Political Notebook

On Tax Day, tea party rallies show dislike for government

Republican Representative Michele Bachmann of Minnesota addressed a tea party movement rally in Washington. Republican Representative Michele Bachmann of Minnesota addressed a tea party movement rally in Washington. (Evan Vucci/Associated Press)
April 16, 2010

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WASHINGTON — Tea party protesters marked tax day yesterday with exhortations against “gangster government’’ and appeals from Republicans seeking their grass-roots clout in November elections, a prospect both tempting and troubling to those in the movement.

A day after a tea party rally on Boston Common, several thousand protesters demonstrated in Washington’s Freedom Plaza in the shadow of the Ronald Reagan office building. The protest capped a national tour that started in the dust of Nevada and finished in the capital that inspires tea party discontent like no other place. Allied activists demonstrated from Maine to Hawaii yesterday in smaller groups, all joined in disdain for government spending and — on the April 15 federal tax filing deadline — what they see as the Washington money grab.

The Washington rally was spirited but modest in size, lacking the star power of tea party favorite Sarah Palin, who roused the masses at earlier stops of the Tea Party Express. Republican Representative Michele Bachmann of Minnesota won roars of affirmation as she accused President Obama and congressional Democrats of trying to take over health care, energy, financial services, and other broad swaths of the economy.

“We’re on to this gangster government,’’ she declared. “I say it’s time for these little piggies to go home.’’

She appealed directly for tea partiers to swing behind “constitutional conservatives’’ in congressional campaigns, just as they contributed to Scott Brown’s upset in the Massachusetts Senate race in an early test of their potency. “We need to have your help for candidates like me,’’ she said. “We need you to take out some of these bad guys.’’

Although Republicans are ideological allies of many tea partiers — and GOP operatives are involved in some of the organizations — they are also part of the establishment that many in the movement want to upend. No members of the Republican congressional leadership were featured at the capital rally.

— Associated Press

President will celebrate National Day of Prayer

MADISON, Wis. — White House officials say President Obama will recognize a National Day of Prayer this year after a federal judge ruled that the proclamation is unconstitutional.

US District Judge Barbara Crabb, in Madison, Wis., ruled yesterday that the day violates separation of church and state. The ruling comes in a lawsuit filed against the federal government by the Freedom From Religion Foundation. Crabb said her order does not block a prayer day until after all appeals are exhausted.

Obama spokesman Matt Lehrich agreed that the ruling does not prevent the president from issuing a proclamation for the day next month.

Congress established the day in 1952 and in 1988 set the first Thursday in May as the day for presidents to issue proclamations asking Americans to pray. The Freedom From Religion Foundation, a Madison-based group of atheists and agnostics, filed a lawsuit against the federal government in 2008, contending the day violates the separation of church and state.

The Obama administration has countered that the statute simply acknowledges the role of religion in the United States. Obama issued a proclamation last year but did not hold public events with religious leaders as former president George W. Bush had done.

— Associated Press

Obamas’ 2009 tax return shows $5.5m in income
WASHINGTON — Because of revived book sales after he became president, Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, made $5.5 million last year. They paid about one-third of it in federal income taxes.

The Obamas gave $329,100 to charities in 2009. The president, who released his tax returns yesterday, also donated the $1.4 million in award money for receiving the Nobel Peace Prize to 10 charitable groups. He never touched the $1.4 million, and it was not included in his 2009 income.

Obama, a former law school instructor and US senator, became a millionaire a few years ago through sales of his 1995 memoir “Dreams From My Father’’ and his 2006 political book, “The Audacity of Hope.’’ He received about $4 million in royalties in 2007, the year he launched his presidential campaign.

Obama is paid $400,000 a year as president, although he received $374,460 last year because he took office on Jan. 20.

— Associated Press