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Meet the Masterminds of New York’s Tea-Party Movement

One would think that New York City, which voted Obama in by a margin of over 60 percent, wouldn’t be a hotbed of tea-party action. One would be partially right. Yet at least one such organization is thriving here — TeaParty365, which boasts a five-borough mailing list of “many thousands.”

TeaParty365 is the brainchild of two people, David Webb and Kellen Giuda. Giuda, a jobless architect and Young Republican, ran Parcbench, a kind of wingnut Onion (peek here for a biting satirical piece on Ed Begley Jr.). In early 2009, he found himself energized by Rick Santelli’s now-classic CNBC rant and decided to spearhead a Tax Day protest himself. At New York’s first “Santelli’s tea party” rally in City Hall Park, Giuda met Webb, an older conservative with some campaign experience and a booming voice he puts to use in his own talk shows on XM, Sirius, and New York’s AM radio. The two have been running the city’s tea-party game since.

The operation is decidedly threadbare compared to redder cities and states, but at least Webb and Giuda have the field almost entirely to themselves. “There’s one in Staten Island and one in Long Island,” says Webb. “But they’re relatively small. As far as size and reach, we’re it.” There’s no real money behind the group — its biggest donor so far is a Manhattan doctor who’s written a check for $500 — which has incorporated itself as a “501c4 non-partisan advocacy organization.” The drawback of this status is that TeaParty365 is unable to endorse candidates. Rallies are expensive (with permits and sound-equipment rental, each costs about $10,000), so the group traffics in more frequent restaurant meet-ups; the last one was at No. 1 Front Street in Dumbo, a bar located, fittingly, in an old bank building.

The group’s politics are the usual list of grievances against Big Government. But New York has left at least one mark on the movement: Guida is Italian and Webb is black. Some listeners have called into Webb’s show to call him, sight unseen, a “redneck racist.” Conversely, “I’ve been backed by some people until they saw my picture,” he says.

Meet the Masterminds of New York’s Tea-Party Movement