowitz have been brainwashed by Gov. Zeppelin! Quick…to the Zuendtmobile!
Good call, Boy Blunder. Russell Cote – not to be confused with Wile E. Coyote – must have fed them enchanted donuts (spiked with magical Christie Co-opt Fairy Dust cleverly disguised to look like powdered sugar) sneaked out of the Drumthwackit breakfast meeting by none other than Middletown Barbie, Queen of the Tea Party Quislings.
As conspiracy theories go, it makes about as much sense as anything else written by Zuendt, whose February 24 article was met with dozens of comments – including responses from Barbara Gonzalez, who wrote:
You call a 2 hour meeting about the NJ State budget a few minutes photo op? Really? Wow. I only read this senseless crap because someone sent it to me.
In another comment responding to a skeptical fellow commenter, she replied:
Let me answer a few of those questions:
- The meeting was set up by his staff
- There was no formal agenda..the Governor came in, sat down and discussed the Budget and went around the room and took questions and gave answers.
- There were questions regarding specific items in the budget. They were addressed.
- The Governor wanted it to be a small group and this first initial meeting was selected from Tea Party groups that were most effective in NJ.
- We had the ability to question the Governor on his budget and other issues that concern the Tea Parties and were promised nothing.
- As I am the one that attended the meeting representing the Bayshore Group, my personal opinion is not relevant here and I made no statements to that affect (sic). I bring back the information where we, as a group, put it up for discussion
- I have no idea who’s prompted the Press Conference and was not involved in any preparations of a Press Conference
- I was not involved in anything regarding the ASW or the Senator. These questions should be put to Indy Hall.
- I answered the other questions truthfully, and I personally don’t care whether you believe me or not.
- If you think for one minute that anyone at that table could be played like a violin you have no idea who we are. No idea …that is obvious by some of the comments and questions here.
It is my opinion that being invited to sit with the Governor, and knowing most of the people that were in attendance can only be seen as a step in the right direction.
Barbara Gonzalez has assiduously ignored CNJ ever since.
A commenter who identified herself as Missy wrote:
Why weren’t those at the meeting spoken to BEFORE the article was written? It’s an opinion piece and not truely (sic) reflective of what occured (sic) because those at the meeting weren’t contacted prior.
Jim Lefkowitz perfectly summarized this ridiculous burlesque:
Rich: Never heard of you before, but your facts are surprisingly incorrect. Bad “reporting”. I must have missed your call when you were fact gathering.
It’s worth noting that among the attendees present at the Drumthwackit meeting were CNJ contributors Rob Eichmann and Dr. Gayle Kesselman. Curiously, not a word from either of these people regarding Breakfast with Bluto ever made its way to the pages of CNJ. I wonder why.
Fittingly, La Gonzalez (together with fellow Tea Partier Bob Gordon) has the last word: