In previous installments of our special report on the status of the Tea Party, we’ve examined the year that was for the movement and the membership size and locations of the various national factions. In this section, we examine the financial status of the national Tea Party factions and their affiliated political action committees.
In the Senate races, Tea Party-endorsed candidates fared even worse in 2012 than they did in 2010. This year, national Tea Party groups and their PACs endorsed thirteen candidates. Eleven lost. Only Jeff Flake in Arizona and Ted Cruz in Texas won, giving them a 15% winning percentage in 2012. By contrast, in 2010 10 of 16 Tea Party endorsed candidates won – a 62.5% winning percentage.
On Tuesday, June 5, in a hotel meeting room two thousand miles away from a recall election that was being watched coast to coast, the Washington State coordinator for Tea Party Patriots, Woody Hertzog, regaled a small group of Tea Partiers assembled in the Puget Sound town of Silverdale with tales of his recent campaigning trip in the Wisconsin trenches. Hertzog told the group that he and other Tea Party activists from across the country poured into the state, becoming a door-to-door army in support of Governor Walker. The election was still taking place half way across the country, yet it was all these Puget Sound Tea Partiers wanted to talk about. Midway through the meeting, the results from the Wisconsin special election came in. When it was announced that Governor Walker and other Tea Party supported candidates were victorious, the room erupted in cheers and applause. One older man in the back of the room commented aloud, “I guess we can put away our guns, for now.”
The resounding victory of Indiana State Treasurer Richard Mourdock over six-term Senator Richard Lugar in the Indiana Republican primary resurrected the Tea Party movement as a potent force in much of the public mind. Yet some regarded Mourdock's victory as a re-affirmation of their belief that "Big Money" determines all outcomes, and that the Tea Parties had little to do with it.
In IREHR's analysis of these recent events, by contrast, three factors were relevant: the Tea Parties' unanimous choice to support Mourdock; a decision by the Tea Party to begin campaigning more than twelve months before the election date; and the movement's choice of a ground game rather than an air war significantly impacted the low-turnout election. In short, a year of coordinated efforts between national and local Tea Party groups organizing around a set of Tea Party ideas led to a primary victory and put them back into the center of the national conversation.
The first full Federal Election Commission report for the new Tea Party super PAC, FreedomWorks for America, just became available to the public. The report indicates that in its first five months, the super PAC brought in serious cash, $2,697,973 to be exact. What the new report doesn't say is almost as informative as what does.
National Tea Party groups are gearing up for an influx of unregulated campaign cash this year. On Monday, January 23, the Tea Party Express became the second national Tea Party faction to dive into the big money world of super PACs with the formation of the Tea Party Express Presidential Campaign PAC. The Tea Party Express joins FreedomWorks, which formed its super PAC last summer.