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April 28, 2014

Washington Post: Major Tea Party Groups Spend Very Little on Direct Electioneering Efforts; Most Expenditures Are Paid to Combination of Personnel, Consultants, Fundraising and Direct Mail

I was trying to figure out a take on this but I honestly don't have one and I guess it's time to just post it.

A Washington Post analysis found that some of the top national tea party groups engaged in this year’s midterm elections have put just a tiny fraction of their money directly into boosting the candidates they’ve endorsed.

The practice is not unusual in the freewheeling world of big-money political groups, but it runs counter to the ethos of the tea party movement, which sprouted five years ago amid anger on the right over wasteful government spending. And it contrasts with the urgent appeals tea party groups have made to their base of small donors, many of whom repeatedly contribute after being promised that their money will help elect conservative politicians.

Out of the $37.5 million spent so far by the PACs of six major tea party organizations, less than $7 million has been devoted to directly helping candidates, according to the analysis, which was based on campaign finance data provided by the Sunlight Foundation.

...

Roughly half of the money — nearly $18 million — has gone to pay for fundraising and direct mail, largely provided by Washington-area firms. Meanwhile, tea party leaders and their family members have been paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in consulting fees, while their groups have doled out large sums for airfare, a retirement plan and even interior decorating.

The lavish spending underscores how the protest movement has gone professional, with national groups transforming themselves into multimillion-dollar organizations run by activists collecting six-figure salaries.

Three well-known groups — the Tea Party Patriots, the Tea Party Express and the Madison Project — have spent 5 percent or less of their money directly on election-related activity during this election cycle. Two other prominent tea party groups, the Senate Conservatives Fund and FreedomWorks, have devoted about 40 percent of their money to direct candidate support such as ads and yard signs.

On average, super PACs had spent 64 percent of their funds on directly helping candidates by roughly this stage in the 2012 election cycle, according to Federal Election Commission data.

I have several questions. Many of the organizations object that while they are not spending money on traditional electioneering efforts (donating to candidates directly, buying ads in support of a candidate), they are instead spending money on non-traditional efforts, chiefly "training activists" and sponsoring/conducting rallies and bus tours around the nation.

This Washington Post piece makes no effort to determine if that is true or not. It seems the piece was largely written before seeking comment from the tea party groups, then comment was gotten just a few hours before they went to press, leaving them no time to follow-up on these claims.

So the piece just reports that this is what the groups say-- and then spends zero time analyzing this claim.

It sure would be nice to know if an examination of the their 990s and other campaign documents do in fact show they are spending money in different, non-traditional ways -- or this claim is itself exaggerated.

Another claim made is that it is harder, and more expensive, to raise money from the grassroots (as opposed to courting big-money donors), and this accounts for the large fraction of funds being used only for more fundraising.

I don't know if that's true or not, either, and the Washington Post does not provide any reporting to suggest it's true or false.

I do know that a lot of organizations wind up spending most of their resources on simply fundraising for more resources -- just as an animal's first priorities are food, water, and shelter, so too is a "charitable organization's" first priority to provide for its own staff and further its own survival.

I'm not saying that's a good thing. In fact, that's why I rarely suggest donating to such groups. I have no idea how much of any donated dollar is being spent on simply securing more donated dollars, and how much just to pay the organization's principals a nice salary, and etc.

Oh: I'm not sure that comparing the 40% spent directly on candidates by Freedom Works and the Senate Conservative Fund this cycle to 2012's 64% average is an apt comparison.

It could be -- and in fact it seems likely to me -- that it's relatively easier to raise money in presidential election years. You spend more to fundraise, but you get a bigger bang for each buck. You spend more, but you raise a lot more.

This would make a presidential year's averages an apples-to-orange comparison, when of course an apples-to-apples comparison is what is needed.

Once again the Washington Post spends no time or thought on this question. In fact, this particular thought never occurs to them at all.

My own guess is... well, when I say "guess" I mean my own bias.

My own bias is this: I sort of suspect that a lot of this is true, because I think the System is inherently corrupting, and I think people who believe that their own Moral Compass is going to insulate them from those corrupting effects are self-deluding.

Many people have entered politics thinking their Values would keep them clean, and then have wound up being part of the System within... two or three years.

Matthew Continetti used a witticism in describing Harry Reid's accumulation of a fortune: Many people come to DC to do good, but stay to do well.

When I hear people declaiming loudly about their own Impregnable Wall of Personal Integrity, I tend to wonder if their integrity and values have actually ever been put to the test.

Because when they are put to the test, people tend to discover, to their chagrin, that they're not quite as impregnable as they'd previously imagined.

The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak, one Respect Source opines.

And that's true for all men, at least to some extent.

Another thing that occurs to me is that there is, inherently, a difference between an amateur and a professional, and it's this: Professionals get paid.

Amateurs -- though often derided -- aren't doing it for the money. They're true believers. They're doing this in their off-hours, for reasons having nothing to do with money.

But the moment you become professional -- the moment this becomes Your Day Job -- well, you're gettin' paid, Jack.



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posted by Ace at 02:49 PM

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