November 24, 2009

Colleen Conley: What Will It Take For You to Take a Stand?

Engaged Citizen

Recently, I attended a GOP meet-and-greet, hosted by a group of beautiful women at one of their gorgeous “House and Garden” homes in an affluent neighborhood. The food was delicious, the wine sublime, and the hospitality of genteel, like-minded couples unparalleled. The Governor and his delightful wife made an appearance and both gave heartwarming speeches, as did a candidate for Governor of our state. It was a picture-perfect evening that went off without a hitch.

So why did I awake the next morning with a sinking feeling? I had just met a great group of educated and presumably informed people who had an understanding of the issues which face our state and our nation. These were not your average folks; the resources at their disposal put them in a unique position, somewhat buffered by the economy which ravages the average working folks, and with time, money, and access to information that gives them a distinct advantage over those who live from paycheck to paycheck.

As I watched speakers, perched on an impressive staircase in front of a rapt audience, discuss their ideas for a better tomorrow, I pictured similar scenes that might have taken place 240 years ago, in which our founding fathers stood to make their pitch for the creation of new nation; a nation of the people, for the people, and by the people. I imagined that those orators suggested to their listeners that the time had come for action; that as leaders of their communities with resources, means to spread the word, and ability to sway the masses working simply for their everyday survival, that now was the time to take a stand for freedom. And not just for their freedom, but for the freedom of generations to come.

In my state and my country, we are at a not so dissimilar point in history. Our freedoms are under assault in all corners of our state and federal government. As the leader of the Tea Party movement in RI, I am proud and honored to have met thousands of average working folks who have had “enough” and who are willing to take a stand for their freedom. Junkyard owners and nurses, retirees and teachers, stay-at-home moms, and small business owners; each and every one fills me with a sense of hope that all is not lost.

But some members of the political party which should embrace the tea-party ideals of fiscal responsibility, accountability, and a return to Constitutional principles seem content to converse amongst themselves and host beautiful gatherings with beautiful people. By and large, they do not show the fortitude to speak amongst a room full of foes, and debate the merits of their stances on the issues. Why is this? Why are people, even educated people of means, cowed by the opposition, which has nothing but tired, long disproved theories in their arsenal?

My charge to the leaders of our communities is this: it is time for bold action in defense of our freedom and freedom of our children. It is no longer acceptable to simply host gatherings and hope that change will come, for without the concerted action that only you can take, it will not. You could, and should, be the contemporary Statesmen of our time. You must consider running for political office (no matter how distasteful that seems), you must donate your time and money to go on offense against the corrupt status quo, you must speak the truth, even if you feel that it may offend some. Times which test us require men and women of strength and resources to reach outside of our comfort zones. Be models for your children. Our future, and theirs, depends on it.

Colleen Conley is a founder and the President of the Rhode Island Tea Party.

Comments, although monitored, are not necessarily representative of the views Anchor Rising's contributors or approved by them. We reserve the right to delete or modify comments for any reason.

Colleen wrote:
"By and large, they do not show the fortitude to speak amongst a room full of foes, and debate the merits of their stances on the issues."

Who are you referring to specifically? The Republican members of the General Assembly? If so, what was your hope that they would do?


Posted by: Patrick at November 24, 2009 1:33 PM

When was the last time you heard of the streets running "blue" with the blood of our fallen brothers in their fight for our freedom?

Posted by: John at November 24, 2009 2:14 PM

In my humble opinion, this woman is a huge ego maniac. I have seen her speak and she talks in flowery terms about the founding fathers? Huh? Now she thinks it would be just great to have her followers run for office? That's just what the liberals hope will happen. A group of inexperienced ego maniacs, with no idea how to run a campaign, build consensus, find solutions to real problems, and challenge the liberals and that nasty GOP. I do agree that Rory Smith is a colossal waste of time and effort. Another rich-guy who wants to run for Governor to be the Governor, not to change our state. Great. That just guarantees that the left wins. This is the same woman who, for no other reason than to satisfy her insatiable ego went on the radio to attack the State Wide Coalition's Harry Staley for an hour! No mention of the real goal, stopping binding arbitration, just a ego driven attack of Harry Staley - a great American and a good solid conservative. In public no less! Now, she's fired Marina Peterson! A classy lady who was doing an admirable job. Marina's flaw? she would not worship her royal highness Colleen. Again, more Colleen ego! It's my opinion that this spoiled brat is a menace to anyone who really wants to bring about real change through the political process. Colleen, find a real campaign, that can actually win and learn about the process by starting at the bottom. We don't need your empty ego driven words - work for change as a worker. All you do with your ego driven antics is help the left win - again! You are an embarrassment to all of us who left work to attend the Tea Parties.

