Gallup (ok, it’s Gallup… ) found in 2010 that 78 percent tea partiers self-identified as Republicans (62 percent “conservative Republicans,” 16 percent “moderate/liberal Republicans…”
Tea party support is 9 in 10 among Republicans … less than 50 percent among everybody else. From an ABC-commissioned poll in April 2012:
Within the Republican Party, Tea Party support peaks at 88 percent among conservative Republicans, with 32 percent “strongly” supportive. That declines to 69 percent of Republicans who do not describe themselves as “very” conservative – and notably, in this group, just 16 percent are strong Tea Party supporters. The movement also is backed by 64 percent of evangelical white Protestants.
Support is much lower outside the GOP and in non-conservative groups – 44 percent among independents, 40 percent among white Protestants who are not evangelical, 37 percent among moderates, 19 percent among Democrats and 18 percent among liberals.
They make up HALF of the Republican base…
Republicans are now reliant on the Tea Party. While the number of Tea Party supporters has declined since 2010, they still make up around half of Republicans, according to NBC/Wall Street Journal surveys. More important, they are the most active supporters when it comes to voting in primaries, volunteering on campaigns, and participating in various other activities political parties are reliant upon. Seventy-three percent of Republicans who attended a political rally or meeting identified with the Tea Party. The activists are vehemently anti-Democratic. Among the FreedomWorks sample, only 3 percent of people voted for Obama or a Democratic House candidate in 2008, and less than 6 percent identify as either independents or Democrats.
The biggest, most lucrative “tea party” groups (like Tea Party Express) are actually run by Republican consultants …
In August 2008, as the right wing of the Republican Party grew increasingly disenchanted with the party’s direction, the men from Russo, Marsh and Associates sensed opportunity: They created a political action committee, Our Country Deserves Better, and in time launched the Tea Party Express. Russo, Marsh — an established California outfit of Republican consultants — was just getting started. The firm formed a second political committee, this one with a pro-military agenda. And eventually, seizing on the president’s unpopularity in certain circles, it opened a third, the Campaign to Defeat Barack Obama.
And they’re making a lot of money starting numerous 501(c)4 groups…
Throughout the 2012 election cycle, the committees were relentless. In email after email, they pleaded for small donations to run ads supporting candidates who would defeat President Obama’s “socialist” agenda. And it worked: The committees collected more than $14 million in donations — from all over the country, and from donors who gave as little as $10 to elect Ted Cruz as a Republican senator from Texas or to put Mitt Romney in the White House.
Yet an examination of the PACs’ expenditures shows they spent only a small percentage of the money they raised on work directly aimed at getting candidates elected — paid ads, say, or contributions to other political committees. Mainly, they paid consultants. And the biggest chunk of that consultant money went to Russo, Marsh, and Associates, and people connected to the firm.
Of the $9.3 million spent by Our Country Deserves Better, more than $3.8 million went to Russo, Marsh, and Associates, employees or others connected to the firm. Of the $3.9 million spent by the Campaign to Defeat Barack Obama, $2.4 million went to the firm and its associates. The pro-military Move America Forward Freedom PAC spent almost $143,000. Of that, $92,000 went to the firm and people connected to it.
Even odious Pat Caddell thinks the consultants running most tea party groups are “racketeers…” I wonder if he includes in that analysis, the Koch brothers, who essentially are the founding fathers of the so-called “tea party…”
A new academic study confirms that front groups with longstanding ties to the tobacco industry and the billionaire Koch brothers planned the formation of the Tea Party movement more than a decade before it exploded onto the U.S. political scene.
Far from a genuine grassroots uprising, this astroturf effort was curated by wealthy industrialists years in advance. Many of the anti-science operatives who defended cigarettes are currently deploying their tobacco-inspired playbook internationally to evade accountability for the fossil fuel industry’s role in driving climate disruption.
The study, funded by the National Cancer Institute of the National Institute of Health, traces the roots of the Tea Party’s anti-tax movement back to the early 1980s when tobacco companies began to invest in third party groups to fight excise taxes on cigarettes, as well as health studies finding a link between cancer and secondhand cigarette smoke.
