Monday, August 15, 2016

How the Tea Party Was Killed Off

Remember the Tea Party?  They were a political force to be reckoned with in the 2010 elections, but by the 2012 elections had been rendered ineffective.  It turns out it wasn't a natural occurrence and it certainly wasn't that they ran out of things to do.  At least according to this operative, who says he was involved, the tea party was killed off; murdered.   What killed them was the very corruption and cronyism they rose up to fight. 
What began as an organic, policy-driven grass-roots movement was drained of its vitality and resources by national political action committees that dunned the movement’s true believers endlessly for money to support its candidates and causes. The PACs used that money first to enrich themselves and their vendors and then deployed most of the rest to search for more “prospects.” In Tea Party world, that meant mostly older, technologically unsavvy people willing to divulge personal information through “petitions”—which only made them prey to further attempts to lighten their wallets for what they believed was a good cause.
The tea party actually started to rise during the last years of the W; so it absolutely didn't start as reaction to Obama (the reflexive reaction of the media and the left was, of course, to call the tea party racist).  Instead, the impetus was a reaction to the profligate spending along with the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.  When Obama swept into office, of course, both of those things continued.  Add in the passing of Obamacare, the only major social program in history to be voted in by one party, and the lies that went along with it ("if you like your doctor you can keep your doctor", "we have to pass the bill to see what's in it" and more), anger at Washington exploded.  Tea party rallies started happening.

As Peggy Noonan noted in 2010, the tea party wasn't a wing of the Republican party, as the left wing media thought, so much as a critique of it.  The tea party wasn't a national organization and it originally had little or nothing to do with the idea we saw widely displayed on signs, "Taxed Enough Already".  It was an organic uprising; a leaderless system, or starfish organization as they're called. 
Republicans inside the Beltway reacted to the burgeoning Tea Party with glee but uncertainty about how to channel the grass-roots energy usually reserved for the left. A small group of supposedly conservative lawyers and consultants saw something different: dollar signs. The PACs found anger at the Republican Party sells very well. The campaigns they ran would be headlined “Boot John Boehner," or “Drop a Truth Bomb on Kevin McCarthy.” And after Boehner was in fact booted and McCarthy bombed in his bid to succeed him, it was naturally time to “Fire Paul Ryan." The selling is always urgent: “Stop what you’re doing” “This can’t wait.” One active solicitor is the Tea Party Leadership Fund, which received $6.7 million from 2013 to mid-2015, overwhelmingly from small donors. A typical solicitation from the TPLF read: “Your immediate contribution could be the most important financial investment you will make to help return America to greatness.” But, according to an investigation by POLITICO, 87 percent of that “investment” went to overhead; only $910,000 of the $6.7 million raised was used to support political candidates.
I don't think I get many uninformed readers here, but they should know that as a rule in life, when someone talks to you with the urgency seen in those examples ("stop what you're doing"... "this can't wait"), you're being hustled.  Walk away or ignore it.  It's like the slimy car salesman who hits you with, "what can I do to get you into this car today?".  

Personally, I've always been suspicious of the Tea Party Patriots and a few other groups that put themselves forward as leaders of the leaderless organization. 
Today, the Tea Party movement is dead, and Trump has co-opted the remnants. What was left of the Tea Party split for a while between Trump and, while he was still in the race, Ted Cruz, who was backed by Jenny Beth Martin, co-founder and national coordinator of the Tea Party Patriots. In 2014, the Tea Party Patriots group spent just 10 percent of the $14.4 million it collected actually supporting candidates, with the rest going to consultants and vendors and Martin’s hefty salary of $15,000 per month; in all, she makes an estimated $450,000 a year from her Tea Party-related ventures.
Folks, have you ever heard of Charity Navigator?   No, they don't - can't - have a file on every group that's going to ask you for money, but it's a good place to start.  I Will Never Give a Dime to an organization that puts 10% of what it collects into its nominal purpose.  That's even worse than the 13% cited in the first quote by POLITICO.  Another good place to go is  You can view a group’s track record in minutes. How much goes toward candidate contributions or so-called independent expenditures, which are supposed to be spent on the candidate (though even those can be thinly veiled solicitations if the "ask" or landing page directs to the PAC and not the candidate).

I'm not going to cite the whole article, you should definitely read the whole thing, but I will leave you with the author's summary of what happened.
But any insurgent movement needs oxygen in the form of victories or other measured progress in order to sustain itself and grow. By sapping the Tea Party’s resources and energy, the PACs thwarted any hope of building the movement. Every dollar swallowed up in PAC overhead or vendor fees was a dollar that did not go to federal Tea Party candidates in crucial primaries or general elections. This allowed the GOP to easily defeat or ignore them (with some rare exceptions). Second, the PACs drained money especially from local Tea Party groups, some of which were actively trying to grow the movement electorally from the ground up, at the school board and city council level. Lacking results five years on, interest in the movement waned—all that was left were the PACs and their lists.
It's really common to hear people complaining about what a corrupt place DC is (you've heard "Den of Criminals") is.   I say that and think that.  I didn't know anything compared to what's in that article.  To grab a quote from Walter Hudson at PJ Media, where I first saw the link to this story:
This is where our attention needs to be. This is the real establishment, not elected leaders in Washington, but a swirling flock of vultures that feed on the corpses of great expectation.
(AP Photo/Ben Margot - from PJ Media article)


  1. I claim "the real establishment" are voters with religious faith in: government, political parties, electoral voting, school boards and city councils, political reform, grass roots movements, and a bunch of other political approaches which 95% of the time don't perform as advertised. It's common human nature to believe in magic. This belief can't be called a root cause, because the mechanism doesn't exist to fix it. However, the informed readers here can stop following the lead of faith-based politics.

  2. And THIS:

    is what the Democrats and the Rove Republicans want to install as president in January.

    1. I know that story well. There's no shortage of reasons to not vote for her, and no shortage of reasons she shouldn't even be out of jail and allowed to run.

      That any Republicans would seriously back her and not the candidate chosen by the primary process - "fair and square" shows that our usual nickname for them of the Stupid Party is too generous.

  3. Question: Why would a "PAC finance lawyer" confess after all this time, now at this time? Stinks to high heaven to my senses. This guy smacks of RINO (Dem in RNC clothing) to me. And besides, how do you know when a lawyer is lying? His lips are moving!

    1. I have to confess that those thoughts crossed my mind, too, along with a few others. To me he seems to be doing penance in some way, confessing his sins and talking about how he's so much better today and especially better than his former boss.

      I also thought, "So the story is about lawyers behaving badly. That's news?" I mean, what profession do more people think of as dishonest crooks than lawyers? We say, "98% of lawyers give the honest 2% a bad name". No one says that about doctors or engineers that I've ever heard.

    2. What about journalists? I'm not sure I can name an honest American Journalist practicing today.

    3. I don't think of journalists as a profession.

      But right off hand, the only journalist I can think of who strikes me as honest is Sharyl Attkisson - the reporter who exposed Fast and Furious on CBS and was fired over it.

  4. So you haven't heard of Pournelle's Iron Law of Bureaucracy???

    Phil B