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

But in 2012, when the tea party was battling to unseat Democrats in Congress and President Barack Obama, the numbers looked a little different. Freedomworks began the year with $1,990,381.09 cash on hand, and raised $20,847,893.90 over the course of the year. They spent $22,007,043.73 in total. Of that, $19,403,203.41, or 93 percent, went to independent expenditures. Operating costs amounted to just $2,539,912.03.

The Tea Party Patriots Citizens Fund did not exist before 2013, so 2014 will be the first election year in which they spend money, though Martin’s comments indicate they may continue to spend little on independent expenditures.

But the 2012 election seems to have had little impact on how the Our Country Deserves Better PAC spent its money. The group began the year with $115,975.19 in the bank. Throughout 2012, they raised $6,508,820.37. In total, they spent $5,725,731.21. Of that, 86 percent — $4,926,449.41 – went toward operating costs. $249,500 was given to other political committees or candidates, and $539,421.80 went toward independent expenditures.

Taylor Budowich, the executive director of Tea Party Express, said the group was focused on organizing and educating voters, not spending money to directly help candidates.

“Historically, we haven’t taken the burden of holding up candidates’ advertising,” Budowich said.

“We’re not Club for Growth; we’re not Crossroads. What we do is mobilize the grassroots and engage them in elections… through bus tours and grass roots activities,” he said, referring to other groups that put a lot of money behind independent expenditures to support or candidates.

Bus tours and organizing, Budowich added, are “not a cheap endeavor.”

“Our biggest influence has been nationalizing races,” he explained, and getting people engaged in elections, declaring that they have “been extremely successful” in doing so.

“It’s a very valuable process,” he said, “and something that I think campaigns have really benefited from.”

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