Posted by: Jane V. at November 24, 2009 2:39 PM

Jane V-well said with regard to the attack on Harry Staley-I had the pleasure to meet Mr.Staley at the Pirate Ship,uh,Statehouse on an occasion when we were both giving testimony against one of David Segal's more ill-conceived bills.He was a real gentleman and a conservative with some real knowledge evident in his position statements.
I don't know much about Ms.Conley and I personally haven't participated in the Tea Party movement,so I'm not qualified to say if her ego is too big.I just know I was turned off by her unjustified public excoriation of Mr.Staley.

Posted by: joe bernstein at November 24, 2009 3:02 PM

I couldn't agree more. What we gain by attacking Harry Staley is beyond me. Firing Marina Paterson? Why? I think Jane is right. This woman is on an ego trip and a half! If she is looking for what's wrong with our state I suggest she buy a mirror!

Posted by: Tom at November 24, 2009 3:12 PM

Go into a room of foes - to raise money to run for office? Just what planet is the wacko from? And then to say that "run for office, no matter how distasteful that may be?" Wow what a clue-less bubble head. This woman needs t go back to the book club. The Tea Party and all we stand for has out grown Queen Colleen!

Posted by: The West End Kid at November 24, 2009 3:19 PM

I spent 13 hours on bus to Washington to DO something about my beliefs. Where was Colleen? I guess that was too "distasteful" for her!

Posted by: Gerry at November 24, 2009 3:23 PM

OK, So defend the do-little/accomplish little GOP and the RIGeezer Coalition, and attack Colleen.

I recall several occasions in recent past when the GOP or RISC has attempted to stage rally's or huge press conferences at the state house and about 5 people show up. Embarrassing, especially since Pat Crowley is always there with a video camera. When the RNC had it's regional conference in Newport this year, I think about 60 people showed up. They couldn't get a couple of thousand Republicans from all of New England?

I haven't seen a leader move thousands to come out and be heard the way Colleen has in Rhode Island. I say keep up the good work Colleen and don't pay attention to these do-nothing hacks.
They are part of the problem.

Posted by: George at November 24, 2009 3:46 PM

Hey George? Where were you when Harry Staley brought Twenty-One-Thousand (21,000) signatures on a petition for voter initiative to the State House? How many signatures has Colleen ever gathered? Answer? NONE. I guess Pat Crowly didn't cover that with his video camera so you probably missed it at your union meeting. RISC does real work on real issues, the ego queen is about self aggrandizement, simple as that. There are real people doing real work to save our state, people like Larry Ehrhardt and Bob Watson and Frank Maher, and yes Harry Staley but you wouldn't know about that either - go follow the ego queen! Ever, ever hear her give credit to anyone other than herself? Again, I didn't think so.

Posted by: Tom at November 24, 2009 3:56 PM

Go into a room of foes - to raise money to run for office? Just what planet is the wacko from?

It is unlikely that you will influence your foes who are undoubtedly wedded to their ideas, but it may influence a few voters.

" And then to say that "run for office, no matter how distasteful that may be?"

That is a reality that must be faced. Many successful businessmen and professionals see politics as a "dirty business", not "public service".

Posted by: Warrington Faust at November 24, 2009 3:57 PM

All right Tom. You're right. The GOP delegation and RISC have accomplised so much. Look at the composition of the General Assembly. Look at the growing state deficit. Look at the state pension system. Look at the performance of our schools. You can stick with the old dogs Tom. I'm going with something bold and new!

21,000 signatures, impressive... and where does voter initiative stand today? Did I miss that ballot question on property taxes? You're right Tom, I've missed a lot.

