AP – Counting Miss. tea partiers difficult

Mississippi has plenty of fed-up-with government conservatives who write letters to the editor, post comments on websites and attend rallies to protest what they see as federal intrusion into Americans’ private lives.

Several tea party groups have sprung up across the state in the past year, but trying to pinpoint the number of people involved is difficult, largely because the groups don’t have formal structures for membership.

“It’s a grass-roots organization. We don’t want to create a hierarchy,” said Rocky Ruello, who lives in the Jackson area and has been communications chairman for The Mississippi Tea Party, which hosted a rally and march April 17 in Jackson.

In recent interviews with The Associated Press, some leaders and spokesmen of tea party groups around the state said they don’t want to become traditional political parties that would field their own candidates or fund campaigns.

“We do not aspire for a political party at all. Explicitly no,” said Bill Ford of Como, vice chairman of a group called The Tea Party of Mississippi, which, despite the similar name, has a separate website from The Mississippi Tea Party.