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Hennessy defends use of Weigert to promote local Tea Party in state Capitol

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, March 28, 2011 - Bill Hennessy, the founder of the St. Louis Tea Party, says it was his decision to tap Gary Wiegert, former president of the St. Louis Police Officers Association, to serve as an unpaid ally to represent the tea party in talks with members of the Missouri Legislature.

Hennessyalso said in a video, posted Sunday on his website, that Wiegert registered as a lobbyist with the Missouri Ethics Commission at Hennessy's behest, even though Wiegert won't be paid and will be a volunteer. Hennessy said he had received legal advice that Wiegert might otherwise run afoul of Missouri's ethics laws.

Wiegert, for his part, wrote on the St. Louis Tea Party's websitethat he is a fellow conservative who supports both collective bargaining and the legislative move to make union membership optional by making Missouri a "right to work" state.

Wiegert and Hennessy both emphasized that the St. Louis Tea Party will endorse issues, not candidates (although Hennessy and some other tea party activists are individually backing some candidates or politicians).

Jo Mannies is a freelance journalist and former political reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.