Will Arizona Have ‘Don’t Tread on Me’ License Plates?

Money generated from the sale of the plates would go toward tea party groups in the state.

By Julianne Hing Apr 25, 2011

The 2011 legislative season may have wrapped up for Arizona, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t still 168 newly approved bills awaiting Gov. Jan Brewer’s consideration.

From the Arizona Republic comes word that one of the bills waiting in the wings is one that would put "Don’t Tread on Me" on vanity plates that Arizonans could choose from. The paper reports that the plate would join nine other specialty plates that promote multiple-sclerosis awareness and hunger issues. Hunger, health and the tea party.

What’s more, money generated from the sale of the plate would go toward tea party groups in the state. Here’s how the revenue from the $25 vanity plate would be split up: $8 would go to the state to cover costs, while the other $17 would go to the sponsoring organization, which, according to the bill, is the "don’t tread on me special plates fund." The bill was introduced by state Sen. Don Shooter, who’s also the co-founder and president of the Yuma Tea Party. His bill also calls for the creation of a 13-member "Arizona tea party committee."

The tea party is a purportedly grassroots political movement that officially advocates for smaller government and fewer taxes and strict allegiance to the Constitution. In reality it’s the well-funded and powerful arm of the right wing that, try as it might to deny it, has deep ties with white nationalist groups. The tea party is also way into government, especially if it means advocating Islamophobia; limiting immigrants’ rights; denying Muslims the right to gather and practice their religion; and opposing fair and equitable broadband access.

Republican Sen. Ron Gould pinpointed the supreme irony of tea party vanity plates: "It’s kind of oxymoronical a group that advocates for less government [is] joining in on a scheme to get money through the state," Gould said, the Arizona Republic reported. Gould voted for it in the end anyway.

New York Rep. Gary Ackerman has since introduced "License Plate Political Slush Fund Prevention Act", which would take away 15 percent of a state’s federal highway funding if state money is directed to support political organizations.

Last week, Brewer signed into law a bill that requires homeowners associations to give the Gadsden flag, the unofficial tea party flag on which the phrase "Don’t Tread on Me" also appears, the same protected status as the American flag. Brewer has until May 2 to decide on the vanity plates.