Posted by: George at November 24, 2009 4:02 PM

Well, one thing is for sure, based on the comments and all the divisiveness, she will keep you guys fractured! That only helps us! Thanks!

Posted by: Left Wing Observer at November 24, 2009 4:03 PM

Fair enough George, The accomplishments of the GOP and RISC pale by comparison, after all they only stopped the perpetual contract bill, stopped binding arbitration, stopped the 3% cable tax, stopped an increase of sales taxes, raised enough hell to stop the unionization of day-care workers and forced through Separation of Powers.
I guess that's meaningless in the face of the Tea Party which has yet to endorse a single candidate for any office with the election just 11 months off. But you go ahead and stick with Colleen - she'll tell you all about the founding fathers.

Posted by: Tom at November 24, 2009 4:11 PM

Let's give Cowley and his pissant video camera routine some more undeserved attention,why don't we?The Obamabots on RIF are certainly impressed with him,but who else?They seem to share a communal hive brain over there anyway.
John Loughlin is a Republican with credibility and the ONLY politician I've ever heard in recent times on 10 News Conference who gave a set of SPECIFIC proposals for job creation.
Jim Taricani didn't interject at all.Neither did Rapelye.
Taricani is a sharp guy with a very good bulls**t detector.He ripped Linc Chafee a new one as he stumbled like a spastic through the same topic.
I don't have much regard for Rapelye because I don't think he knows how to keep his personal opinion out of questions.
Rep.Loughlin is also a man with no over bearing ego.He was the first RI legislator to voluntarily pay part of his health care premium.He's also a military veteran with overseas deployment service.
I can't vote for him because I don't live in the 1st District,but I wish I could.
I wonder what filthy lies Bill Lynch and the RIF crew will invent about him on Patches' behalf?

Posted by: joe bernstein at November 24, 2009 4:17 PM


I like Loughlin, but didn't see the show you speak about, is it on line? I also like Watson, my representative, that guy is not afraid to speak his mind in a room full of foes. I don't know why the Tea Party has this "everyone is bad" attitude? I don't agree with Watson 100% on everything, but I think he has a much better shot at saving our state than the democrat alternatives? It just seems to me that Colleen is against everyone. That just enables the unions and democrats to put their guys in? Am I off base here?

Posted by: Sharron at November 24, 2009 4:29 PM

While Colleen certainly has had some stumbling snafus along the way, the overall effect was that she made a few thousand more Engaged Citizens in RI.

True what others say about the effect of the Tea Party and RISC as gaged by the general assembly, but it's easy to steer a ship when 35 people are at the till while there are six rowers.

Give it time people.

Rhode Islanders didn't become braindead overnight and it took two decades of Democrat control to screw up this state and four decades of drunken behaviour to get to this point.

RISC and Harry Staley is a classy organization with teeth. Did they start off smooth? I doubt it.

Crowley attracts moonbats because RIF direction is clearly defined. The instructions are to watch Night Of The Living Dead and if you can identify with the 'things' coming out of the ground that eat brains, then join RIF.

Posted by: Roland at November 24, 2009 4:35 PM


While there is a certain truth to the maxim that free advice is worth every penny that you pay for it, I will tell you sincerely that you are treading on very dangerous ground in attributing all of the public success on the issues that you cite to the GOP and RISC. OCG, for one, would politely disagree with you, as would other individuals and groups -- but maybe not so politely.

As to the general criticism of Ms. Conley's essay in general:

I'm picking up two general themes...

  1. The Tea Party shouldn't be discussing fundamental ideas about democratic governance (let's keep history and those Founding Fathers out of the discussion!), and
  2. The Tea Party shouldn't get involved with running candidates for office.
What, pray-tell is left exactly, beyond a continuation of the purely reactive battle against the steady stream of bad ideas produced by the entrenched interests in this state.

Posted by: Andrew at November 24, 2009 5:04 PM

Addressing a bunch of stuff:

I thought this letter by Colleen was excellent. Basically, she's saying that people who have the ability to serve the public good, should, instead of just sitting on the sidelines and hoping someone else will change things. At the absolute minimum, they need to financially support people who will, and encourage their circle of friends to do the same, if they are unable or unwilling to do so themselves. Just talking a good game about "party building" while eating brie (not that there's anything wrong with brie) isn't going to cut it any more.

