OWS Getting Under Tea Party's Skin

PHOTO: Los Angeles police officers struggle to arrest an unidentified police provocateur in Los Angeles on Nov. 17, 2011.PlayDamian Dovarganes/AP Photo
WATCH Is The Tea Party Waning?

Tea Partiers are boiling mad at what they call preferential treatment being given Occupy Wall Street and its spinoffs by municipalities, police and the media.

Tea Party leaders say that if they had flaunted city laws and regulations or had engaged in violence and property destruction, they'd have been shown no coddling. What's more, OWS, they complain, is getting a free ride: In Richmond, Tea Partiers miffed at what they call the mayor's favoritism toward Occupy have billed the city $10,000.

That's the amount of money the Tea Party has had to pay for permits and city services related to its rallies. By contrast, they point out, Occupy Richmond has paid not a dime. Nor has the city tried to collect from Occupy. So, says the Tea Party, it wants its money back.

Tea Party spokesperson Colleen Owens, asked if her group has yet been repaid, says: "No, we haven't received any money back. We showed up Monday at a City Council meeting, hoping to have some face time with the mayor, to ask him why he had been so lenient with Occupy and had allowed them to break the law. But just as our turn came to talk, he got up and left."

Tammy Hawley, a spokesman for the mayor, confirms the Tea Party has asked for a refund but rejects their assertion that Occupy was given a free ride. Occupy, she argues, didn't need a permit, since "there are no permits to allow 24 hour encampment on public property." As for repaying the Tea Party's fees: The city has received the Tea Party's request, which, she says, "is still presently under consideration."

Elsewhere around the country, the difference between the way the two groups are being treated seems to be getting under the Tea Party's skin.

Steve Davies, a Tea Party Patriot, posts on the Patriots' web site that he detects a pro-Occupy bias by the news media and Washington's political establishment. While the establishment "have joined together to parrot the phrases and champion the causes of the violent, criminal, anti-American Occupy Wall Street protesters," he asserts, the same establishment has referred to law-abiding Tea Partiers as 'any angry mob' of 'terrorists.'"

Tom Basile, a co-founder of New York's Tea Party, tells ABC News his members have always sought to cooperate with law enforcement, pay fees and observe local ordinances. "When we've done our rallies in the past," he explains, "we've been very careful to work with NYPD and any city official we needed to ensure that the area was going to be properly utilized and maintained and cleaned following."

That shows a respect, he says, for government and for the community that "We are not seeing from Occupy. That movement has been defined by mayhem, arrests, sexual assaults, STDs, police encounters, vandalism and outright criminal behavior."

Tea Partiers profess bewilderment that their comparatively civilized deportment has not earned them an automatica friendly reception from big-city mayors. "We're made to jump through a lot of hoops," complains Sal Russo, a Tea Party strategist in northern California and co-founder of the national Tea Party Express. "We have to pay for security, to hire off-duty officers. It becomes really expensive. We have to provide toilets. When I heard Occupy has no bathrooms, I was annoyed. They get away with a lot of things we don't." The situation is especially egregious, he says, in "big urban areas where you have municipal officials who tend to be liberal."

This, despite what Russo says is a record of orderly conduct. "We've done 301 Express rallies so far," he says, "and the only incident was in Boston last fall, when some college kid had a dozen eggs and was trying to lob them onto the stage when Governor Palin was speaking." The police, he says, nabbed the kid. Russo declined to press charges.

"That's the only arrest that we ever had. We're happy people, not angry. We clean up after we leave. We celebrate America. It's not a screaming-and-yelling kind of thing."

One group, however, appears to to have no trouble distinguishing between OWS and the Tea Party: The American Bankers Association.

A memo to the ABA by Washington lobbying firm Clark, Lytle, Geduldig & Cranford notes that while the two movements "overlap on angered populism," Democratic strategists "have identified the OWS movement as a way to tap" that anger. The memo lays out a strategy for counteracting OWS's burgeoning power, saying: "It would be easy to dismiss OWS as a ragtag group of protesters, but they have demonstrated that they should be treated more like an organized competitor who is very nimble and capable of working the media…and engaging office holders to do their bidding."

Research is required, says the memo, "to understand who is funding it [OWS] and what their background and motives are. If we can show they have the same cynical motivation as a political opponent it will undermine their credibility in a profound way."

That goal, says the memo, is achievable in 60 days at a cost of $850,000.

Clark, Lytle, asked for comment by ABC News, did not reply. ABA spokesman Jeff Sigmund responds: "Our government relations staff received the proposal. It was unsolicited, and we chose not to act on it in any way."