The Tea Party PAC Scam

The Tea Party PAC Scam August 25, 2014

Tom Dougherty of Practical Politicking uses financial reports from the Federal Elections Commission to show that a bunch of the top conservative and Tea Party PACs that take in millions of dollars, ostensibly to support candidates, spend very little of that money on those candidates. A telling graph:


And some details:

Tea Party Leadership Fund

Total receipts were $4,862,790 with expenses of $4,054,288 and $650,260 benefiting candidates; that’s 87% on expenses and 13% to candidates. Senate spending has been slight, while markedly almost $300,000 has been spent specifically in opposition to Speaker John Boehner.

Tea Party Patriots

Total receipts were $10,659,371 with expenses of $9,263,753 and $1,027,354 benefiting candidates; that’s 90% on expenses and 10% to candidates. The Mississippi race was conspicuously the largest investment the Tea Party Patriots made, with almost $600,000 spent in opposition to Thad Cochran, and more than $200,000 in support of Chris McDaniel. When pushing out just 10% to candidates, the rationale for dropping more than three-fourths of that trifling amount on a single race calls into question their political savvy, as well as it highlights their poor fiscal management.

Madison Project

Total receipts were $3,801,897 with expenses of $3,675,432 and $326,810 benefiting candidates; that’s 91% on expenses and 9% to candidates. Mitch McConnell drew the financial ire of the Madison Project with more than $50,000 spent in opposition to the Minority Leader; McDaniel received the greatest financial support with more than $25,000 in total value; while five other senatorial candidates each got the maximum of $5,000 in cash contributions.

Sarah PAC

Total receipts were $2,068,666 with expenses of $2,120,019 and $106,000 benefiting candidates; that’s 95% on expenses and 5% to candidates. With just a measly one-hundred grand in candidate support, Sarah Palin’s PAC basically has taken a shotgun approach by doling out $5,000 cash contributions to eight senatorial candidates, and a half dozen house candidates, most of which are notable for their primary losses.

Tea Party Express

Total receipts were $9,501,795 with expenses of $9,447,467 and $381,098 benefiting candidates; that’s 96% on expenses and 4% to candidates. As worthless as the Tea Party Express is in rationing out just a mere 4% to candidates, they too have to have their politicking prowess questioned when more than $200,000 of their total went to Owen Hill, who withdrew in March when Cory Gardner stepped into the race.

There’s a gravy train speeding down the tracks and the grifters are jumping on as fast as they can. The formula is as simple as a Cards Against Humanity card:

Step one: Create a PAC

Step two: Tell terrifying tales (the end of freedom, seizing your guns, ministers being arrested for preaching the Bible, etc) of the impending doom brought on us by the Kenyan Muslim atheist communist terrorist sympathizer in the White house.

Step three: Profit

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  • To be fair, most of those “expenses” are because of Obamacare. And also the the HHS’s Ladyparts Mandate. And onerous Big Government Regulations. And sky high taxes. And…

  • Mr Ed

    Some where P.T. Barnum is smiling

  • roggg

    I’m in the wrong business. I mean, if I dont take their money, someone else will, right?

  • Kevin Kehres

    Well, I see this as a benefit. If these folks are siphoning off millions of dollars that could be used effectively in the service of right-wing candidates, to me that’s the best possible use of the money.

    Let sleeping PACs lie, Ed.

  • brucegee1962

    It would be interesting to compaire with progressive PACs.

  • dean

    Total receipts were $2,068,666 with expenses of $2,120,019 and $106,000 benefitting candidates…

    I think at least one of those numbers has to be wrong?

    Why would anyone, even if they are tea baggers, keep giving when the numbers are this sketchy?

  • chilidog99


  • dmcclean

    Dean @6,

    Neither number has to be wrong, they could have spent money they carried over from an earlier reporting period.

  • Is it wrong of me to think that, despite the dishonesty (though no more dishonest apparently than the existing groups), if I were to set up one of these it would actually result in a moral outcome, overall? I’d do great humanist things with the “expenses” (even the money I’d keep for myself would be in better hands) and collecting money from people who, by donating, are declaring themselves to be racists, sexists, libertarians, and other assorted assholes can’t be a bad thing. Right? Right?

