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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.

Hennessy also 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 website that 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 has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.

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