Tea party groups attempt to transform passions into practicality with PACs

Alex Pappas Political Reporter
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Following the weekend’s National Tea Party Convention in Nashville, the conservative grassroots activists made clear they don’t want any more NY-23’s in 2010.

Tea party activists see the New York 2009 congressional race — when Tea Party darling Doug Hoffman forced out the more liberal Republican candidate but failed to win the general election — as one where their candidate lost, despite raging passions and monetary support, because of an ineffective campaign apparatus.

So when organizers of the Ensuring Liberty PAC announced their plans at the Nashville convention to raise $10 million dollars for targeted congressional races, they made sure to stress that their candidates know how to run a decent campaign.

“We want to make sure that if people are donating their hard-earned dollars in this economy it’s going to a sharp operation,” Missouri State Sen. John Loudon of the St. Louis Tea Party told The Daily Caller.

Loudon said the group will give out a campaign tool kit to targeted candidates with advice on effective campaign techniques. Because each of the candidates will likely have very similar campaign platforms, Loudon said they’ve made up a template of universal good campaign practices.

On Tuesday, the PAC opened their bank account and are “already in heavy fundraising mode.” Loudon said on Wednesday that one person had already committed $25,000 to the effort.

Loudon said no fundraising events have been planned yet, and dollars will mainly come through the PAC’s Web site and through personal contact with major donors. Loudon declined to list who some of those backers would be.

Though the corporation will be based in Memphis, Tenn., Loudon said that “in the spirit of the Tea Party” there will be “little to no permanent staff” in order to make sure the “maximum dollars go toward the effort.”

Asked about whether Tea Party groups across the country have been receptive to the PAC, he said he’s “very confident when people see the fruit of what we’re doing they’re gong to get excited about it.”

The PAC came about through phone-tree groups, Loudon said, when activists expressed their take on frustration with the mistakes of the NY-23 campaign, where there was money behind Hoffman but there was “a sense that the campaign operation just couldn’t efficiently employ those resources.”

In addition to Loudon, the committee is made up of Mark Skoda of the Memphis Tea Party (and a leader of the National Tea Party Convention), Steve McQueen of the Quincy Tea Party, Brad Ehmen of the Quincy Tea Party, Bill Hennessy of the St Louis Tea Party and Rose Corona, who is involved in California tea party groups.

On the St Louis Tea Party group’s Web site, Hennessy said that Ensuring Liberty PAC will target 15 to 20 key congressional races in 2010 and “will perform services for candidates similar to those previously performed by NRCC and the like.”

“For candidates like Doug Hoffman, we will provide the 3rd element he lacked: a serious, well-coordinated ground game. In these races, I believe we will be the difference.  In this election, I believe we will be part of the margin of victory for freedom,” he said.

The PAC plans to “identify candidates who arose from the Tea Party movement and who espouse our values on fiscal responsibility, limited government, national security and low taxes.”

“If a candidate strays from our values during the election, we will exit that race and let everyone know why,” the St. Louis Web site reads.

“Candidates whom we help win can and should feel an obligation to remain true to our values throughout their term in Congress,” the site goes on. “If they do not, we will target their careers for political destruction as surely as we target certain incumbents now. For the first time in my memory, we will have members of Congress beholden to … the people they represent.”

The group also says that while they initially favored the creation of a third party, they were ultimately convinced to try to work inside the existing party structure because “the urgency for direct action” and because a third party “could only help those who want socialism.”

“Sorry, people, but that’s not standing on principle: it’s standing on our brain.”

Jenny Beth Martin of Tea Party Patriots — who did not participate in last weekend’s convention — said her group has also established a PAC, though it hasn’t begun raising money or organizing the structure yet. Party affiliation doesn’t matter to them, she said.

“What we will do is make sure the focus of any type of action would be related to our issues and our core values more so than any political party or politician,” she said.

Tea Party Patriots co-founder Mark Meckler said the Tea Party Patriots PAC will be “grassroots driven” and what separates them from other groups is that they see their job as “reflecting the grassroots rather than directing the grassroots.”