The tea tastes like pork

Money has a way of changing one’s philosophy and ideology, as well.

One of the original complaints of the Tea Party was how government spending and government waste affects the deficit.

Instead of collecting unlimited funds to freely spend on whatever is the flavor of the day, generally a pork based flavor, and looking for things to spend money on, the idea was to have the government collect less and judiciously spend what money it had.

Collecting money and spending it on things that were unneeded was seen as the big waste.

Unfortunately, it appears the Tea Party, once it too began to collect money, found they were in the same bed as the government. The party was collecting money that was not going where it was supposed to.

People have been donating money to the Tea Party because they thought the Tea Party would support the candidates who would address their concerns. They had no leadership, boasting that they were grassroots, but in doing this they left a vacuum that could be filled by anyone willing to co-opt the movement.

And when money got involved, these “leaders” were right there to control that money.

Mitch McConnell is not only a bur in the saddle of progressives and anyone who wants things to get done in Washington, but he has shown himself not to be what the grassroots Tea Party, or those who have decided they now speak for them, want in the senate.

In the effort to unseat Mitch, the president of the Tea Party Patriots, Jenny Beth Martin, said they were “putting our money where our mouth is” in backing his opponent, Matt Bevin.

To this end the Tea Party Patriots sent out $56,000 worth of mailers in Kentucky, while paying Martin a little over $112,000, or $15,000 monthly, in consulting fees since July 2013. Because the TPP is a PAC and not a non-profit, Martin, as the consultant, determines her own salary.

As president of the Tea Party Patriots’ nonprofit arm, Martin also got a salary of around $272,000 for fiscal year 2012, and stands to rake in more than $450,000 this year.

Not a bad paycheck for someone running a grassroots organization.

She had previously been a grassroots activist who had to clean houses after she declared bankruptcy in 2008. So this Tea Part Patriots gig has been very good to her.

The Tea Party Patriots Citizen Fund, which raises money for candidates, has, in the last three months, spent $2 million on fundraising, consultants, and polling, but not on candidates, while other top national tea party groups have put a very small amount of money raised toward the candidates they endorse.

The majority of Tea Party donors are small donors with strong beliefs who believe their money is going toward candidates, not administrative and consultant costs.

However, the Sunlight Foundation which, according to its website, “offers a new way to review and receive federal campaign finance data for candidates, PACs, and outside spending groups”, and whose “‘Realtime Filings’ section takes official Federal Election Commission data for the current election cycle and presents it in a more user-friendly format”, found that less than $7 million of the $37.5 million spent so far by the PACs of six major tea party organizations has gone directly to helping candidates.

The result of the money not going to candidates has left Tea Party candidates in North Carolina, Nebraska, Idaho and Kentucky vulnerable to mainstream Republican candidates and Democrats.

Instead, Tea Party leaders and their family members have been paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in consulting fees, and for such things as airfares, retirement plans, and, in one case anyway, interior decorating.

The once grassroots movement has become a bunch of professional organizations with their leaders getting six-figure salaries.

The Tea Party Patriots, the Tea Party Express, and the Madison Project spent only 5% of their grassroots money on election-related activities so far as we head toward mid-term elections.

Unlike non-profits who have a board and have rules banning the use of campaign funds for personal use, PACs can be run by a consultant and have few rules limiting how they spend funds.

Some of the ways the little people, grassroots campaign money has been spent include:

The Tea Party Leadership Fund paying a quarter of a million dollars to eight consulting firms.

The Madison Project using $50,000 to establish a retirement plan for its staff.

The Senate Conservatives Fund paying $52,000 last year to hire a high end interior design firm to decorate its Capital Hill townhouse office.

So much for the Tea Party objective of opposing wasteful spending.

Martin’s cousin, Kevin Mooneyhan, is also on the payroll as a strategic consultant.

Richard Norman, the Tea Party Patriots’ national finance director gets $15,000 a month to oversee fundraising for the nonprofit and super PAC, and the three direct mailing firms he owns were hired to the tune of $2.7 million since June 2012 to help solicit funds for the group.

The Senate Conservatives Fund’s Executive Director Matt Hoskins has paid a company owned by two of the group's top officials $288,000 so far this election cycle.

The Tea Party Express in Sacramento has paid a firm owned by Sal Russo $2.75 million since the beginning of 2013, but has only given $45,000 to candidates. Russo is a Republican consultant for that PAC.

So while the rank and file Tea Party members are making good faith donations to help elect the conservative candidates that they feel will promote their ideology when they get to Washington, those in charge have found a cash cow.

They have become the very thing they supposedly oppose.

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