A Tea Party group criticized for trying to make money off the movement has cancelled its Oct. 14 convention in Las Vegas.
The cancellation was good news for Tea Party backers in Nevada who said Monday they had never supported Tea Party Nation. The organization took heat last February for charging people more than $500 to attend a Nashville meeting, where Tea Party favorite Sarah Palin spoke for a reported fee of $100,000.
"They were kind of opportunistic," said Frank Ricotta, vice chairman of the Clark County Republican Party and a former state director of Nevada Patriots, one of the many Tea Party-affiliated groups that have sprung up in the state since last year.
Debbie Landis, the head of "Action is Brewing," a Northern Nevada Tea Party group, said the cancellation was "the best news I've heard all day."
Landis said Tea Party groups in Nevada had agreed not to encourage people to attend the convention or advertise it, but there was "no real boycott."
Judson Phillips, founder of Tea Party Nation, didn't immediately return emails or phone calls to explain why the convention was cancelled. It had originally been scheduled for July, but Phillips said not enough people wanted to come to Las Vegas in the 100-degree-plus summer heat.
Republican Senate candidate Sharron Angle, who is challenging U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, was scheduled to be one of the headline speakers at the Oct. 14 convention. Her campaign said Monday it was notified last week by Tea Party Nation that the event had been cancelled.
Tea Party groups in Nevada have rallied around Angle since she won the GOP primary June 8. She enjoys strong support from both the local and national movement, including from the Tea Party Express that endorsed her and has spent more than $1 million on ads and other efforts to support her and oppose Reid.
The Tea Party Nation convention would have opened just two days before early voting begins in Nevada in the dead heat race, according to the latest polls.
The meeting of up to several thousand Tea Party backers would have provided Angle another national platform for her Nov. 2 bid to defeat the Democratic incumbent, who is getting some high-powered help from President Barack Obama, who plans an Oct. 22 rally in Las Vegas.
Still, Angle's campaign already is getting plenty of attention given the high stakes for control of the Senate and the fate of Reid and Obama's agenda, which has proven unpopular in Nevada. Angle and Reid also are scheduled to hold their only televised debate on Oct. 14, the same day the convention was to open.
Angle had been looking forward to the convention, her communications director Jarrod Agen said.
"Sharron was scheduled to speak up until they told us it was off," Agen said in an email, saying the campaign was told last week it was cancelled.
Other speakers who had been booked for the convention included Andrew Breitbart, Lou Dobbs, Laura Ingraham and Tom Tancredo.
Talking Points Memo first reported the convention had been cancelled for Las Vegas.