New York Congressman Treads on Arizona's Proposed Tea Party Vanity Plates

The Arizona Legislature passed a bill late last night that allows for the creation of an Arizona vanity license plate featuring the "Don't Tread on Me" Gadsden Flag, which is an early symbol of the United States Marine Corps and Navy. It also happens to be the adopted symbol of the Tea Party movement that coughed up the cash to create the plates.

Other states, like Nevada and Virginia, have proposed similar plates, with which a New York congressman seems to have a problem (get a rope).

Congressman Gary Ackerman of New York's Fifth Congressional District -- which covers a portion of Long Island -- announced on his website today that he plans to introduce a bill into Congress that would cut off 15 percent of a state's federal highway funds if any proceeds from a vanity plate goes to a political group that advocates for the defeat of a political candidate.

Anyone who wants a Gadsden Flag license plate would have to pony up $25, $17 of which goes to "promote Tea Party governing principles" because the Tea Party is the organization that came up with the required $32,000 to create the plates.

The Tea Party's been known to advocate for the defeat of a political candidate or two.

Ackerman thinks using government resources to help bankroll a political agenda is a misuse of public money, and his "License Plate Political Slush Fund Prevention Act" would help to keep that from happening.

"It seems that the GOP in Arizona is attempting to do nothing more than create a slush fund for its Tea Party friends," he says. "It's a scheme that smacks of cronyism, and should not be allowed to become law."

The original version of the license-plate bill didn't specify which group would benefit from the plate fees. One of the bills sponsors, Representative Vic Williams, told New Times in January that "This is a specialized plate in search of a sponsor," he says.

He insisted that it was not necessarily to benefit the Tea Party but rather to a group that has "some connectivity" to what "Don't Tread on Me" stands for.

At the time, we called BS -- check it out here.

It appears we were right.

It's unclear whether Governor Jan Brewer will sign the bill -- she is yet to take a public position on the new Tea Party plate, her office says.

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James King
Contact: James King