Gov. Nikki Haley said Friday she is recruiting members from tea parties across the state to advise her on getting results for the rest of her term.
The Governor's Tea Party Coalition could hold its first meeting within a month, with its members consulting with Haley in private about her agenda and what's going on in the state.
"This is trying to use the bully pulpit in a way that we get more people involved in their government, in a way that we get more people educated on the issues that affect them," she said. "And a way to get the Legislature to remember who they work for."
Charleston Tea Party members said they were intrigued by the idea and interested in learning how it will play out.
The conservative-oriented movement sprung up nationwide in early 2009. Its South Carolina activists helped Haley triumph in a four-way GOP gubernatorial primary last year against three better-known opponents.
Haley said she considers herself a product of the tea parties, and also gives the movement credit for her legislative victories so far, such as on-the-record voting and the recent Voter ID bill.
"What I want to do is carry that to the next level, which is to create this coalition of leaders I met throughout the state when I was campaigning, leaders who continue to be supportive of me now," she said.
Haley said she hopes the coalition can help drum up grassroots support for other parts of her agenda, such as creating a new Department of Administration, tort reform and governmental restructuring efforts, such as having the governor and lieutenant governor running on the same ticket.
The coalition will remain informal, she said. It won't raise any money or require any state money. "This is very much like me meeting with my management team now or my administration team now," she said.
Haley's spokesman Rob Godfrey said coalition members will come from all corners of the state and will include Allen Olson, who Godfrey said has done "an incredible job with the Columbia Tea Party."
Haley said she is reaching out to other possible members.
Charleston Tea Party Chairman Mike Murphree said Friday he has heard about Haley's coalition plans, but had few details.
"We are glad to see what she's offering and what she's bringing to the table," he said.
While Murphree said his board members would be happy to discuss their possible involvement, some might wonder if this is a real horse or a Trojan one.
"We don't want to get too carried away. We want to stay a little hungry, a little on the outside edge," Murphree said. "If you get pulled into the middle, then you're no longer part of the tea party. You're part of the problem."
Jim Davis, who serves on the Charleston Tea Party board, said he appreciates the idea.
"The only reservation I would have is, how is she going about selecting the participants?" he added. "A lot of people want to go to rallies and make comments and so forth, but some of them aren't willing to get engaged and go to council meetings and go to legislators and talk with them about issues."
Some of her opponents, such as Democratic strategist Lachlan McIntosh, were more skeptical.
"It sure would be nice if Haley stopped pandering to the extremists in the tea party and instead formed a coalition with the state's business community that would help create jobs or a coalition with teachers and principals that would help improve our public schools," he said.
"She's putting the interests of her radical friends ahead of the needs of ordinary South Carolinians."
Haley said she hasn't settled on the size of the coalition, but said, "We're going to keep it small and strong and really results oriented."