  • So, about that IRS “scandal” where they supposedly targeted these TEA Party groups unfairly…. Maybe the IRS was on to something.

  • grumpyoldfart

    A lot of charities have the same sorts of numbers.

  • dean

    Neither number has to be wrong, they could have spent money they carried over from an earlier reporting period.

    True – I was assuming that the numbers were from a single year.

  • tbell

    I’d be interested to see how these ratios compare to PACs in general.

  • I would like to know how these numbers compare to:

    1. Progressive PACs, as a previous commenter stated.

    2. PACs in general, as another previous commenter stated.

    3. PACs funded by the Koch brothers. Is the fact that the Republican Party leadership pursues policies that favor the interests of plutocrats over the interests of their poor socially conservative white base due in part to the fact that when the rich give money to candidates, the candidates get it, but when the poor contribute, it gets stolen by scam artists?

  • Crudely Wrott

    Malfeasance with money?

    Diddling dollars?

    Piddling pennies?

    Was this before or after they changed the water?

    In either case I’m glabberfasted! )Actually, I’m not the least surprised though there is a noticeable twitch on the same-old-shit meter(

    *They seemed like such nice boys when they won marbles from each other; two boots and a shove trumps love and a bunny in the hole is better than home ]call your mother[.

  • I am on a number of Tea Party mailing lists. It’s long been obvious to me how sleazy many of these operations are, begging constantly for money and shrieking nonstop over some alleged new scheme by the president to enslave us all. (After constantly enslaving us for over five years, Obama really needs to sharpen his game. No concentration camps or FEMA relocation centers yet!) I’m pleased to learn that the Tea Party operators really are shake-down artists who deprive foolish people of their money and spend it more on themselves than on actual electioneering. I’ll bet they’re hoping Hillary gets elected so that their scams will continue to be viable.

  • Trebuchet

    More power to them!

  • Not all bad news, but there is still the problem that they’re promoting paranoid baloney. At no time in my life can I recall so many people buying into the extraordinary level of nonsense that seems commonplace these days. Even if they don’t buy into it lock stock and barrel, I know far too many people whose political views have taken on a creepy paranoid cast. I’m talking about people who seemed to have reasonable views in the past.

  • Why would anyone, even if they are tea baggers, keep giving when the numbers are this sketchy?

    Because they’re deeply opposed to wasteful spending. Or, wait…

  • lorn

    Those who can’t invent Rearden Metal can shake down the rubes at the depot while claiming that they developed the metal the railroad run on.

    So it goes.

  • Well, Roberts did assure us that Citizens United wouldn’t result in unlimited amounts of money being spent on campaigning. I guess he was right.

  • Is anyone else tempted to start up a PAC, collect money to elect tea-partiers, get themselves rich, and use what money they do kick lose to back the most extreme, off-putting lunatics they can find in the primaries?

    On second thoughts, is everyone already doing that? Because it would explain a lot…

  • It’s a shame they only looked at the tea partiers – what if political donation-collectors are similar across the board? That’s what I’d bet.

    After United Way, I’m inclined to look at the ratio of top-line to bottom-line for any charity or political organization, which is why I’ve switched to directly putting money to work on fairly closely observable projects that I manage myself.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    It would be interesting to compaire with progressive PACs…

    I would like to know how these numbers compare to…

    It’s a shame they only looked at the tea partiers…

    They mention in the comments that they have additional articles in the works on just those topics.

  • Kevin Kehres

    @11: Grumpy, I’m afraid you’re wrong. Most charities keep overhead and fundraising expenses to less than 30% of giving. There are exceptions, of course, but to declare that there are “a lot” of charities scamming people is, frankly, offensive.

    And you can check them out yourself, since all charities are required to publish a Form 990 with the IRS.

    Doctors Without Borders spends 11% to 12% on overhead and expenses; the rest is used to benefit people. The American Red Cross spends 92% of its charitable giving on programming (primarily because it uses its for-profit blood collection arm to funnel money into the system).

    Give or don’t give — your conscience. But let’s not tar all charities with the same brush, OK?