Marina wasn't "fired". I personally like Marina. However, the other members of the Tea Party board found her too difficult to work with, keeping in mind their goal of building the organization going forward. It came down to a personality issue which was going to be a drag on things going forward. If it had to happen, it's better that it happen sooner, rather than later. However, just because Marina won't be on the board, doesn't mean she won't be active in the overall movement.

The thing between Colleen and Harry Staley probably would have been better to have been dealt with in private. I know Harry very well, and don't have a bad thing to say about him personally. That being said, her concerns which led up to the spat were at least on the surface valid. Water under the bridge. There's enough room in the state for both Colleen and Harry. They play to different strengths. We need both of them, and more people who want to make a difference like them.

As for Voter Initiative, it was a good thing that so many signatures were gathered to support it. However, trying to rest on laurels isn't going to get any of us anywhere. The forces of good are so weak at the General Assembly level, all that hard work by Harry and OCG and other people was by and large ignored by the legislators. Instead of focusing on the past, the focus now needs to be squarely on defeating those legislators in 2010 who aren't doing the people's business, instead of trying to pretend they don't exist.

Lastly, because it is laughable on it's face "...the Tea Party which has yet to endorse a single candidate for any office with the election just 11 months off."

What organization anywhere endorses candidates 11 months before an election, presuming that the organization is even in the position to do candidate endorsements? Someone needs to take a breather. We'll get to the 2010 elections in 2010. The Tea Party also needs to make sure it has the organization in place to be an effective political force, not just rush into things in order to please people who are probably impossible to please. Good things come to those who wait.

Posted by: Will at November 24, 2009 5:21 PM

Sharron-the show may still be up on line at the WJAR site.I watched it on TV.
You are definitely not off-base at all.Internicine fighting just strengthens the enemy.And make no mistake,the Obamabots are the enemy.
They are cocky right now,but I think they're in for a surprise in 2010.
2012 is too far off in today's high speed world to contemplate seriously.
We all don't need to be on the same page on everything-just all agreed that this administration is destructive to the America that we believe in.We can't forget we are dealing with internationalists who are heavily influenced by Marx as distilled through the diseased brain of Saul Alinsky.

Posted by: joe bernstein at November 24, 2009 6:37 PM


To your points, it was the elected officials on the floor, primarily Nicholas Gorman and Bob Watson who got Separation of Powers done. OCG as good an worthwhile as they are, have NO vote in the chamber. Colleen likes to vilify these folks but they got it done. And they are the only ones who fight the fight day in and day out while Colleen has her nails done.
Bottom line? The Tea Party is worthwhile and good, but will be destroyed by the cult of the individual, ie the ego maniac Colleen.

Posted by: Jane V. at November 24, 2009 6:40 PM

For Collen, a bit of the Tao:

The court is resplendent
Yet the fields are overgrown.
The granieries are empty;
Yet some wear elegant clothes;
Fine swords dangle at their sides;
They are stuffed with food and drink;
And possess wealth in gross abundance.
This is known as taking pride in robbery.
Far is this from the way.


Posted by: OldTimeLefty at November 24, 2009 10:49 PM


Getting results on an issue like separation of powers was not solely the work of elected officials -- a number of organizations including OCG and Common Cause spent years working on SoP, before it finally became law. Looking only at the final stage of the process seriously short-changes the many people who worked hard on that effort. Applying this same line of reasoning towards the future, other issues that become part of an actionable agenda will do so as the result of co-operation from a number of different directions, where different organizations play different roles at different stages. Cooperation in this context will really mean co-operation; there will be no one organization calling the shots that everyone should be expected to fall in line behind.

No doubt, there is an anti-incumbent streak in the Tea Party movement. That means that incumbents are going to have to make a positive case for why they should be re-elected in order to win Tea Party votes, instead of arguing vote for me because I'm already here. In a representative democracy, I don't see that as automatically a bad thing.

Posted by: Andrew at November 24, 2009 11:37 PM

OTL-why do you bother with this thread?Like we don't know that you wish a plague on all our houses?

