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Tea Party Tries to Sway GOP Platform

James Bopp Jr., a prominent conservative lawyer and high-ranking Republican national committeeman, is helping tea partyers influence the official GOP 2012 platform.

Bopp, the vice chairman of the RNC, is among those tasked with writing the platform and is using his expertise to advise FreedomWorks, a well-financed conservative advocacy organization that has taken on the tea party mantle.

The relationship is yet another example of how tea party activists have become increasingly intertwined with the Republican establishment they once criticized.

Bopp lost his RNC seat Friday, the result of apparent backlash for working to oust six-term GOP Sen. Dick Lugar in Indiana’s primary last month. Still, Bopp’s term doesn’t end until the day after the party’s convention, on Sept. 1, giving him one more chance to sway the GOP line from within.

His six years on the committee have been marked by efforts to swing the party agenda further to the right. In 2009, he proposed a 10-point Republican purity test that would grant financial support only to candidates who support eight of 10 core principles, including opposing same-sex marriage, amnesty for illegal immigrants and federal funding of abortion.

The constitutional lawyer has also helped press some of the most influential campaign finance cases in recent years, including Citizens United v. Federal
Election Commission, a 2010 decision that allows FreedomWorks’ new super PAC to collect unlimited sums from corporations.

So it is perhaps no surprise he showed up at FreedomWorks’ policy and political boot camp Sunday to give some 125 activists insight on how to shape the party’s platform, which will be officially blessed at the Republican convention in Tampa.

“We’re doing everything we can do to get everybody on board with the RNC and our candidate,” Bopp said.

A spokeswoman for the RNC said Bopp is not an official liaison to FreedomWorks or any other tea party group. But Bopp said RNC Chairman Reince Priebus gave him permission to advise the group, which is led by former House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-Texas).

“I think this just reinforces that the RNC is looking for a way to reach out to the tea party,” said Russ Walker, vice president of political and grass-roots campaigns at FreedomWorks. “The tea party has become the Republican Party. We are at the ranks of a lot of these central committees, and I think this is the natural progression of restoring small government principles in the Republican Party.”

FreedomWorks plans to crowdsource ideas for its platform online and in a series of town hall meetings this summer, much like the group did with its “Tea Party Debt Commission,” a foil to the Congressional Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction, and its 2010 “Contract From America,” which called for a reduction in taxes, a balanced budget and reduced federal spending.

In the weeks before the convention, the group will lobby RNC members to include its ideas. The committee will release the first draft of the official platform one week before the convention, opening it up to amendments from subcommittees before final approval. Outside groups can offer their own proposals at any point in that process, but with thousands of interests vying for attention, only those with connections are likely to get a second look.

FreedomWorks pledges to fight elements in the platform draft that don’t jibe with tea party interests. The group will not comment on social issues.

Correction: June 13, 9:17 a.m.

An earlier version of this article gave an incorrect title for James Bopp Jr. He is currently the vice chairman of the Republican National Committee.

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