Trouble brewing between the Tea Party movement and the GOP?
Members of the Tea Party movement say they are not beholden to the GOP.
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The Tea Party Patriots now have two paid national coordinators -- Jenny Beth Martin and Mark Meckler -- whose salaries come from member contributions. "I only started getting paid last month," Meckler said. "I went through my life savings to get to this point and my family has really suffered."Skip to next paragraph
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"I was working for the movement 100 hours a week and they either had to start paying me or I'd have to go back to work."
There is a mentoring program to teach novice local leaders how to organize, as more than 200 new groups have joined them since the beginning of 2010.
Staff at FreedomWorks believe the movement's expansion is largely behind it, but American Majority's Ryun said "the Tea Party is going to continue to grow until the country gets back on the right track."
Other volunteer groups have stepped in to aid conservatives in their quest for ideological purity. Utah-based Independence Caucus, for instance, vets conservative candidates using a questionnaire containing 80 questions based on the U.S. Constitution. Candidates who answer yes to at least 70 percent of those questions are interviewed by local conservatives.
If they pass muster, Independence Caucus backs their candidacy. "But if we find someone is a chameleon and was lying, our policy is we'll work twice as hard to remove them from office as we did to get them elected," said Donald Jakel, the group's coordinator for Ohio and Michigan.
Independence Caucus has vetted at least one candidate in half the state and national seats up for grabs in Michigan.
The efforts of Tea Party movement have also been backed by some well-funded conservative groups.
FreedomWorks, headed by former Republican House Majority leader Dick Armey, says it was involved from the outset. It helped political novices navigate the bureaucratic requirements of holding a protest, including insurance issues and permits.
The group has provided training for television interview, on meeting congressmen and public relations.
Spokesman Adam Brandon said FreedomWorks' budget in 2009 was $7 million, up to 70 percent from individual donations, up to 25 percent from foundations and the rest from corporations. The group does not name donors but said the foundations were those that typically give to conservative libertarian causes.
In 2006 to 2007 FreedomWorks had zero online donations; in 2009 they had 19,000 individual online donors who contributed more than $500,000 in total.
The group hopes to add up to 15 fiscal conservatives in the House of Representatives this year, plus four in the Senate.
Purcellville, Virginia-based group American Majority has also provided training. It was founded in 2008 with financial backing from the Chicago-based Sam Adams Alliance, which promotes free market principles. Individual conservatives have given as much as $25,000 or as little as $100 each.