Many Kansans throw ‘TEA parties,’ but Lawrencians not among them

? Hundreds of Kansans are staging rallies around the state to protest what they view as excessive taxes, wasteful government spending and federal bailouts of big businesses.

But in Lawrence, there are no parties planned.

The “TEA Party” events were planned Wednesday in at least a dozen cities, including Topeka and Wichita, and smaller communities, such as Lakin in southwest Kansas. TEA stands for “Taxed Enough Already.”

Americans for Prosperity, which opposes tax increases and advocates for restraining government spending, is helping to organize the events but said they’re driven mostly by interest among individual Kansans. Wednesday also was the deadline for filing individual income tax returns.

Derrick Sontag, the group’s state director, said more than 500 people have either registered for or called about a rally Wednesday evening outside a north Topeka post office. He said one goal is to get people involved in politics and government.

“The grass roots must take action,” Sontag said before the Topeka rally. “It’s one thing to come to a TEA Party, but what are you going to do tomorrow morning?”

Much of the protesting is aimed at policies backed by President Barack Obama and fellow Democrats who control Congress, including the recently enacted federal stimulus package.

On Wednesday, Rep. Pete Sessions, of Texas, chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, issued a statement endorsing the rallies and decrying high taxes and “out-of-control government spending.” And Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback, also a Republican, planned to speak at rallies in Junction City, Wichita and Topeka.

Larry Gates, the Kansas Democratic Party’s chairman, described the protests as “far right” events expressing support for lax regulation of businesses and failed economic policies of the past. The party said hundreds of people put their names on an e-mail petition supporting Obama’s policies this week.

“This is yet another example of how the far right is obstructing the progress this country needs to turn our economy around,” Gates said.

But organizers of the Lakin event said they’re concerned about a burgeoning federal debt and government spending.

“It’s just encouraging to me to think that a grass roots movement like this can take off and show that there still are a lot of people in this world who are not afraid to stand up and say, ‘We’re tired of wasteful government spending and this is ridiculous, and it’s got to stop,”‘ Alicia Adams, an organizer of the Lakin event, told Garden City radio station KBUF-AM.

Sontag said rally participants also have concerns that Kansas legislators will consider raising taxes to deal with the state’s budget crisis.