Trouble brewing between the Tea Party movement and the GOP?
Members of the Tea Party movement say they are not beholden to the GOP.
(Page 7 of 11)
The efforts of Tea Party movement have also been backed by some well-funded conservative groups.Skip to next paragraph
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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.
The group's president Ryun said conservative donors are taking a fresh look at the RNC and wondering if their money would be better spent on grassroots conservative groups.
"The Republican grassroots operation is pretty much defunct," he said. "Conservatives are looking for a better bang for their buck. There is going to be more competition for money that has traditionally gone to the RNC and I for one am going to go after that money, hard."
FreedomWorks and Our Country Deserves Better, a political action committee that has formed Tea Party Express, have been accused of being GOP operatives, including by other Tea Party groups. But both groups say their money comes from conservatives. Tea Party Express is staffed by people from Russo, Marsh & Associates, founded by Sal Russo, who began his political career as an assistant to Ronald Reagan when he was governor of California. A review of the Federal Election Commission filings from Our Country Deserves Better shows mostly small donations of a few hundred dollars, many of them from retirees.
Joe Wierzbicki of Russo, Marsh & Associates said the GOP was hostile to the Tea Party movement at first. "The response from the party establishment was that this was bad, that this would look like sour grapes and paint conservatives in a poor light," he said.
More recently, Wierzbicki said the Republican Party has belatedly tried to woo Tea Partiers.
Some Republicans have openly courted the movement, especially Sarah Palin, McCain's running mate in 2008. She gave the keynote speech at the Tea Party Convention in Nashville in early February. Organized by Tea Party Nation, the event was derided by some other Tea Party groups as being a GOP front.