Whose Tea Party Is It? Nashville Convention Stirs Debate

"As with all grassroots efforts, the nature of this movement means that sometimes the debates are loud and the organization is messier than that of a polished, controlled machine," she wrote, saying she "thought long and hard about my participation," before deciding to honor her commitment to attend.

Ahead of Palin's speech, several breakout sessions are planned for Friday, under titles such as "Technology in the Tea Party Movement," "Defeating Liberalism via the Primary Process" and "Why Christians Must Engage."

"This convention is a way to galvanize the conservative movement in a way that the general rallies do not,"

VIDEO: The Tea Party : The group behind heated town hall meetings is becoming a real political force.
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Skoda said. "We have seen a maturing of the movement to the point of moving protests into activism. And that activism is starting to drive results in elections."

On Saturday morning, Skoda will take part in a panel discussion entitled, "Where the Tea Party Movement Goes from Here."

That title poses a good question. Despite the fact that the Phillipses are hosting an event that nominally claims to be "the" national Tea Party convention, there is still no national organization, nor any head of the movement. It claims to have several founders.

Dale Robertson, for instance, said he's been leading the Tea Party effort "longer than anybody else," having created the Web site teaparty.org a year before the first anti-stimulus Tea Parties began in 2009.

VIDEO: The Tea Party : The group behind heated town hall meetings is becoming a real political force.
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Still, he doesn't begrudge the Phillips for claiming that his Nashville event is a national affair.

"I mean, a name is just a name. It's just a marketing thing," Robertson said Wednesday from his home in East Texas.

The out-of-work engineer won't be attending the convention this weekend. He said he simply can't make the trip, but he will be there in spirit.

Robertson does, however, have a major problem with the keynote speaker.

"She hasn't been a part of this movement at all and she doesn't seem to be suffering at all, as many of these patriots who've been donating their time, their money and their resources."

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To Palin's claim that she'll be returning any money she receives "to the cause," the founder of teaparty.org, who eschews the political establishment, scoffed.

"But she's giving money back to the machine, right? Republicans."

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