Posted by: joe bernstein at November 25, 2009 6:37 AM

Why does it seem like in these comments that "the enemy of my enemy is my enemy"?

Do all non-Democrats have to agree on everything? It sounds like a little bit of jealousy and I wonder if Colleen would be taking as much heat from people if a man said all the same things.

I think part of it is posting on AR is preaching to the choir. I don't know that there's much in there that regular readers of AR would disagree with. I think the main idea is that our General Assembly is mostly plagued with crap and we need to get them out and get some fresh blood in there, at least enough to sustain a governor's veto. How many people disagree with that? And we've seen in past elections that not enough of the seats are contested with viable candidates. Let's get more and better candidates running. That's how I read the post.

And before anyone accuses me of being a "teabagger" or even a union thug or Democrat, save it, I've never met Colleen, wouldn't know her if I bumped into her on the street.

Posted by: Patrick at November 25, 2009 7:22 AM

I read the letter and thought it was a good bit of writing with the purpose of getting people involved in the running of this government of ours that has gone so badly. Then I read the commentary. Then I read the letter again and thought it was even better than the first time I read it.

Posted by: michael at November 25, 2009 8:49 AM

Wow, never before have I read so much from those who know so little. Please if you are going to quote Colleen please quote her, don't take two different sentences and string them as if they were one thought. What a disgrace. I know Colleen and I certainly don't find her to be an ego maniac. You're like a basket of crabs trying to get out by pulling all the others back down so no one gets anywhere. As for her "attack" on Harry Staley , I don't agree with the way it was done but it was indeed warranted. If you don't know why then don't comment on it.

Posted by: bobc at November 25, 2009 2:56 PM

I thought Ms. Conley's letter was excellent! Knowing Colleen personally, I can tell you that she is not an ego maniac. Rather, she is a true patriot and we should all feel fortunate to have her on our team.

Posted by: Elaine at November 25, 2009 10:35 PM

LOL Bob, I thought some of the commentary was more reminiscent of a pack of yappy shitzus, but a basket of crabs is an apt analogy.

BTW How about that standing room only RI Tea Party meeting last night? Talk about a group with teeth (and not, ummm, dentures.)

Posted by: MadMom at November 25, 2009 11:28 PM

Bob c/Mad Mom-I don't wear dentures,although I may be a crab at times.Point is,whatever Colleen's problem with Harry Staley was,it would've been more productive to keep it "in house"and not give lowlifes like the RIF gang more fodder for their propaganda machine.Never let your enemy know what's going on inside your movement.
I've lived here 25 years and still feel like an interloper.RIer's never let you forget that you are not from here.
Colleen is a very recent arrival and that is probably her biggest obstacle.
Note the leftist scum like Ramon Martinez and Rachel Miller,etc circulate through the state and leave.They think nationally in their quest for third world socialism.
Does Peter Asen of Ocean State Action remind anyone else here of Leon Trotsky?

Posted by: joe bernstein at November 26, 2009 6:35 AM

Thank you colleen for starting the RI tea party and getting an e-mail list now lets do somthing with it. Lets start putting people to work, its time to roll up the sleeves. These meetings and protest should no longer be social events. Its time to inspire Who can do that? Everyone has somthing to give so lets stop micro managing people like they are some kind of budget item. The people had apathy and then woke up Let us not put them back to sleep worrying about who gets credit for what. We stand at the wire with everyone behind us and we say to ourselves I wil lay on this wire so everyone behind me can run across my back and cross over to reach the finish line. But some of us say if I do that I wont be first I may not get the credit or attention I need to be the first one there I am the leader. Does anyone remember the quoate "officers eat the scraps" Where are those people? Heres another one for ya
These are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.

-- Thomas Paine (The Crisis, December 1776)

Posted by: Steve at November 27, 2009 11:00 AM

I agree with steve we need to follow colleens lead and get to work

Posted by: Nathan hale at November 27, 2009 12:00 PM

Steve: Did you participate in Tuesday's Tea Party meeting? If not, you might profit from reading the strategy memo at In the banner at the top of the page, click on Kickoff Document.

Posted by: BobN at November 27, 2009 1:20 PM
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