Politics

Tea party groups are making and spending millions, but not on candidates

Strategic Fundraising, a St. Paul, Minnesota-based company that specializes in fundraising, was paid $1,028,148.96 for “List Rental.” Groups looking to raise money or get a message out to a growing number of people often rent lists of home addresses or email addresses to send out their materials.

Integram, a printing and mailing company based in Dulles, Virginia, was paid $892,127.54 for those services. The Richard Norman Group, a fundraising and communications consultant group that caters to conservative clients, was another of the most highly paid vendors, getting $647,820.78 for direct mail, fundraising consulting, media production, postage, and transaction fees.

Direct mail expenditures account for a large quantity of the group’s disbursements.

Martin was paid $90,000 for strategic consulting.

“We were building our supporter base for starting an organization essentially from scratch, so we have to begin building the supporter base for Tea Party Patriots Citizens Fund, and we began doing fundraising and also advertising that we had the Tea Party Patriots Citizens Fund,” Martin told The Daily Caller Tuesday.

She said, so far, they have begun “building out a national voter database,” setting up “technology and infrastructure” to support their efforts moving forward, and begun training members in those systems. Additionally, she said, they have spent money on “message testing and polling.”

Moving forward, she said, it is not yet decided how much the group will spend on independent expenditures. “We’re still determining the balance between how much we actually will do with endorsements versus how much we will do with voter education,” she said.

The reason for starting an independent expenditure group, she explained, was not about being able to make independent expenditures in races, but because “we felt the ramifications of the IRS targeting so severely,” Martin said, and they felt having this type of group would allow them to “more freely exercise our First Amendment rights.”

The Our Country Deserves Better PAC declares itself “committed to identifying and supporting conservative candidates and causes that will champion tea party values and return our country to the Constitutional principles that have made America the ‘shining city on a hill,'” in the mission statement on its website.

The group allocated its spending in a similar fashion to the Tea Party Patriots Citizens Fund. In 2013, it raised $6,003,834, the vast majority of which — $4,911,943 — came from donors giving amounts smaller than $200.

The group spent $5,757,324 in total. $5,678,878, or 98.6 percent of that spending, went toward operating expenditures, like direct mail, salaries, and paying strategic consultants. $55,995 went toward independent expenditures.

On Monday, the group spent $99,975 on an independent expenditure in support of Owen Hill, a candidate for Senate in Colorado, their first reported expenditure of 2014.

Russo Marsh + Associates received over $1.9 million for performing a variety of functions for the PAC: fundraising by mail, telemarketing, advertising, strategic consulting, as well as a number of reimbursements for travel expenses and postage. Amy Kremer, the chairman of the Tea Party Express, got $92,000 for strategic consulting. $421,123.80 went to a direct mail fundraising firm, HSP Direct, for “creative fees” related to fundraising.

There’s an argument to be made that these expenditures are reflective of spending during an off-year for elections. In 2013, there were very few elections. The presidential race was being talked about, but almost no one was spending money on it yet, and the midterm elections for congress did not really kick off until the new year.

Freedomworks, for instance, another group that identifies with the tea party and works to organize activists, also spent most of their money on overhead in 2013. They raised $847,243 on top of the $831,231 they began the year with. They spent $1,083,260 in total, and 87.3 percent of that spending, or $945,931, went to operating expenditures. $133,853, or 12.4 percent, went to independent expenditures.