Published in the peer-reviewed academic journal, Tobacco Control, the study titled, ‘To quarterback behind the scenes, third party efforts’: the tobacco industry and the Tea Party, is not just an historical account of activities in a bygone era. As senior author, Stanton Glantz, a University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) professor of medicine, writes:
“Nonprofit organizations associated with the Tea Party have longstanding ties to tobacco companies, and continue to advocate on behalf of the tobacco industry’s anti-tax, anti-regulation agenda.”
The two main organizations identified in the UCSF Quarterback study are Americans for Prosperity and Freedomworks. Both groups are now “supporting the tobacco companies’ political agenda by mobilizing local Tea Party opposition to tobacco taxes and smoke-free laws.”
Sometimes, the politicians, including retired congressman Dick Armey, make a LOT of money being “tea party” leaders…
One thing tea party groups are not? They’re not “social welfare organizations...”
Social welfare organizations have a couple of neat advantages. They’re tax-exempt — which means, in effect, that your tax dollars subsidize them. And thanks to a 1958 court case, they don’t have to disclose their donors.
But they’re not meant to be political. A 2003 IRS document says that “organizations that promote social welfare should primarily promote the common good and general welfare of the people of the community as a whole.” It goes on to give pages and pages of examples. “A corporation organized for the purpose of rehabilitating and placing unemployed persons over a stated age,” for instance. Or “a corporation formed to provide a school district with a stadium.” “A memorial association organized to study and develop methods of achieving simplicity and dignity in funeral and memorial services,” qualifies, as does “an organization that conducts an annual festival centered around regional customs and traditions.”
Nowhere does the IRS mention “an organization formed by top political operatives for the clear and obvious purpose of reelecting or defeating the president.” But that’s what 501(c)4s have become. According to data collected by OpenSecrets.org, 501(c)4s spent $92 million in the 2010 election. They spent $254 million in the 2012 election. That’s a lot of social welfare going to the good people who live in swing states and competitive districts.
The 501(c)4s aren’t superPACs. But many superPACs also have a 501(c)4. The reason? The 501(c)4s keep donors anonymous. “The only reason to have two of these is if you wanted to have one that allows people and entities to avoid disclosure,” explains Rick Hasen, an election-law expert at the University of California at Irvine.
The culprit here is partly the Citizens United and SpeechNow decisions which lifted the contribution limits on wealthy individuals, corporations, and unions. But it’s also the IRS’s reticence to regulate the murky world of 501(c)4s — a reticence partly attributable to the organization’s fear of blow-ups just like this one.
Karl Rove wasn’t the first to try to use the 501(c)4 to solicit anonymous political donations. But he was the first big player to do it. And the expectation was that he’d had a clever idea that the IRS would quickly reject. “A lot of people thought Rove would get smacked back by the IRS,” says Hasen. “It didn’t happen. And then 501(c)4s exploded.”
And you know what? Even some TEA PARTIERS have figured out that the easy access to 501(c)4 status is being abused by political consultants, who have been springing up literally hundreds of supposed “tea party” groups around the country:
The New Hampshire Tea Party Coalition says that the Internal Revenue Service shouldn’t be targeting conservative groups that seek tax-exempt status but that groups falsely laying claim to the tea party mantle have invited it upon themselves.
“While we decry the practice of using the IRS to target anyone, we have not been subject to this scrutiny because we as the original movement do not collect/distribute or deal with money,” Jane Aitken of the NHTPC said in an email blast. “Many of the groups in question are GOP PACs founded by GOP consultants calling themselves ‘tea parties.’”
In a related blog post titled “Legitimate Tea Party Groups Have Nothing to Fear From the IRS,” the NHTPC took direct aim at the Tea Party Patriots, Tea Party Express, TheTeaparty.net and Tea Party Nation, saying that those groups “had little or nothing to do with the formation of the legislative tea party movement in 2007.”
“When you donate to them, you may as well be donating to the very GOP candidates that have turned their backs on you,” the NHTPC blog post said. “At the very least, the money is going straight to GOP lobbyists, consultants, and a full slate of employees.”
That’s why the IRS office in charge of the designation was concerned about fraud. Were they right to use an algorithm to target people with “tea party” in their name? No. But did they have a legitimate reason to wonder whether the sudden upsurge in “tea party” 501(c)4s seemed suspicious, so maybe they should make sure there was no fraud going on? Yes.