Tea party leaders may be just like the rest of those corrupt politicians

Republicans are brashly criticizing leaders of the tea party movement for their obsession with personal fiscal wealth while preaching an entirely different message to their donors.

“You are seeing a concentrated effort to expose one, their hypocrisy, and two, the financial motives that are guiding many of them,” said Brian Walsh, a GOP strategist for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, who spoke with CQ Roll Call.

Establishment Republicans are unhappy with the triple-digit salaries the executives from leading grassroots organizations and PACs pull in every year since it began in 2009.

Conservative-aligned Ann Coulter said last month that she has seen the movement selling its own soul.

“I think there are a lot of conmen and scamsters coming in and tricking good Americans into sending them money claiming we are fighting for you. And they aren’t fighting for you,” Coulter told Sean Hannity.

In a setting where multiple organizations are all trying to be leaders, tea party groups lack accountability and clear leadership, with no one unifier emerging from the pack.

These groups successfully prey on lower- and middle-class Americans to donate money to defend the Constitution, and pocket a substantial amount of the donations.

Roll Call found very little of that funding goes toward actually electing candidates, according to IRS and Federal Election Commission records. While some groups defended themselves as not working to elect tea party-aligned politicians, the stout executive paychecks they receive are questionable.

The Senate Conservatives Fund — who maintains a close affiliation with its founder, former Sen. Jim DeMint, now president at the Heritage Foundation — does spend the majority of its funding on candidates.

Another group, Club for Growth, gave $510,786 to President Chris Chocola from mid-2010 to mid-2013. Spokesman Barney Keller told Roll Call it was a “pretty good deal” because they were just as productive as the U..S. Chamber of Commerce but at less than one-fifth of the cost.

The Tea Party Express PAC sucked in $10 million during the 2012 election year and three-quarters of that was from donations, each less than $200. Only 2.6 percent of their budget was allocated toward campaign contributions. The Tea Party Patriots Citizens Fund have not spent anything on candidates this election cycle.

FreedomWorks president and CEO Matt Kibbe made $470,000 in 2012, 3 percent of what the group’s advocacy branch pulled in that year. Other costs included $5 million on advertising and promotion, $1.4 million on office expenses, and $1.3 million on conferences, conventions and meetings.

The Madison Project PAC spent $1.8 million during the 2012 election cycle. Although $97,500 went to candidates, plenty went into the heavy pockets of its overseers. The chairman, former Rep. Jim Ryun, sucked in $66,540, and his son, political director Drew Ryun, made $67,932 out of the gig.

What mostly concerns GOP members is retaining the majority of the House and retaking the Senate, but by the way tea partiers are playing, that dream could remain just that this November.

Many tea party groups have made a habit demonizing the Republican incumbents and newcomers, which former Rep. Steven LaTourette of Ohio said is not helping the party.

“[LaTourette] recently accused the Club for Growth of helping install California Democratic Rep. Nancy Pelosi as speaker, because the club spent three times more assailing Republicans in the 2006 election cycle than opposing Democrats,” wrote Roll Call.

The tea party’s questionable behavior is arguably a contradiction to its constitutional message and to millions of financial contributors.

Rather than identify and elect constitutional defenders, tea party groups spend millions to fruitlessly primary sitting Republicans, give cushy pay checks to their top executives and create fertile ground to elect Democrats.


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