Tea Party Looks to Take Advantage Of Moment

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) -

Is the tea party getting its groove back? Shouts of vindication from around the country suggest the movement’s leaders certainly think so.

They say the IRS acknowledgement that it had targeted their groups for extra scrutiny — a claim that tea party activists had made for years — is helping pump new energy into the coalition. And they are trying to use that development, along with the ongoing controversy over the Benghazi, Libya, terrorist attacks and the Justice Department’s secret seizure of journalists’ phone records, to recruit new activists incensed about government overreach.

“This is the defining moment to say ‘I told you so,’ “ said Katrina Pierson, a Dallas-based tea party leader, who traveled to Washington last week as the three political headaches for President Barack Obama unfolded.

Luke Rogonjich, a tea party leader in Phoenix, called the trio of controversies a powerful confluence that bolsters the GOP’s case against big government. “Suddenly, there are a lot of things pressing on the dam,” said Rogonjich.

Tea party activists hope they also can drive support ahead of the elections by stoking widespread suspicions that the Obama administration and State Department are hiding key details about the September 2012 attack in Benghazi, Libya, that killed the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans. The seizure of Associated Press phone records also plays into their argument that government is too intrusive.

Republicans say that the tea party will have an opportunity come 2014 to make its mark again, particularly with Obama not at the top of the ticket. Also, they say that with Obama’s health care law going into effect and with the slew of latest controversies, they now have concrete issues to point to when arguing against government overreach.

“Suddenly, this is a very real demonstration of too much power ceded to government bureaucrats,” said Matt Kibbe, president of Freedomworks. “This is no longer theoretical.”