Inside the Tea Party Patriots’ plan to launch a super PAC
Tea Party Patriots is getting its own super PAC.
Since bursting onto the political scene in 2009, the national grassroots coalition has organized rallies against President Barack Obama’s health care law, promoted tea party issues and helped local tea party groups. But it has never meddled in specific races.
But that’s changing now, as Tea Party Patriots looks to stay relevant and make its mark on the elections in 2014 and 2016. The coordinators of the organization voted at the end of last year to establish a federal super PAC, the Tea Party Patriots Citizens Fund.
“I think this is a natural evolution for our organization,” Jenny Beth Martin, one of the founders of the organization, said in a phone interview with The Daily Caller on Monday.
Martin says the plan is for the super PAC to get involved in federal races, including House, Senate and “potentially [presidential] in four years.”
Organizers are still still figuring out how they will decide whom to endorse, Martin said, though she emphasized that “it will be with the consent of local coordinators in the area affected.”
As for the 2014 cycle, Martin said the group already has its eyes on Republican Senate primaries and elections in Iowa, Georgia, South Carolina and Montana.
In Iowa — where Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin will not run for re-election — Martin said her group might consider endorsing conservative Republican Rep. Steve King. (RELATED: King uses attacks by Karl Rove-backed group as opportunity to raise funds)
“If he got in the race for the Iowa senate, and the local coordinators there asked us to endorse, then that is the kind of race we would look at,” she said.
Martin is from Georgia, where Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss is not running for another term. She said tea party activists there are already working to find a replacement.
“They’re focused on getting organized in Georgia and making sure we get somebody who won’t go in and say we need to raise taxes, like we’ve had with Sen. Chambliss,” she said.
In South Carolina, Martin said tea partiers “have talked about” backing a primary challenger to Republican Sen. Lindsay Graham.
Another race that Martin says will likely get attention from the new super PAC is the Senate race in Montana, where Democratic Sen. Max Baucus is expected to run for re-election.
“The tea party groups there still remember Baucus helped wrote the health care law,” she said.
Martin said about 90 percent of the Tea Party Patriots voted in favor of establishing a super PAC, saying they felt “inhibited” by not being able to get more involved in races. More than 80 percent voted for the organization to make endorsements, she said.
Martin said the group might run ads on television and online, but will focus on having a “very good ground game.”
“Whether we make an explicit endorsement or not, we can certainly be out talking about the voting records of the candidates and the values they have and whether they support our values or not,” she said.
Martin also said there is no strict fundraising target yet for the new PAC.
“We’re raising funds first, and then we’re going to build our ground game and then see where we’re at come the early primary season,” she said, adding that the recent news that Karl Rove’s American Crossroads is launching the Conservative Victory Project did not influence Tea Party Patriots’ decision to start a PAC.
The Victory Project says it wants to make sure Republicans nominate the most electable conservatives.
But many conservative activists fear that means the Victory Project will go after real conservatives, and show, in Martin’s words, “just how out of touch the consultant class in Washington D.C. and their establishment is with the people around the country.”
Asked whether the Tea Party Patriots wish they’d started the PAC sooner, Martin said the timing is just right.
“The grassroots didn’t want this four years ago,” she said. “We’re very nimble. We’re able to adjust quickly. And that allows us to do things like starting this PAC.”